Entering Sunday’s contest, the San Francisco 49ers were one of the fewest-penalized teams in the NFL; against the Cardinals, they were penalized 13 times, for a total of 81 yards. Players were not amused by the flex of power from the officials during the 19-13 loss, but none were more vocal than guard Alex Boone.
“I’m not really too worried about getting fined,” Boone said. “I thought those refs sucked.”
Those refs are the officiating crew of Pete Morelli. One of which is female official Sarah Thomas.
During the postgame, Boone showed and spoke with extreme displeasure over the flags thrown in the games – none irked him more than when side judge Rob Vernatchi flagged wide receiver Torrey Smith after the two collided as the official was running down the sideline. The result was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Cardinals an additional 15 yards and a first down after quarterback Carson Palmer threw an incomplete pass on third-and-19. The sideline penalty would prove to be irrelevant – safety Jimmie Ward was also penalized on the same play for illegal contact away from the ball.
“You call running into a player when nobody even touched you? If you don’t like what we say, then don’t like what we say, don’t throw a flag for it,” Boone said.
Smith later spoke on the matter, admitting he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“He was moving, I wasn’t, so he bumped into me,” Smith said. “I was too far from where I was supposed to be, so that was my fault. There’s that little yellow line we’re supposed to be behind — we practice it all the time. I’m probably going to catch hell from Tomsula for it. You best believe when we’re on defense, I’m sitting down, I’m watching that big screen.”
Smith even offered an apology. “I was in the wrong, I messed us up.”
That didn’t matter to Boone. He wanted to make sure the league heard him, loud and clear.
“That’s what I’m sick about in this league,” he said. “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.”
One particular sequence of penalties during the third quarter confused Boone, and the rest of Levi’s Stadium for that matter, greatly. The 49ers secondary was penalized four times during a goal-line stand. The penalties occurred over seven plays. Those penalties got the Cardinals a total of nine snaps from inside the five yard line, and automatic first downs for all.
“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.”
Another questionable call from officials came after lineman Quinton Dial had apparently recorded a sack on second-and-10 – it would have moved the Cardinals offense back eight yards. However, Dial was called for roughing-the-passer, after officials said there was helmet-to-helmet contact. Later, Dial said it was out of his power, and that the momentum of the play is what caused the contact to appear.
“When I watched the replay, I saw he just kind of ducked into it,” Dial said. “There was obviously nothing I could do at that point, wee had way too many penalties today and that just can’t happen.”
Palmer later said the matter shouldn’t even be considered for discussion. “He hit me right in the face with the crown of his helmet,” Palmer said. “I don’t think there’s any debate over that.”
Regardless, there were other San Francisco players who felt like it was them versus the world on Sunday.
Said wide receiver Anquan Boldin: “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 where it’s blatant.”
Free safety Eric Reid: “It’s not in my character to blame the refs, but man there were some questionable calls, some very questionable ones. But, what can you do? They throw the flags and there’s nothing you can do about it, but play the next play.”
Head coach Jim Tomsula decided to bite his tongue. “I’m not going to comment on the officiating,” he said.
However, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians wasn’t so silent. “The officials were struggling — mightily. They can’t count to three.”