NFC West: Mike Pereira
Mike Pereira, the former NFL officiating vice president working for Fox, advanced it during a recent conversation with KNBR radio in San Francisco. The transcript from sportsradiointerviews.com highlights a few reasons why Pereira thought officials were correct in calling no penalty against Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on the 49ers' fourth-and-goal pass for Michael Crabtree in the final minutes:
- No holding: The ball was in the air when Smith and Crabtree were contacting one another, according to Pereira. That eliminates holding or illegal contact as possible calls. Pass interference then becomes the only potential call. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was pleading for a holding call after the play.
- No protest: Crabtree did not demonstrably plead for a penalty flag after the play. Players often complain even when there's no foul. The absence of a complaint in such a high-stakes situation suggests Crabtree had none.
- Fade route: There's usually going to be contact on a fade route, Pereira noted. The rulebook reads, "If there is any question whether player contact is incidental, the ruling should be no interference."
- Speed of game: Pereira thought slow-motion replays exaggerate the effects of contact. He pointed to analyst Phil Simms' initial reactions to the real-time play as accurate.
I would have appreciated a more technical review of pass interference rules. Pereira referred to "any type of material restriction that would’ve kept Crabtree from making the catch" as the standard. He specifically singled out the term "material restriction" as appearing in the rulebook. My version of the rulebook uses that phrase in association with illegal blocks, not in relation to interference.
My version of the rulebook outlines the following acts as pass interference, among others that are not listed:
- Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent's opportunity to make the catch.
- Playing through the back of an opponent in an attempt to make a play on the ball.
- Grabbing an opponent's arm(s) in such a manner that restricts his opportunity to catch a pass.
- Extending an arm across the body of an opponent, thus restricting his ability to catch a pass, and regardless of whether the player committing such act is playing the ball.
- Hooking an opponent in an attempt to get to the ball in such a manner that it causes the opponent's body to turn prior to the ball arriving.
- Initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass.
The rulebook then outlines the following acts, among others that are unnamed, as "permissible" ones:
- Incidental contact by an opponent's hands, arms or body when both players are competing for the ball, or neither player is looking for the ball. If there is any question whether contact is incidental, the ruling shall be no interference.
- Inadvertent tangling of feet when both players are playign the ball or neither player is playing the ball.
- Contact that would normally be considered pass interference, but the pass is clearly uncatchable by the involved players, except as specified in 8-3-2 and 8-5-4 pertaining to blocking downfield by the offense.
- Laying a hand on an opponent that does not restrict him in an attempt to make a play on the ball.
- Contact by a player who has gained position on an opponent in an attempt to catch the ball
A notation beneath this section then specifies that eligible offensive and defensive players have the same right to the path of the ball and are subject to the same restrictions.
Cheffers' crew incorrectly allowed a Carolina touchdown to stand during the Panthers' 21-13 victory over Washington in Week 9.
The NFL issued a statement acknowledging the error.
Last week, Cheffers' crew worked the San Francisco-St. Louis game featuring multiple questionable calls. According to former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira, the crew erred in calling intentional grounding against 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The penalty resulted in a safety, helping the Rams force overtime in a game they won, 16-13. The 49ers disputed the call. Cheffers' crew also called roughing the passer against he Rams' Robert Quinn, who was not fined on the play.
The website Football Zebras grades officials each week, projecting which ones will qualify for postseason work. The site suggests Cheffers' crew is having a rough year and will not qualify. The site says Mike Carey, who worked the Seattle-Chicago game last week, has been assigned to the 49ers' game against Miami in Week 14.
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams following the Rams' 16-13 victory in overtime Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome:
What it means: The Rams improved to 4-0-1 against the NFC West with a victory carrying long- and short-term implications for the division. St. Louis served notice again that it's going to be a player in the division for years to come under coach Jeff Fisher. And while a playoff push isn't likely given the Rams' 5-6-1 record, they at least opened the door for 7-5 Seattle to challenge the 8-3-1 49ers atop the division. This outcome will also provide an opportunity to revisit the 49ers' decision to replace quarterback Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick. That will likely be the case every time San Francisco loses a game for the remainder of this season.
What I liked: Both defenses played well from the beginning. The Rams held the 49ers to their lowest point total since a game against Seattle in Week 7.
Kaepernick and Ted Ginn Jr. combined for a key fumble, but Kaepernick bounced back with the 50-yard run. He scrambled to convert on third down earlier in the game. That was good for the 49ers, obviously, but it also reflected good pass defense by the Rams. And when the Rams finally did drive deep into 49ers territory, San Francisco made a fourth-and-goal stop to preserve its 7-0 lead.
Frank Gore broke a 23-yard run for the 49ers and scored the only touchdown of the first half. Teammate Aldon Smith collected another sack, giving him 17.5 this season and more through two seasons than any player since the NFL began tracking sacks in 1982.
Rams rookie Janoris Jenkins, who scored two touchdowns against Arizona last week, collected another one when he returned the Kaepernick fumble to the end zone. And when the Rams' Sam Bradford found Lance Kendricks on the two-point conversion, the game was tied 10-10.
Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein made the tying 53-yarder and the winning 56-yarder to continue a remarkable first season.
What I didn't like: The Rams couldn't score in a goal-to-go situation early in the third quarter. This was a rare chance for the Rams to get points. Going for it on fourth down was understandable. The strategy has worked for the Rams in recent weeks. Failing to get points there really hurt, though.
The 49ers took a safety when officials determined Kaepernick did not get the ball past the line of scrimmage on a pass from the end zone. Replays seemed to show the ball traveling past the line, however. That might have been questionable call. The ruling was a bit confusing. However, as Fox analyst Mike Pereira explained, the line of scrimmage extends out of bounds for the purposes of grounding penalties.
Niners kicker David Akers missed a 51-yard attempt at the game winner in overtime. Akers has been playing hurt and his long-range kicking in particular has suffered.
What's next: The 49ers are home against Miami in Week 14. The Rams visit the Buffalo Bills.
- This game was the second of the season featuring an unusual officiating or coaching sequence that benefited bookmakers. Both coincidentally involved the Seahawks. The simultaneous-catch ruling on Golden Tate's touchdown play to beat the Packers in Week 3 was one. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh's decision Thursday night to take over possession on downs instead of accepting a safety was the other. Had Harbaugh accepted the safety, anyone accepting the Seahawks and nine points would have gotten their money back. Anyone taking the 49ers and giving 7 1/2 or eight points would have won. The tightly contested, low-scoring nature of these games heightened the drama surrounding the pivotal decisions. Dissenting view: Kevin Bradley, sports book manager for Bovada.lv, said money was bet more evenly on Seahawks-49ers than on Packers-Seahawks, diminishing the impact.
- The Seahawks' defensive linemen weren't happy about allowing 131 yards rushing to 49ers running back Frank Gore. Defensive end Chris Clemons noticed the 49ers hadn't run a single power play to his side. A few weeks earlier, the 49ers had gained 149 of their 245 yards rushing against the New York Jets on runs outside the tackles. This time, Gore gained all his yardage on inside runs. The 49ers' staff unleashed a series of trap plays to great effect. Seattle failed to adjust on the fly. I don't think San Francisco revealed a fatal flaw in Seattle's run defense. This was more a case of the 49ers' staff outfoxing Seattle on a short week. As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last season, the 49ers' running game has more diversity, more layers, than what is found elsewhere in the NFL. The 49ers deserve more credit than the Seahawks deserve blame for San Francisco's rushing success. Seattle must adjust for the rematch.
- The NFL rulebook can be difficult to interpret on the fly, but I was pretty sure officials erred when they called Seahawks guard Paul McQuistan for a chop block in the end zone. That ruling gave the 49ers an option to accept the aforementioned safety. Former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira protested the call: "That was not a chop block near the end. The second block was at the waist. It has to be in the thigh area or below. Glad it was declined."
- The Seahawks' cornerbacks in general and Brandon Browner in particular have been willing to risk penalties for the rewards associated with disrupting receivers accustomed to running freely through opposing secondaries. Seattle had to feel great about getting through this game without attracting any attention for pushing around the 49ers' receivers. Officials called 11 penalties in the game, assessing eight, but none was against Seattle's defensive backs. We shouldn't expect Harbaugh or his staff to lodge any public complaints, however. That option went away when Harbaugh called out New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for trying to influence officiating in regard to defensive holding.
That's all for now. Here's hoping your Friday beats the spread.
"The only discernible difference I saw was that there were two men involved on Bradshaw's fumble two weeks ago," Greg wrote. "If this week's play had been ruled a fumble while the Niners were not permitted even to challenge, I would have been outraged. Curious to hear your perspective."
Mike Sando: I had the exact same thought, but it was a fleeting one because of the penalty. The 49ers weren't necessarily victimized by a horrible call, in my view. It seemed like one of those unlucky ones, along the lines of the chop-block call against Frank Gore in Baltimore. I disagreed with the call against Gore and thought the 49ers caught a bad break on the Bradshaw ruling. The Cruz play looked similar when watching the game live. (Update: Gore chop block was obviously at Baltimore; I mistakenly wrote Philadelphia originally).
Former NFL officiating boss Mike Pereira, now a Fox analyst, offered this take: "Without this penalty, fans would have been left wondering why the play in San Francisco was ruled forward progress and this one wasn’t. In my opinion, both plays should have been ruled forward progress and not fumbles."
I dislike the forward-progress ruling when it's close. Rules require players making receptions to hold onto the ball through the conclusion of the play. Why not enforce the same standard for players running with the ball? If officials think forward progress has been stopped, then they should blow the whistle. Had the whistle blown when Bradshaw lost the ball? How about when Cruz lost the ball? If not, the play was live, right?
I'm open-minded on this, but that's how it looks from this angle.
Bruce from Port Angeles, Wash., was among several writing to express satisfaction after seeing Cortez Kennedy become the second longtime Seattle Seahawks player enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He appreciated whatever work was done in presenting Kennedy's credentials to the selectors.
Mike Sando: The Mount Rushmore of Seahawks history would include Steve Largent, Kenny Easley, Kennedy and Walter Jones, in my view. Shaun Alexander deserves consideration as well, but I think those other guys were the elite of the elite in the pure ability to dominate their opponents.
Easley, Kennedy and Jones played extremely physical positions, too, so their dominance was a cut above simply by the nature of their jobs. I tend to favor candidates who flat-out dominated even when two or three opponents at a time matched up against them. Kennedy fit that criteria.
Kennedy's candidacy suffered some from the Seahawks' struggles during the 1990s. The team kept hiring offensive-minded head coaches in an effort to fix that side of the ball, going from Chuck Knox to Tom Flores to Dennis Erickson to Mike Holmgren during Kennedy's tenure.
Holmgren's arrival in 1999 led to an 8-2 start and playoff appearance that season. Kennedy had 6.5 sacks and two interceptions that year, with three of those sacks during Holmgren's return to Green Bay on the Monday night stage. Overall, Kennedy appeared in prime time only five times during his career. For that reason, many of the selectors rarely saw him play.
One key to Kennedy's enshrinement was making sure the selectors had the relevant facts and testimonials before them. Presenting Kennedy was straightforward. His credentials made it so.
Ted from San Carlos thought Wes Welker was taking far too much criticism for the pass he failed to catch with four minutes remaining in Super Bowl XLVI. He questioned whether I had even watched the game. "How could you blame Welker for that 'drop' when the pass was terrible? Brady had a wide-open Welker and made a bad pass. It would have been a GREAT catch had he caught it. This is on Brady."
Mike Sando: Welker blamed Welker. He is a credible source on the subject. The ball hit both of his hands.
Suzy from Dallas says Welker "manned up" and took the blame for missing what would have been a "miracle" catch. "When you review the tape," she wrote, "please retract your entire story (like a man)."
Mike Sando: David Tyree made a miracle catch in Super Bowl XLII. Welker has a clear opportunity to make this catch. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Many sources, including the Boston Globe, have described this pass for what it was, a bit behind Welker, but catchable. If Welker had made that catch, people would not be talking about it in the vein they discuss Tyree's catch. Not even close.
Andy from Syracuse was among several fans asking whether the 49ers' move to Santa Clara on game days will result in a name change.
Mike Sando: They will still be the San Francisco 49ers. Their headquarters have been in Santa Clara for years. The team's history and heritage is very important to team persident Jed York. Santa Clara is not that far away.
Darren from Vacaville, Calif., did not like reading in our recent Super Bowl losers story the word "outclassed" to describe the Los Angeles Rams during their Super Bowl defeat to Pittsburgh following the 1979 season. "This team had the feared Steelers on the ropes," he wrote.
Mike Sando: I'm going to grant you this one. I actually did not write that part of the item. Jamison Hensley and I worked on that together. He wrote the part on the Rams. I saw it and did not disagree strongly enough to talk to him about adjusting it. It was a reasonable take given the Rams' status that season as a 9-7 team without its starting quarterback, Pat Haden.
Sorry, no Arizona Cardinals questions this time. There weren't any fresh ones atop the mailbag. My flight is making its way across the country. Figured I'd better file this while the laptop battery was strong, the wireless was working, etc.
Leading 20-10, the 49ers snookered the Rams with a fake field goal for a touchdown. Michael Crabtree camped out along the sideline between plays. The Rams did not notice that Crabtree stayed on the field. That left Crabtree wide open. Kicker David Akers threw to Crabtree for an easy touchdown.
Officials reviewed the play to make sure the 49ers had complied with the rules. Former NFL officiating vice president Mike Periera, working as a Fox analyst, explained why the play was legal. He said Crabtree did not have to move away from the sideline area because the 49ers were away from the bench area along their sideline, and because Crabtree was in the game for the previous play. The bench area extends from one 32-yard line to the other.
Pereira also astutely noted that Brad Seely, the 49ers' special-teams coach, executed the same sort of play against the Rams years ago, when Seeley was with the New England Patriots.
While the 49ers were in control of the game when they executed the fake, the score was not lopsided enough to make this a case of the 49ers running up the score. This was simply sensational coaching and execution by the 49ers. Critics of the Rams' coaching staff will have additional ammunition after this one. More than anything, though, this was simply another example of the 49ers' superior coaching this season.
Blatant erring, the league could do without.
A roughing penalty Sunday against Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher for a hit on New England's Tom Brady played into perceptions the NFL offers special treatment for its prized quarterbacks. Would Alex Smith or Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson get such a call? I think they might, given the state of officiating. The seemingly clean hit Green Bay's Clay Matthews put on Minnesota's Christian Ponder comes to mind.
Fletcher was already moving in for the tackle when Brady attempted a late slide. Fletcher tackled Brady. Contact included a forearm to Brady's midsection, but no illegal contact. Matthews was not fined for his hit on Ponder. I doubt Fletcher will face a fine, either.
This was a bad call, I thought. Former NFL officiating vice president Mike Pereira, now an officiating analyst for Fox, agreed thusly: "He was sliding late and there was no hit to the head."
The league's emphasis on protecting defenseless players is a worthy one. This season could be one of over-correction. This will be a leading topic for the NFL during the coming offseason. I would expect some clarification of the rules and point of emphasis in an effort to find a balance.
The call against Fletcher was bad enough. Imagine if such a call moved a team into position for the winning field goal during a Super Bowl.
This was not the first time, and the scene did not sit well with the NFL's former officiating vice president.
Harbaugh should take that approach provided officials get key calls correct and explain their reasoning succinctly.
The disputed penalty against 49ers tight end Justin Peelle for a false start on fourth-and-1 produced confusion. The key issue was whether Peelle shifted abruptly enough to simulate a snap, which could have drawn the Washington Redskins offsides. The rules are clear in saying it doesn't matter whether the defense actually jumps. Neither does it matter whether the offensive player is moving toward the line of scrimmage when he shifts.
"Any quick abrupt movement by a single offensive player, or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap, is a false start," the 2011 rulebook states.
I thought Peelle moved suddenly enough to draw a penalty. The fact that Peelle did not move toward the line of scrimmage made this call tougher to make, but at the very least, Peelle could have moved backward less suddenly. The 49ers obviously had incentive to draw the Redskins offside in this situation. They needed to make sure their presnap movements fell within the rules. Otherwise, they risked incurring a costly penalty from referee Gene Steratore and crew.
"It was fourth-and-1 and we have seen teams make sudden shifts, just trying to draw the defense offside," Pereira wrote. "We call this a 'no play shift.' And you penalize the shifting team. A shift of two or more players is legal as long as it is smooth and continuous. That was not the case here. That shift was solely done to draw a foul and the officials were alert to this action. That has been on a training tape to the officials before this game, and in my opinion, the crew got this right."
Pereira did not address the sequence when officials flagged the 49ers for delay of game after allegedly failing to notice two players attempting to report as eligible receivers, then allegedly failing to notice Harbaugh attempting to call timeout.
The 49ers' creative use of personnel and formations puts pressure on officials to keep up. I suspect they could have done a better job on that front in handling this second situation.
Former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, in town on business, dropped by the Dempsey Indoor facility. Former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira, in town for a meeting related to his role as interim head of Pac-10 officials, also attended.
Former Washington quarterbacks Warren Moon, Damon Huard, Brock Huard (working for ESPN), Hugh Millen, Cary Conklin and Sonny Sixkiller were there.
The quarterback-needy Tennessee Titans sent a large contingent featuring vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and pro scouting director Lake Dawson. Keith Gilbertson (Cleveland Browns), Randy Mueller (San Diego Chargers), Bob Ferguson (Indianapolis Colts) and Mike Sheppard (Jacksonville Jaguars) were among the former Seahawks staffers in attendance.
The Seahawks' current decision-makers and most of their coaches drove over from team headquarters, no surprise given the proximity and coach Pete Carroll's ties to Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, his former USC assistant.
But if the Seahawks' division rivals have any interest in Locker, they hid that interest quite well. The Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers did not send representatives, to my knowledge. They certainly did not have any high-profile staffers in attendance. That comes as a bit of a surprise given their obvious needs at quarterback and Locker's potential availability early in the second round, if he slips outside the first.
"I never read anything into which teams attend pro days," Locker's agent, David Dunn, said on the field following the workout. "I've had too many players selected by teams that weren't at pro days or didn't even visit with players."
Fair enough, but teams generally pay closer attention to quarterbacks. The 49ers sent Jim Harbaugh to Blaine Gabbert's pro day at Missouri. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt ran Auburn's Cam Newton through various throws at a recent workout.
"With quarterbacks, you want to be able to touch and feel and see how they are as people as well as athletes and players," Dunn said.
Locker was not the only Washington prospect performing for scouts, but he was the main draw. He did nothing obvious to damage his draft stock during the workout. He completed all but a couple of passes while showing fluidity in his drops and a short delivery, according to scouts who agreed to speak in general terms and not for attribution.
"I've never nitpicked a guy like I've nitpicked Locker," one of them said. "The guy is a winner, and at the end of the day that has to count for something."
Locker has been working with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien to bring his hand over the top more quickly when delivering the ball.
The controlled environment was set up to make him look good. No NFL coaches or personnel people asked Locker to perform unscripted throws. They watched Locker zip the ball with ample velocity and accuracy most of the time, save for a couple high throws that his overworked wide receiver, D'Andre Goodwin, snatched away from his body.
"I'm focusing on the fluidity of the drop, getting my feet in the right spot and just bringing the hand over the top as quickly as I could, rather than dragging my hand," Locker said afterward. "I have a tendency to do that sometimes. I want to bring my hand over the top and really point that finger at my target. I have been spinning the ball a lot better and it's been coming off my hand a lot better."
Locker's relatively low completion percentage at Washington and his inexperience running a pro-style offense have raised questions about his readiness for the NFL. Can he read defenses? Can he throw accurately and on time from the pocket? To what degree did a weak offensive line and receiving corps hamstring him in college?
I've heard differing opinions from scouts as to how well Locker would fit with the NFC West teams that need quarterbacks (Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco).
"A lot of people seem to have him pinpointed to Seattle at No. 25, but I don’t think that makes any sense at all," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "It works for people who do not know the X’s and O’s of it all. At 25, he has some value. He went to school in that area. It is easy to say that is a good fit, but I think Seattle is going more and more to a pure West Coast offense, and Locker doesn't fit the West Coast offense at all."
The Cardinals pick fifth and the 49ers pick seventh, earlier than Locker is expected to come off the board. Seattle is one of the few quarterback-needy teams picking later in the first round, when Locker figures to become a more likely selection.
"Jake seems to be an acquired taste," Dunn said. "The more you watch him on film, the more that you are around him, the more you like him."
How well Locker would fit with the Seahawks could hinge on the degree to which Williamson is right in his assessment of how Seattle's offense will evolve.
New coordinator Darrell Bevell comes from the Andy Reid/Mike Holmgren branch of the West Coast offense, a branch that relies more heavily on short, precise passes. Before Bevell replaced Jeremy Bates, the Seahawks had been running Mike Shanahan's version of the West Coast system featuring more quarterback movement, hard play-action fakes and deeper throws requiring greater arm strength.
Carroll, who attended the workout Wednesday, has said the Seahawks do not plan to significantly diverge from the system they ran last season. But it's plausible to think that Bevell's background could steer them away to some degree.
"You do have to be a precise passer in a Bill Walsh, traditional West Coast offense," Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFL Draft Scout, said from the Dempsey Indoor facility. "But I like any offense that is going to use Jake Locker's mobility as an asset rather than just keeping him pinned in that pocket. If you can use his legs as a weapon, that is where he has been his most accurate. He made significant improvements in his accuracy from the so-called pocket in this workout, but at the same time, his strength remains throwing on the move."
Rang said he would draft Locker in the first round as long as the team in question has a veteran starter in place.
I stood next to Moon, the retired Hall of Famer, throughout the workout. Moon said he sees the NFL game evolving to favor quarterbacks with mobility. Life for traditional pocket passers is getting tougher, in his view. Locker's athleticism and scrambling ability separate him from most prospects. He has run the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds, a time that holds up against those posted by some wide receivers. But quarterbacks must also succeed as pocket passers to make it in the NFL.
"Locker is pretty accurate outside the pocket," Williamson said, "but as far as going 1-2-3 and getting it out, having good footwork, hitting a guy in stride, he is terrible. I don’t see that fit at all. I do not think he is going to be the precise passer Harbaugh is looking for, either. I can see someone like Arizona being really interested in him in Round 2. They might like a more 'toolsy' guy, like a Ben Roethlisberger."
Williamson sees Locker appealing to a coach such as Shanahan, who might see Locker as a cross between Jay Cutler and Jake Plummer, two quarterbacks Shanahan coached in Denver. That's the type of quarterback Seattle was seeking when Jeremy Bates was coordinating their offense. It's the type of quarterback the Seahawks might still value if Bevell installs the type of system Carroll has favored previously.
"I don't know in the NFL right now if people run different offenses," Sarkisian said. "It's so much of a copycat league and everybody runs so many things that are similar that it's hard to say that New England is different than Pittsburgh that is different than Seattle that is different from the Chargers. They all have their focal points, but at the end of the day, there are a lot of similarities. Things will be tailored for him [Locker], like they are for every quarterback, but I just think he fits in as an NFL quarterback."
Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player review from the 49ers' overtime victory against the St. Louis Rams. On rookie guard Mike Iupati: "Started at left guard. His best play might have been his pass protection against defensive tackle Darell Scott on a short pass to Frank Gore. Iupati tossed Scott aside and then hustled 20 yards down the field to block James Laurinaitis to help Gore pick up 30 yards. Did a good job of picking up James Hall after he started to spin away from Staley (who had a broken leg) on the go-ahead touchdown pass to Crabtree late in the game. Blasted Gibson out of the way on play Gore gained 6 yards in OT to set up Joe Nedney's winning field goal."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at how the 49ers' offense changed in Week 10. Also, right tackle Anthony Davis had problems against Rams defensive end Chris Long. Barrows: "Indeed, the 49ers' running game over the first half of the season was predicated on which direction Iupati was pulling. The team's first play to open the first four games was the same -- Frank Gore following Iupati through the hole. Against the Rams, however, offensive coordinator Mike Johnson often used Iupati as a decoy. If he pulled right, Troy Smith would pitch the ball to Gore left. It was a play that caught the Rams going in the wrong direction all afternoon."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith's shoulder injury might have saved the 49ers' season.
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle looks ahead to the 49ers' game against Tampa Bay. White on Davis, the rookie right tackle: "The rookie first-round draft pick has allowed seven sacks and is one of the most penalized linemen in the NFL. If he can't hold his ground against a Bucs defense that has an NFL-low eight sacks, oh brother."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Mike Williams' 35 receptions over the past five games rank second to Steve Largent's 36-catch team record over the same period. Farnsworth: "Largent caught 36 passes in a five-game stretch that stretched over two seasons: 12 vs. the Broncos, eight vs. the Lions, four vs. the Chiefs and seven vs. the Broncos to close the 1984 season and five vs. the Bengals in the 1985 season opener."
Also from Farnsworth: Roy Lewis is the Seahawks' man of the year.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' situation at quarterback remains unsettled beyond this season in part because Matt Hasselbeck's contract expires.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune passes along Brian McIntyre's personnel report for the Seahawks against Arizona. Aaron Curry played nearly 91 percent of defensive snaps. McIntyre: "Curry played strong-side linebacker, defensive tackle in nickel and dime packages, and the nose in 12 of the 13 plays run out of the 'Bandit' package. Curry tied Thomas with a team-high 8 tackles, including one on special teams and two quarterback sacks. Chris Clemons had 17 snaps as the 'Leo', with Raheem Brock picking up the remaining four snaps. Kentwan Balmer was the 5-technique for 16 snaps, with Jay Richardson playing five snaps, all paired with Clemons."
Also from Williams: J.P. Losman is happy to be back with Seattle.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald says we shouldn't read too much into whatever happens when Seattle visits New Orleans. I think an upset victory would be more impressive than a defeat would be troubling. Boyle: "Maybe the Seahawks will surprise everyone and knock off the defending Super Bowl champs, or maybe they’ll be humbled on the road as they have so often been in recent years. But whatever occurs, it’s safe to say the Seahawks won’t be defined by this weekend’s result. We’ve seen impressive wins this season, and we’ve seen head-scratching losses, and at this point it’s futile to try to figure this team out based on either."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals were surprised to discover that starting right tackle Brandon Keith had suffered a third-degree hamstring tear. Jeremy Bridges could become the new starter. Coach Ken Whisenhunt on Keith: "He seems to have been making strides lately. He’s been pretty consistent as a run blocker. When he uses his technique right, he’s a very, very good pass protector. We were definitely encouraged by his play, and we feel good going forward with him as our right tackle."
Also from Somers: Keith was already playing despite a torn meniscus in his knee. He'll have surgery for that injury.
More from Somers: Former Cardinals and Seahawks running back Josh Scobey is working in Arizona's personnel department.
More still from Somers: hard questions for Whisenhunt.
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals linebacker and Rembrandt fan Paris Lenon.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says during a chat that rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui should probably get more playing time. The pass veteran Daniel Fells dropped in the fourth quarter proved costly.
Also from Thomas: Former NFL officiating director Mike Pereira says he thought the pass from San Francisco quarterback Troy Smith to tight end Delanie Walker -- the one that drew a key 22-yard interference penalty against Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe -- was uncatchable. That was my initial take from the press box, but my opinion changed after watching the play repeatedly on replay. More on this one later.
More from Thomas: The Rams face a tough road ahead.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch considers reasonable expectations for the Rams. Miklasz: "Even with the roster imperfections and youth, do we really give the team a free pass for blowing a 14-point lead at Tampa Bay after thoroughly dominating the Bucs for the first half? If the roster is so flawed that we can't expect the Rams to win on the road, then why was the same roster able to go into Tampa Bay and take firm control of that game, outgaining the home team 189-87 in the first half?" These were what I would consider growing pains. Teams often suffer such setbacks on their way to better things.
The Cardinals had gained 3 yards on second-and-2 from the 7. Officials then flagged Arizona running back Beanie Wells for a 15-yard penalty after the play.
In short, the Cardinals faced first-and-10 instead of first-and-goal from the Seattle 19 after officials flagged Wells.
"They made the first down and then got called for the unnecessary roughness," Pereira wrote in an e-mail. "It will always be first-and-10 unless the foul is against an official."
I did not know that. Neither did anyone I spoke with in the press box, including team and league officials.
Referee Walt Coleman got it right.
NFL officiating director Mike Pereira made no mention during his "Official Review" show of the dubious tripping penalty called against the Vikings in Week 7.
I'll try to pick up the slack.
Referee Ron Winter and his crew are almost never wrong, apparently.
Head coaches and the replay official assigned to Winter have challenged his crew 16 times this season, a league high. Winter has reversed only two of those calls. The other referees have reversed 41.1 percent of calls put under review.
The 17 officiating crews have worked between five and seven games this season. Winter's crew has worked six. His crew has faced 2.7 challenges per game. The other crews have faced 1.4 challenges per game.
Winter's crew is calling 16.8 penalties per game, including declined penalties. Only the crews of Jerome Boger (17.7), Ed Hochuli (17.2) and Walt Coleman (also 16.8) are calling as many. Winter's crew has previously ranked among the most prolific in calling penalties.
The tripping call against the Vikings' Jeff Dugan was one of only 13 tripping penalties called in the NFL this season. The Vikings thought it was a horrible call and I thought it was horrible as well.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
joe_cool585 sized up the referee breakdowns from Week 5 and said, "The real question is, how many of each referee's challenged calls have been overturned?"
Rookie referee Don Carey still holds the league lead for reversals, but the field is gaining on him. Carey suffered two reversals in Week 1, three in Week 2, one in Week 3 and none in Weeks 4 or 5. He is one of eight referees -- there are 17 -- to work each week this season.
Carey, second-year ref Al Riveron and veteran Ron Winter have faced a combined 35 coach- and booth-initiated challenges this season. Veteran Walt Anderson has faced none. Winter's stat line stands out for its unusually low reversal rate. Winter has reversed only one of the league-high 14 challenges he has faced while working only four games. Weird.
I've asked officiating director Mike Pereira about these sorts of disparities in past seasons. He has basically said he doesn't care about the numbers as long as officials are making the correct calls. I like replay stats because reversals document those errors referees acknowledge.
Pereira covered a few controversial plays from Week 5 in his weekly Official Review segment. I thought his explanation for the weird taunting call in the Patriots-Broncos game held up better than expected. It sure looked "fishy" (Pereria's words).
I've been tracking replay stats for years. ESPN Stats & Information also tracks penalty stats by crew. Terry McAulay's crew has flagged offensive linemen only six times this season. The crews of Jerome Boger, Anderson, Winter, Walt Coleman, Ed Hochuli and Scott Green have each called at least 23 penalties against offensive lines. That's an aspect of officiating I'll explore in the coming weeks.
The crews of Coleman and Hochuli have each called 10 penalties for offensive holding against offensive linemen. The crews of McAulay (3), Don Carey (3), Riveron (3) and Peter Morelli (2) have combined to call just 11.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
DANA POINT, Calif. -- A few more NFC West plays of note from officiating director Mike Pereira's annual media session Tuesday at the NFL owners' meeting:
- Seahawks at Bills, Week 1: Seahawks receiver Logan Payne fumbles out of bounds following a 23-yard reception in the third quarter. Under a proposed rule, the clock would start when the ball is placed for the next play, not at the snap. This would remove any advantage gained from fumbling out of bounds.
- 49ers at Saints, Week 4: Saints safety Kevin Kaesviharn blasts 49ers receiver Josh Morgan with an illegal hit to the head. Officials do not throw a flag, but the league levies a $25,000 fine. Pereira singled out this play as an example of illegal tactics.
- Cardinals at Jets, Week 4: Jets safety Eric Smith hits Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin with an illegal hit to the head. Officials do not throw a flag, but the league levies a one-game suspension against Smith. Pereira singled out this play as an example of illegal tactics. He also commended players for getting the message, noting that the league levied two suspensions and a $25,000 fine for illegal hits during the first four weeks of the season, but none thereafter.
- Redskins at Seahawks, Week 12: Redskins receiver Santana Moss provokes Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson, throwing a punch. The play draws an immediate flag. Pereira pointed to this play, among others, in noting that the NFL would re-emphasize its stance against taunting in its message to teams.
- Giants at Cardinals, Week 12: Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes comes off the sideline to taunt Giants running back Derrick Ward after Arizona cornerback Ralph Brown tackles Ward short of a first down with 4:26 remaining in the first quarter. Pereira pointed to this play as another example of taunting, although officials did not throw a flag.
- Vikings at Cardinals, Week 15: Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett pulls down Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson using illegal horse-collar tactics. Pereira singled out this play, among others, while noting that horse-collar penalties roughly doubled from 2007 to 2008. Pereira called this "disappointing."
These sessions are always informative. Pereira, operating in a more relaxed environment than the regular season allows, tends to be freer in his commentary. He said officiating last season suffered from too many high-profile errors, which he candidly called "train wrecks" that negatively skewed the overall view of officiating.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
DANA POINT, Calif. -- Officiating director Mike Pereira singled out several plays involving NFC West teams during his annual presentation to reporters at the NFL owners' meeting.
One proposal up for a vote Wednesday stems in part from a controversial play with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter of the Cardinals' victory over the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
Officials said Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers' short kickoff touched Victor Abiamiri before landing out of bounds. Replays left unresolved whether the ball touched Abiamiri on the fingers before bouncing or on whether the ball touched him on the arm after bouncing. Replays left no doubt about whether the ball landed out of bounds. It did not.
If referee Walt Anderson and crew thought the ball touched Abiamiri on the left arm after Abiamiri stepped out of bounds, they should have awarded possession to the Eagles at the 40-yard line, standard procedure for a kickoff out of bounds.
If they thought the ball touched Abiamiri only on the fingers before Abiamiri stepped out of bounds, they should have honored the Cardinals' subsequent recovery. Instead, officials gave possession to the Eagles where they thought the ball went out (at the 27-yard line).
"We ruled something," Pereira said Tuesday. "I'm not sure what it was."
The proposal before owners Wednesday would allow players to continue playing until someone recovered the ball, even after a whistle. The recovering team would be eligible to receive possession at the spot of recovery. No return yardage would count.
In this case, replays almost surely would have awarded possession to the Cardinals, already leading 21-6, well into Eagles territory. Back with a few more NFC West plays that made the officiating director's cut.