According to this piece on Bleacher Report today, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh plans to seek league clarification on how far defensive backs can go with physical play downfield.
I know a lot of fans around the country will accuse Harbaugh of being whiny and trying to influence the officials before the Dec. 23 rematch between the Niners and the Seattle Seahawks. But the truth is, in this case, it appears to me that Harbaugh’s concerns are legitimate.
During last Thursday night’s game between the two teams at Candlestick, I was continually astonished by the downfield contact the Seahawks DBs engaged in, often right in full view of officials who seemed somehow blind to their offenses. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were particularly egregious offenders from what I could see.
NFL rules prohibit a defender from making physical contact with a receiver more than five yards from the line of scrimmage. Yet I saw a dozen or more plays in which the ‘Hawks backs blatantly broke that rule. Not one such penalty was ever called.
I’m not saying this is limited to Seattle, though they seem to be the most egregious offenders according to NFL scuttlebutt. Whether it’s Seattle or someone else, though, it’s important that teams be able to count on the rules being enforced consistently. Harbaugh is right to question the performance of Thursday night’s officiating crew on this point.