SANTA CLARA –- The 49ers were fuming after their 19-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, citing the inequity in calls that went against them from referee Pete Morelli and his crew.
The 49ers were penalized 13 times for 81 yards. But, more shocking, seven Cardinals first downs were delivered as a result of yellow flags on the field. In contrast, the Cardinals had just five first downs rushing in the game.
Guard Alex Boone was the most outspoken about the officiating decisions, including a penalty that was thrown when side judge Rob Vernatchi, running along the 49ers' sideline, bumped into wide receiver Torrey Smith while the 49ers’ defense was on the field. That 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a third-and-19 play gave the Cardinals a first down after an incomplete pass. But Arizona would have gotten a first down anyway, as safety Jimmie Ward was also flagged for illegal contact away from the ball.
“I’m really not too worried about getting fined,” Boone said. “I thought those refs sucked.
“You call running into a player when nobody even touched you? I mean, if you don’t like what we say, then don’t throw a flag for it. That’s what I’m sick about this league. This is supposed to be a man’s game. Be a man. And that’s what pisses me off. It’s guys like that, working this league and work on this field, and we have to deal with it. Whatever. It was a terrible call. They had terrible calls all game. I don’t care what the league says. I don’t care what Roger (Goodell) says. It’s the truth. If you don’t like it, get the hell out of here.”
Morelli’s crew features the NFL’s only female official, Sarah Thomas. She did not make the call on that play. Boone and his teammates did not single out any specific official.
"I was in the wrong," Smith admitted about inadvertently bumping the official. "I messed us up."
Boone said there were calls throughout the game that went against the 49ers, including a bizarre sequence in the third quarter in which the 49ers' pass coverage was penalized four times in the end zone during a seven-play period.
“Yeah, I mean, how many pass interference calls did we have at one time? Four? Five? I mean, it’s football. It’s a violent game,” Boone said. “A lot of people don’t want to play it. Let us play it. It is what it is. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
The Cardinals had nine snaps from inside the 49ers’ 5-yard line as a result of four penalties in the end zone that resulted in automatic first downs.
Ward was called for pass interference; Tramaine Brock was flagged for illegal use of hands; Eric Reid was penalized for pass interference; and Michael Wilhoite was also ruled guilty of pass interference. Each of those infractions gave the Cardinals a new set of downs. The Cardinals eventually scored on David Johnson’s one-yard run.
Another play that proved pivotal came on the Cardinals’ winning drive. On a second-and-10 play from the Arizona 32, 49ers defensive lineman Quinton Dial broke free for an eight-yard sack of quarterback Carson Palmer. But Dial was called for roughing the passer for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
“When I watched the replay, I saw that he just kind of ducked into it and there was obviously nothing I could do at that point, just fall into him,” Dial said.
The play was a huge momentum swing. What would’ve been a third-and-18 play suddenly became a 15-yard gain and a first down.
Said Palmer, “There’s no debate here. He hit me right in the face with the crown of his helmet. I don’t think there’s any debate over that.”
But there was plenty for the 49ers to debate. The Cardinals were penalized seven times for 47 yards, but the 49ers did not gain a first down as a result of a flag.
“We don’t even want to talk about that,” 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin said. “I mean, felt like we were playing two teams today.
“I thought it was ridiculous all day. If you’re going to call the game that way, call it both ways. Don’t let it just be so lopsided that it’s blatant.”
Said 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, “I’m not going to comment on the officiating.”