Jim Harbaugh threw some verbal jabs at Clay Matthews on Monday afternoon in response to the way the Green Bay Packers linebacker struck Joe Staley in the helmet yesterday.
“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head. Well, one punch and one open slap, which … if you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap,” said Harbaugh, who famously broke his hand in a fight with Jim Kelly.
Matthews’ pregame comments about punishing read-option quarterbacks clearly rankled Harbaugh, who during the week leading up to yesterday’s game expressed concern over the protection (or lack thereof) quarterbacks will receive from officials during those plays. The 49ers barely used the read option at all against Green Bay, whose defensive focus was on stopping the 49ers’ run game.
Harbaugh’s insults for Matthews weren’t the only interesting developments on Monday related to the skirmish that took place on the sideline after the late hit on Colin Kaepernick, which was followed by Staley rushing over and attempting to “lock up” Matthews. From Eric Branch:
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino has determined today that only Matthews should have been flagged for a personal-foul penalty after the second-quarter play. Instead, 49ers left tackle Joe Staley was given an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for grabbing Matthews in retaliation.
As a result, the 49ers should have had a 1st-and-goal at Green Bay’s 3-yard line.
That wasn’t the only error on the third-down play. After the offsetting penalties, the officiating crew incorrectly allowed the 49ers to replay third down. But the down should have counted because the penalties occurred after the play was over. Head referee Bill Leavy acknowledged the mistake after the game.
Leavy was reportedly “downgraded” by the NFL for the mistakes detailed above. In the process of calling out Matthews’ toughness, Harbaugh praised Leavy, referring to his crew as “one of the best in the NFL.”
The Harbaugh/Matthews situation will no doubt raise the intensity (and animosity) in this resurgent rivalry. And since the Packers’ offense is still pretty much the same and their run defense looks to be greatly improved, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if these teams met again in January. Fox and the NFL can only hope.