Rule changes would've impacted 49ers-Seahawks games

Rule changes would've impacted 49ers-Seahawks games
March 26, 2014, 8:30 am
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Under the new rules, replay would have shown that NaVorro Bowman had possession and was down by contact. (USATSI)

Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is in Orlando, Florida for the NFL owners meetings; check back for all his coverage and watch SportsNet Central every night at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s football news

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 49ers and Seattle Seahawks played three times last season. And one play in each of those games would have been impacted by rules changes that passed at the NFL owners meetings.

The “NaVorro Bowman rule” got the most publicity. But other changes would have impacted rulings on J.R. Sweezy’s block against 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams and a batted ball after the 49ers blocked a Seahawks punt.

The league’s owners passed a rule that expands reviewable plays to include the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play. Bowman's play in the NFC Championship was the impetus for the new rule.

Bowman clearly had possession in the NFC Championship game after stripping Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse of the football near the goal line.

Replays showed Bowman was in control of the ball -- despite sustaining a severe knee injury on the play -- and down by contact. However, the field officials ruled Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch came up with the loose ball. The play was not reviewable, so Seattle retained possession.

[RELATED: 'Bowman rule' has 49ers, Harbaugh's support]

Another rule change calls for a clipping penalty to be enforced if an offensive player’s block (legal or illegal) is followed by the blocker rolling up on the back or side of the legs of a defender.

In Week 2, Williams sustained a fractured left ankle due to a low block from Sweezy, the Seahawks’ right guard. Sweezy's block was legal, drawing neither a penalty nor a fine. But he did roll over on his back on Williams' lower leg. Williams underwent surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

[RELATED: Fisher: Defensive linemen must 'protect themselves']

Another rules change covers a loophole in the rules that surfaced when the 49ers played the Seahawks in Week 14 at Candlestick Park.

Kassim Osgood broke through to block Jon Ryan’s punt in the first quarter. Seattle special-teamer Chris Maragos illegally batted the ball forward, nearly 20 yards up the field. A flag was thrown on Maragos. But the previous rule stipulated that if the 49ers had accepted the penalty, the Seahawks would have punted again. Instead, the 49ers declined the penalty and took over where the play ended after Maragos batted the ball.

The new rule changes the spot for enforcement of the foul to where possession is gained by the receiving team or from the spot of the foul, if that is behind the spot where possession is gained.

A source told that the "Bowman rule" was talked about when the Competition Committee presented the rules proposals at the NFL owners meetings. But the Williams-Sweezy and Maragos plays were not cited as specific examples in reference to the other proposals.

Among the news concerning rules and bylaw proposals:

--Referees will now be allowed to consult with members of the NFL officiating department in New York during a replay review.

--The uprights on goal posts will be extended an additional five feet (from 30 to 35 feet).

--The game clock will remain running after a quarterback sack outside two minutes of either half.

--A proposal to eliminate overtime in exhibition games was tabled.

--The proposal to move extra points to the 25-yard line was also tabled. The league will experiment with longer point-after-touchdowns in the preseason. In the first two weeks of the exhibition season, the ball will be spotted at the 20-yard line for extra point kicks.