Last Sunday night in Seattle, in the midst of a marquee matchup, the San Francisco 49ers began marching down the field in the first quarter, trailing the Seahawks 14-0. On Seattle’s 20 on third down, quarterback Colin Kaepernick found his one-time Pro Bowl tight end, Vernon Davis, on the sideline inside the 5. After the ball arrived but before Davis could fully hold onto it, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor jetted in and with full force used his shoulder to knock Davis’ chest, sending the ball flying irrelevantly away. Almost immediately, two yellow flags—from two nearby referees—flew in. The call: unnecessary roughness on Chancellor. The result: 10-yard penalty, first-and-ten Niners on the 10-yard-line.
There are two more things to know about the play. One is that Davis sustained a concussion. Two is that Chancellor’s hit was almost certainly not against the rules. Mike Pereira, the NFL’s one-time senior director of officiating who now works as a commentator for Fox, tweeted, “The hit turns out to be legal.”