A detailed look at 49ers-Seahawks conspiracy video

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A detailed look at 49ers-Seahawks conspiracy video

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Everybody loves a good conspiracy theory.

And the premise is set from the outset of a video that attempts to present the case the 49ers were facing the Seattle Seahawks, their 12th Man, as well as the NFL’s “13th man” in the NFC Championship game.

The tone is set early with the first words flashed across the screen at the opening of the widely circulated 15-minute video: “The NFL has been fixing games since the early 2000s.”

Sure, it’s a little difficult to take the video seriously when that baseless claim is made at the very beginning.

But I watched the entire video with an open mind. And here’s a point-by-point analysis of what I found:

--First, there was the controversial personal-foul penalty on 49ers safety Donte Whitner on an incomplete pass intended for tight end Luke Willson. The video describes: “A shoulder to shoulder hit is called helmet to helmet.” Not true. Referee Gene Steratore clearly states the penalty was thrown for a “hit to the head and neck area.” He never claimed that Whitner struck Willson with his helmet. A replay angle from behind the 49ers secondary appears to show Whitner making contact with Willson’s helmet with his upper arm. The NFL did not fine Whitner after the fact. That can be interpreted as the NFL did not believe it was a penalty or that the NFL did not believe it was bad enough to warrant a fine.

--Anthony Dixon was originally ruled to have scored a touchdown on a third-and-1 leap over the top. Steratore reversed the call after reviewing the scoring play. A high sideline angle (not showed on the video) indicates Dixon came up short. And that’s what Steratore ruled.

--The maker of the video points out that on the next play, left guard Mike Iupati sustained the injury that knocked him out of the game. “On the 2nd touchdown, San Francisco’s best offensive player and likely the best offensive lineman in the NFL, Mike Iupati was lost for the season.”

--Left tackle Russell Okung got away with a holding penalty on outside linebacker Aldon Smith. No argument there, but holding can be called on just about any play.

[REWIND: Another rule for an NFL rulebook already gone mad?]

--Carlos Rogers is called for a personal foul against Golden Tate after an incomplete pass late in the first half. Again, no argument. That it was a bad call. The 49ers would’ve taken over at their own 38-yard line with :20 remaining in the half. Instead of having any thoughts of trying to move 25 yards down the field for a possible field goal, the 49ers ran out the clock to end the first half.

--A block in the back is pointed out on Doug Baldwin’s long kickoff return. In my opinion, it was a good no-call because Darryl Morris turned his back and peeled away from where Baldwin was running as the contact occurred.


--There’s a no-call on a play that could’ve been intentional grounding on Russell Wilson. I agree. It should’ve been intentional grounding. (UPDATE: After re-watching the play several times on the coaches' film version from the end zone, it appears as if Wilson unloads the pass just outside the tackle box that was established by where left tackle Russell Okung lined up.) On the next play, Steven Hauschka kicked a 40-yard field goal to cut the 49ers’ lead to 17-13.

--There was the running-into-the-kicker call on Andy Lee. No argument here. I previously wrote about that play as one of the three critical plays in the game. It’s incorrectly noted that the “49ers lost their punter when he was injured by the hit.” However, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said the reason the 49ers did not take the 5 yards and re-punt was because Lee was temporarily hobbled.

[REWIND: 49ers' NFC title game loss boiled down to three plays]

--On a second-and-5 run play, Marshawn Lynch appears to be stopped short of the first down. However, the ball is placed in a spot to give the Seahawks a first down. It looked like a bad spot to me, too, but Lynch continued to fight for yards and got the call.

--Here’s one that I have not been able to explain: On the first play of the fourth quarter, Seahawks tight end Zach Miller is tackled to set up a fourth-and-7 play. The whistle blows at the 14:51 mark. Initially, Pete Carroll calls on Hauschka to attempt a long field goal. Hauschka later admits he didn’t want to kick it. But at some point, Steratore restarted the play clock. Finally, the Seahawks call a timeout at the 13:52 mark – 59 seconds after the whistle was blown to stop the previous play. The day after the game, I asked the NFL Office for an explanation of what occurred. I never received a response. (UPDATE: The word from the NFL is that the play clock was reset, but there's no explanation why.)

--On the next play, the 49ers defensive line stops rushing the passer after Aldon Smith jumps offside. The video contends, “One official blew the whistle when Aldon Smith jumped into the neutral zone.” I re-watched the play several times and I can’t hear anything that sounds like a whistle. This is the fourth-down play on which Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the go-ahead touchdown.

--The video says that the 49ers were called for a crucial delay-of-game penalty only 34 seconds after the end of the previous play. This claim is completely inaccurate. The video correctly points out that Kaepernick ran out of bounds with 11:12 remaining and the delay-of-game penalty was called at 10:36. OK, that’s 36 seconds. But what is not noted is that the game clocks stops when a player runs out bounds and it’s restarted once the officials spot the ball at the appropriate yard line. In this case, there was a nine-second lag between Kaepernick running out of bounds and the game clock restarting. The play clock starts immediately after the end of the previous play. Instead of third-and-1, it correctly became third-and-6. Kaepernick was sacked and fumbled on the next play.

[MAIOCCO: Bowman's timetable for return from knee surgery]

--The play on which NaVorro Bowman sustained his knee injury is also examined. Yes, that was most definitely a bad call. Bowman wrestled the ball away from Kearse and had possession while he on the ground. It should’ve been the 49ers’ ball. But the officials ruled Lynch recovered. For whatever reason, that play is not subject to review. The 49ers were forced to defend another play at the goal line. Seattle, of course, did not score as they fumbled on fourth down back to the 15-yard line, where the 49ers took over.

Were there some bad calls in the NFC Championship game? Yes. Were there some questionable calls? Sure.

Admittedly, I did not go back through the entire game to see how many close calls went against the Seahawks. But one that comes to mind is on the game-clinching interception. Michael Crabtree appeared to get away with a nudge to Richard Sherman’s back.


And there was no mention of Seattle gunner Jeremy Lane's treacherous run through the 49ers sideline and his unexplained collision with an unnamed 49ers' staff member. That play would've certainly made the video if it had occurred on the other sideline. The NFL issued a warning to the 49ers but no fine, a league spokesman told CSNBayArea.com.

Ultimately, the video in question had too many baseless claims, inaccuracies and hyperbole to be taken seriously. But if the intent was to get people talking again about the game that Sherman said featured the two best teams in the NFL, it was successful.

Lynch: There's interest in 49ers' No. 2 pick, 'it's coveted'

Lynch: There's interest in 49ers' No. 2 pick, 'it's coveted'

The 49ers have narrowed their list of potential draft picks for the No. 2 overall selection on Thursday evening but they are also keeping alive the possibility of a trade.

“I can tell you with the No. 2 (pick), there have been calls. There’s been interest, but, I think, nothing specific,” 49ers general manager John Lynch told reporters Monday at team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“It’s coveted. When you have a pick that high, I think that’s natural.”

Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, running back Leonard Fournette and several options at defensive back are among the options most often linked to the 49ers at the No. 2 overall pick.

“We’re going to listen right up until draft day,” Lynch said. “But otherwise we’re going to pick a player at two that we feel is a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come and we’ll be very passionate about that pick and what that player can do for us moving forward.”

The 49ers have two veteran quarterbacks – Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley – currently under contract. Lynch said the 49ers have not ruled out the possibility of selecting a quarterback with the team’s top pick.

“I think we’ve stated from the beginning that a franchise quarterback is something we believe is essential to winning in this league,” Lynch said. “We hope that Hoyer and Barkley come in, and they were both brought in for a reason, but we feel like we’ll continue, always continue, to try to improve ourselves at that position.”

The coaching staff will get its first opportunity to evaluate the current roster, beginning Tuesday. With new coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are allowed to conduct a voluntary three-day minicamp before the draft.

“We have a good understanding of where we are and what we’re looking for,” Lynch said. “In terms of just getting a look real quick, and whether that will change our mind on anything, but you would hate not to give guys an opportunity to go show what they are doing before you went out and did that.

“We’ll use it for what it’s worth. I don’t know how much value. I think more than anything our coaches are just really excited to get guys out on the field, so we’ll use it as such. We’ve got a couple players in here on a tryout basis and so we’re happy for that, to see if we can add some things. We’ll evaluate but continue to work on the draft process as well.”

Lynch said the 49ers have implemented changes to the team’s grading process for the draft, drawing on a model the New England Patriots set up. Vice president of player personnel Adam Peters worked in the Patriots’ scouting department before advancing to director of college scouting with the Denver Broncos. Shanahan is also familiar with the grading system from his time with the Atlanta Falcons under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, formerly a Patriots personnel executive.

“I think we tried to create an environment that’s collaborative, where people can be confident in sharing their opinions, and we had strong opinions,” Lynch said. “They didn’t always agree, but we’ve gotten to a point where there’s consensus. Ultimately, it will be Kyle and I together making those decisions and that’s kind of where we are this week.”

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

Owners of No. 1 overall pick, Browns still searching for franchise QB

CLEVELAND -- Finding Bigfoot has been more productive than the Cleveland Browns' search for a franchise quarterback.

This flawed football quest drags on.

For nearly two decades, the Browns, once a standard of NFL excellence and now a league punching bag, have been running in circles as they try to find a quarterback to lead them from the darkness to relevance and respectability. Since the franchise's inglorious expansion return in 1999, they've started 26 quarterbacks, a roll call of names that haunt even the most loyal Cleveland fans holding out hope the team will one day get it right.

From Tim Couch to Trent Dilfer, from Derek Anderson to Cody Kessler, and let's not forget that year of fun with Johnny Manziel, QBs have cycled through Cleveland like tourists, with none sticking around for long.

It's been a running joke.

And until the Browns find that long-term answer at quarterback, they'll continue to be looked at as a laughingstock.

They'll have another chance to perhaps end this long pursuit in this week's NFL draft. With the No. 1 and No. 12 overall picks, and four more selections in the first three rounds, the Browns are positioned to finally fix the most important position on the field.

This could be the year Cleveland fans have longed for, the one when the Browns find their Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. But as fate would have it, this year's QB class isn't highly regarded. Many draft experts feel there isn't a quarterback worth a first-round selection and that Cleveland should wait until 2018.

That's just so Browns, whose experiment with Robert Griffin III backfired last season, resulting in the latest QB confusion.

"We're going to keep searching," coach Hue Jackson said recently. "I think we all understand, no one's really claimed this position yet on our football team so we need to do everything we can to continue to add a player that we feel, as an organization, really good about, that can lead our football team and we'll continue to chase that."

The chase continues Thursday when the Browns try to find that elusive, essential piece. Or fumble again.

Here are some quarterback tidbits to chew on when the Browns go on the clock:

UP TOP: Cleveland seems locked in ON Texas A&M defensive stud Myles Garrett at No. 1, and while he's proficient at sacks, there are no three- or seven-step drops in his future. The Browns are impressed with North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, a former Ohio Mr. Football, despite his inexperience (only 13 college starts), but probably not enough to take him first. Landing Garrett and Trubisky would be a dream scenario, but Cleveland may have to trade up as the rebuilding Jets have sent out vibes they prefer Trubisky.

WHY NOT WATSON? Clemson's Deshaun Watson would seem to fit Jackson's profile of the ideal QB: mobile, dynamic, successful. The Browns, though, don't seem enthralled with Watson - not in the first round anyway - unless their silence is a smoke screen. There are other good options like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas A&M's Patrick Mahomes or California's Davis Webb, who may all be available after Round 1.

DRAFT DEBACLES: The Browns' track record drafting QBs - or any position - is abysmal over the past decade, which is why many Cleveland fans fear the team will mess up again. Since 2007, only OT Joe Thomas and CB Joe Haden have proven to be good choices. Eight other first-round picks are no longer on the roster.

Along with Couch, the No. 1 choice in '99, the Browns have used first-round picks on Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Manziel, who was Johnny Goofball in an orange helmet. Those mistakes shouldn't deter the Browns from selecting a QB early, but they are grim reminders that there are no givens.

WAITING GAME: Would waiting one more year be so bad? Draft experts point to the 2018 QB class, led by UCLA's Josh Rosen and USC's Sam Darnold, as being more talented than the 2017 group. That wouldn't preclude the Browns from taking a quarterback later in this draft, just not in the first round.

HOMETOWN HEROES: Trubisky is the latest in a long line of Ohio-born QBs tabbed as the Browns' next savior. Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brian Hoyer all grew up as Browns fans, but none was able to lead the turnaround. If Trubisky is picked, the pressure on him to be the team's leader and face of the franchise will be immense.

BYE-BYE BROCK?: The Browns made a shocking move in free agency, acquiring QB Brock Osweiler, his $16 million guaranteed contract and a 2018 second-round pick from Houston. Cleveland made it clear Osweiler was not part of the future, but he's still on the roster and could be part of a fall-back plan if the Browns don't get their desired quarterback.