49ers should have been penalized on final play
Okeafor should have been flagged for interference
Okeafor should have been flagged for interference

Posted Jan 6, 2003


As it turns out, the 49ers got a bigger break than they originally thought during the New York Giants' botched 41-yard field goal attempt on the final play of San Francisco's 39-38 wild-card playoff victory on Sunday. A penalty should have been called on the 49ers, giving the Giants one more play and another chance to kick a potential game-winner.

The Niners were counting their blessings after Trey Junkin's snap was low and away from holder Matt Allen, forcing Allen to lunge for the snap and then scramble out of the pocket as the final seconds ticked away. Allen lobbed a hasty pass downfield, which fell to the ground near offensive lineman Rich Seubert, who was grabbed by San Francisco defensive end Chike Okeafor before the ball arrived.

Three officials immediately threw flags.

"My first thought was that it was pass interference and the Giants would get another play for a chip-shot field goal," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said Monday.

But each of the officials who threw flags ruled the Giants had an ineligible receiver downfield. As the play broke down, several other offensive linemen also drifted downfield. After the officials huddled, the game was ruled over and the 49ers celebrated wildly.

But Mike Pereira, the NFL's director of officials, called Mariucci on Monday morning to tell him the officials got it wrong. Seubert actually had checked in as an eligible receiver before the play, and Okeafor clearly attempted to pull him down in the confusion of the final play.

Since lineman Tam Hopkins also was close to the area where the ball fell, the Giants still should have been called for ineligible receiver downfield, Pereira told Mariucci. But because Seubert was an eligible receiver, Okeafor should have been flagged for interference.

That would have meant offsetting penalties, Pereira said, giving the Giants another play with the ball at the same original spot.

Mariucci said the league office had received some calls from New York about the officiating mistake, which prompted Pereira's call to Mariucci to explain the situation.

What was Mariucci's reaction to Pereira?

"Bummer," Mariucci said.

"That's the way it is," Mariucci continued. "What do you want me to say?"

Pereira also said that a pass that appeared to be intercepted by Niners cornerback Ahmed Plummer earlier during New York's final drive wasn't reviewed because officials in the replay booth said they had seen the ball come out when Plummer hit the ground on a second look right after the play happened.

"Some calls are going to go your way," Mariucci said. "Some aren't going to go your way. The longer you are in this, it's going to even out."



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P Matt Allen (profile)
OG Tam Hopkins (profile)
DE Chike Okeafor (profile)
CB Ahmed Plummer (profile)
OG Rich Seubert (profile)
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