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Williams and Cundiff goats? Perhaps not.

January 23, 2012

Kyle Williams and Billy Cundiff might be remembered as the goats from this year’s NFL championship Sunday, but, perhaps, Williams should not.

Even though Williams muffed two punts, in essence costing the San Francisco 49ers the game, the one he lost in overtime on Sunday should never have happened.

With a little over two minutes remaining in the game, 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman appeared to strip Ahmad Bradshaw of the ball with the 49ers recovering; however, Mark Hittner, the head linesman, ruled that Bradshaw’s forward progress had been stopped, calling him down, as opposed to ruling the play a fumble.

Ahmad Bradshaw nearly loses the ball in Sunday's NFC Championship game. The Giants would retain the ball due to a whistle for forward progress. (NFL.com)

This is a very important miscue because fumbles may be challenged, while forward progress calls cannot.

If the ruling on the field had been called a fumble, the Giants would have had the opportunity to challenge, giving a chance for the officials to make an accurate call, so everyone would know the call was correct. But, because Hittner whistled the play dead and called it forward progress, no review could be made, thus leading to the Giants heading to the Super Bowl.

Had the play been called a fumble with a 49ers recovery, as it should have, the 49ers would have had the ball at the Giants’ 20-yard line just before the two-minute warning – likely winning the game.

I am aware that a lot can happen in two minutes of a game, but this play should at least constitute a change in the rulebook. There is no way to rely on one referees opinion to drastically change the outcome of a game.

So perhaps Kyle Williams name should not be remembered. Perhaps it should be Mark Hittner, who blew his whistle a second too soon.

Late Sunday night, 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin tweeted, “I will forever hate the words forward progress.”

But don’t take my word for it. Here. Check out the play for yourself, and you make the decision. Forward progress or fumble?

Ahmad Bradshaw’s controversial near-fumble

  1. January 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Zach. Great little insight on the NFC game. A for the AFC, blame that game on Lee Evans for the drop in the end zone. Sure Cuntiff missed the kick, but Lee Evans could have won the game for them.

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