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The 49ers defeated the Seahawks on Thursday night to win the NFC West championship. At 21-13 it was closer than it should have been.

The dagger was to come with just over 12 minutes left in the third quarter. Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith’s pass intercepted by 49ers quarterback Deomodore Lenoir. He returned it for a touchdown. The extra point would have made the score 28-3.

But there was a flag on the pitch. Referee Alex Kemp made a rough call on 49ers quarterback Nick Bosa. It was as weak as Dolphins defensive end Jalen Phillips’ call on Sunday night. And the league has since admitted that Phillips’ flag was a mistake.

Amazon’s Kirk Herbstreit defended the call against Bosa. Rules analyst Terry Macaulay did not present.

Regardless, and with all due respect to Herbstreit, it wasn’t rude to the passerby.

But it was because it was called. And again, the problem comes from the rulebook, which mandates throwing a flag “when in doubt” whether a foul has occurred.

So the points went off the board. The Seahawks kept possession, and they eventually turned what should have been a four-point game at that point into a one-score finish.

This is another reason why these plays should be reviewed. Or, ideally, why the “when in doubt” language should be removed from the code.

The end result was a game that stayed closer than it should have been, and got closer throughout the second half. While the Seahawks could have roared back either way, there’s a huge difference psychologically between 28-3 and 21-3.

The good news is that it ultimately didn’t affect gameplay. The best news (for the league) is that the game stayed interesting much longer than it should have.

However, the rule must be addressed before it hurts the outcome of a playoff game or, even worse, the Super Bowl.

The league has acknowledged that potential changes will be discussed in the offseason. Let’s hope it’s not just idle talk aimed at overcoming short-term controversy while still clinging to a longer-term obsession with sacrificing the integrity of the game to keep as many defensemen healthy as possible.


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