After the league's officiating crews let the players play during the wild-card round, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino said in a video presentation released to the media that he wanted his refs calling things in the playoffs as they did in the regular season. And based on the first half from Carl Cheffers' crew, said refs are doing just that. As they so often did in the regular season, these particular officials are calling and not calling penalties randomly, unevenly, haphazardly and without paying attention to some of the most basic rules of the game.
First, there was the case of the uneven headbutts. Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call for this headbutt of 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. Fair enough.
(GIFs via The Big Lead.)
Then, there was the case of "Can you guys count to 12?" which Cheffers' crew answered with a definitive "No." At the end of the first half, Colin Kaepernick threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis ... which of course was originally called out of bounds and overturned on review, despite the fact that Davis put a huge divot in the end-zone turf when he dragged his second foot inbounds. Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh went ballistic after the no-touchdown call (though he may have been complaining about the clock), and got a 15-yard flag of his own.
(GIF via Bleacher Report)
Still, no harm, no foul, right? Well, not exactly. As the FOX Sports announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman pointed out, San Francisco had 12 men in the huddle before that play, and though they tried to right that wrong pre-snap, rules indicate that only defensive huddles can substitute as such. It didn't matter then, that tight end Vance McDonald (No. 89) tried to get off the field in time. As FOX Sports analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira pointed out, that should have been a dead-ball foul with the 49ers backed up five yards.