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Jim Harbaugh: 'Penalty is a penalty no matter when it occurs'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
The fourth-down pass intended for Crabtree fell incomplete. (Getty Images)

Given his inability to keep a straight face, Jim Harbaugh must be a horrible poker player. So it was hardly surprising when the 49ers coach told the media shortly after the Ravens' 34-31 Super Bowl win that he thought the officials missed a pass interference call on wide receiver Michael Crabtree that would've given the 49ers a first-and-goal with 1:50 to go in the game.

Instead, Baltimore got the ball on downs, ran three plays, took a safety, and four seconds after Ted Ginn fielded the ensuing punt, Super Bowl XLVII was over.

During an appearance this week on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, Harbaugh was again asked about the idea of "letting players play" as it related to the Crabtree no-call.

“I would say it exactly like Bill Polian: A penalty is a penalty no matter when it occurs in a game," he said via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "It could occur on the first play of the game. It could occur on the last play of the game, or any play in between.

"That's the rules of football," Harbaugh continued. "You let 'em play or let 'em get away with something. Which would you rather have? Let's play the rules of the game. … If there's a penalty, then it's a penalty -- doesn't matter what kind of game. … It's the rules of football. If it's a penalty, you call it. If you see it, you call it. That's how I feel about it.”

The man makes a reasonable argument -- and those sentiments are shared by plenty of people who felt like Ravens' cornerback Jimmy Smith got away with something on the 49ers' last drive. But former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira isn't one of them. He said earlier in the week on KNBR San Francisco that the officials were right to eat their whistles.

“Would I have called that? No," Pereira said. "The dreaded fade pass into the corner of the end zone where there is always going to be a little bit of contact. I thought Phil Simms put it perfectly, when he called it it was a straight incomplete pass. When they showed one replay, ‘Good no call,' he said. Another replay, ‘Still good no-call by the officials.' And then the third replay, ‘Well, maybe there's a little grab there.'

"Maybe you can make a case there. That's what slow motion does. It kind of presents a case that is a maybe, but there is absolutely no way in real time that you're going to say ‘any type of material restriction' and that's what the book says, any type of material restriction that would've kept Crabtree from making the catch. Then Crabtree himself gave it away because if you look when the play is over he didn't complain, he never complained one bit, he didn't feel any type of restriction.

"I would say this, too, as I've said to others, as far as Jim Harbaugh giving the holding signal from the sideline, that it couldn't be, it couldn't be holding, it couldn't be illegal contact because when that contact occurred the ball was already in the air so it was either pass interference or nothing. But to me, it's nothing.

"Although Harbaugh probably had a pretty good view because I think for the last few plays he was standing at the 10-yard line, 20 some odd yards away from the coaching box.”

The man who now has Pereira's job, Dean Blandino, agrees.

"When you watch it at full speed, to me, it was a good non-call," Blandino told Newsday.

And Pereira agrees with Harbaugh's notion that "a penalty is a penalty."

"It's the same ... for any fourth-down play or play of the game," he said. "If you're 100 percent sure it's a foul, then you throw it. If you're not sure it's a foul, then don't throw it. I think that qualifies pretty clearly. …

"(I)n that last series, to me the closest thing to having a foul that would have been an acceptable call was the third-down play where you had some helmet contact after the incomplete pass," Pereira continued. "In this day and age of hits on defenseless players, I think you could've really called that. In terms of pass interference, that's just not a call you're going to get."

We're guessing this news won't make Harbaugh feel any better.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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