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.

49ers select TE George Kittle in fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select TE George Kittle in fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft

GEORGE KITTLE
Position: Tight end
College: Iowa
Height: 6-3 3/4
Weight: 247
Selection: Fifth round, No. 146 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Iowa tight end George Kittle in the fifth round with the No. 146 overall pick.

Kittle becomes the second Iowa player the 49ers selected in two days. Late Friday, the 49ers traded up to select quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Kittle was considered an outstanding blocker in the Hawkeyes pro-style offense. As a senior, Kittle appeared in nine games and caught 22 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns. In 2015, he had 20 receptions for 290 yards and six touchdowns.

"I think my game overall, I’m a very versatile player," Kittle said. "I can have my hand in the dirt and block anybody you want me to block. You can move me around and run routes. I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I feel like I can catch the ball well and run routes well. I’m a versatile guy."

Kittle joins a 49ers tight end group that includes Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Je’Ron Hamm. 

Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi on Friday reported the 49ers are attempting to trade McDonald. In one of former general manager Trent Baalke’s final moves, the 49ers signed McDonald in December to a five-year contract extension that included a $7 million signing bonus.

Kittle said he caught passes during Beathard's workout with 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello. The next day, he was invited to fly to Santa Clara as one of the 49ers' 30 pre-draft visits.

While the 49ers' selection of Beathard at the end of the third round might have surprised some, Kittle said he figured the 49ers would have reason to be interested in his teammate of the past four years.

"He’s just a guy, he loves football more than anything other than maybe his daughter," Kittle said of Beathard. "He lives and breathes it. That’s all he cares about. He is a genius in the film room and on the football field. He know absolutely everything that everybody is going to do. . . . He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”

49ers trade up, pick RB Joe Williams in fourth round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, pick RB Joe Williams in fourth round of 2017 NFL Draft

JOE WILLIAMS
Position: Running back
College: Utah
Height: 5-11
Weight: 210
Selection: Fourth round, No. 121 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers traded up in the fourth round to select Utah running back Joe Williams.

The 49ers traded up to No. 121 overall in general manager John Lynch’s sixth trade of the draft. Just minutes earlier, the 49ers acquired Kapri Bibbs in a trade with the Denver Broncos.

The 49ers traded up in the fourth round with Indianapolis to select Williams. The 49ers dealt No. 143 in the fourth round and No. 161 of the fifth round to the Colts to complete the trade.

Williams, who ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, rushed for 1,407 yards and 10 touchdowns on 210 rushing attempts in nine games. He also caught nine passes for 107 yards.

Williams walked away from the team two weeks into last season but was welcomed back. He was welcomed back to the team and rushed for 332 yards against UCLA.

Former 49ers head coach Dennis Erickson, who was Utah’s running backs coach, later explained Williams’ brief “retirement.”

"I knew he was down a little bit at the beginning of the year," Erickson said. "He fumbled a couple of times. Mentally, he was drained a little bit. Physically, he was not feeling very good."

Williams had 278 all-purpose yards to be named MVP of the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana at Levi’s Stadium.

On a conferene call with Bay Area reporters, Williams explained his personal struggle of the past 10 years that led to him stepping away from the game:

"I had to lay it out on the line (to teams) that football is what I drink and breathe. It's what I wake up for in the morning and it's how I want to provide for my family. They knew at first they wanted to understand how I could walk away from football, but after I tell them how it came to be, I felt they were empathetic about it and they understand that sometimes you have to put things on hold to do what's right.

"My sister (Kylee, 7 years old) had passed away in 2006. She died in my hands. She died on Sunday, June 19th. She'd been in and out of the hospital that Friday and Saturday. She had fell unconscious and . . . just the guilt and shame I always put upon myself because I didn't act quickly enough with my parents or call 911, I thought it was my fault. Going through high school and college, I was getting counseling.

"Coming into this season, a lot of the emotions were coming to the forefront, and I was trying to deal them the best way I could. As the season started, and I knew my mental health wasn't where it needed to be, I knew the best option for me was to sit down in front of my wife and my coaches and just tell them where I was at. It came to the decision that stepping back at that time would be for my best interest -- not only for football but for life after football.

"I did a lot of soul-searching. I got my sister's tattoo on my left arm. I was doing everything necessary to finally come to peace with her death. . .  I finally forgave myself."