There were so many plays that could be considered “turning points” during Sunday’s early game, and most of them came courtesy of the defense. Patrick Willis’ interception was kind of important. Both goal-line stands come to mind. Back-to-back sacks by NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks were huge.
But the one play that caused the most uproar on the 49ers sideline — while giving the 49ers the lead and calming down an offense that had been relying far too much on Phil Dawson — was of vital importance heading into halftime. It was also the play that took the longest to sort out, which means there are plenty of GIFs to choose from here. So, let’s use all of them since we’re running out of time before we’re legally obligated to talk about nothing but Seattle until next Sunday’s game is over.
The play was phenomenal, the reactions were even better. First, the play.
Upon first glance, everyone at the bar thought “TOUCHDOWN.” Of course, they did. There wasn’t a fan of the Carolina Panthers (nor were there any Oakland Raiders fans, who root for whichever team the 49ers are playing that week) in the place.
For whatever reason, the back judge said Vernon Davis caught the pass out of bounds, which many have pointed out makes little sense on a play this close. Why not call it a touchdown, which would make it the play automatically reviewable? My guess is because officials hate replay and this particular official figured it was impossible for Davis to get both feet in while running at full speed.
We watched this particular replay about 47 times, enough times for everyone in the greater Bay Area to say, “Look, he kicked up that … err … stuff out of the turf with his left foot! Click clack!”
Davis isn’t asked to block as much as he used to, and he’s not necessarily known for putting his body on the line for passes that aren’t thrown to his preferred catching radius. However, he torched Panthers star middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and was as ready as a receiver can possibly be to make this particular play. Davis is also a touchdown machine, especially in the postseason.
“Vernon, the touchdown catch that he made, and the way he was able to drag the feet and get the two feet in bounds, it’s something that he has worked tirelessly at in practice, after practice, before practice. He mentioned that Frank was throwing him balls. He has really worked very hard at that. And to see the improvement, to see the payoff, just, it gives me tingles. Just wonderful, wonderful result because of all the hard work, and extra work, that he’s done on that. And it resulted in an NFL-tying record for a tight end seventh touchdown in the postseason. Now Vernon’s only played in seven postseason games, playoff or Super Bowl games. And he tied the “ghost to the post” Dave Casper. Growing up watching a lot of NFL Films as I did, it seems like Dave Casper played in a lot more playoff games maybe than Vernon did. But I went and researched that and Dave Casper’s played in eight.”
That was what Jim Harbaugh said yesterday, when he was almost 24 hours removed from Sunday’s game and feeling much more relaxed (but still tingly!). However, in the moments after the pass was called “incomplete,” Harbaugh lost it to the point where he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
That led to the first appearance this season of …
ANQUAN BOLDIN, VOICE OF REASON
(Which was pretty amusing, seeing as Boldin was on another plane himself throughout much of that game — alternately shredding the Panthers with receptions all over the field and jawing at every member of Carolina’s secondary.)
So Harbaugh finally calmed down (relatively speaking) while the review process dragged on an on like Vernon’s feet through the black end zone grass. Finally, the official came out and explained how the back judge screwed up and the play now resulted in a TOUCHDOWN, and then we got some happier reaction shots.
Slight hop, Joe Montana arm raise, violent fist pump …
… followed by a Happy Harbaugh Grimace™ and some pounding of his laminated play menu:
Boldin is a slightly intense individual himself, much like the 49ers head coach.
But Colin Kaepernick seemed to expect this result all along.