The 49ers did not get any special favors from the officiating crew, after all.
Yes, the 49ers were incorrectly awarded another third-and-6 opportunity on a controversial sequence of plays in the second quarter after offsetting penalties. The 49ers cashed in with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin.
But the NFL on Monday stated that 49ers left tackle Joe Staley’s actions after rushing over to protect Colin Kaepernick did not warrant an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“After reviewing the play, Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino determined that Joe Staley should not have been penalized,” an NFL spokesman said in a statement.
So the 49ers should have been awarded a first-and-goal at the Packers 3-yard line after Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews illegally hit Kaepernick after he stepped out of bounds at the 6-yard line.
Staley was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after running over to confront Matthews. Coach Jim Harbaugh afterward defended Staley’s actions.
“I watched it. Joe did exactly what we coach him to do,” Harbaugh said. “When somebody’s taking a cheap shot or trying to do something after the whistle, we teach him to lock up. He did that and then Matthews throws two punches at him."
Harbaugh explained that 49ers players are instructed to grab an opponents arms "so they can't punch you and you're not punching anybody and just keep them away from antagonizing somebody else.
Harbaugh added: “The officials had their explanation, and maybe saw some other things that I didn’t see, but yeah, I thought for it to even be offsetting, I didn’t see it that way from my vantage point.”
After the game, Matthews took responsibility for his flying, out-of-bounds clothesline tackle on Kaepernick.
“I had already committed to hitting the quarterback,” Matthews said. “I guess I should have figured he was going to step out of bounds, but it was nothing personal. I went up to him later and was joking around with him. Not a very smart play.”
Referee Bill Leavy incorrectly ruled that the two offsetting penalties nullified the play. Third down was replayed. Leavy told a pool reporter after the game, it should have been fourth-and-2.
And, now, the league has determined the proper call would have been first and goal.
Matthews is subject to a fine, which could be handed down later in the week.