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Inside Slant: Championship round penalties

The NFL's championship round provided us two distinctly-called games from an official's standpoint, largely because of the nature of the matchups.

Referee Tony Corrente's crew had six penalties accepted in the AFC Championship Game, in part because the New England Patriots were the NFL's second-least penalized teams during the regular season. On the other hand, the hot rivalry between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers produced 15 accepted penalties for referee Gene Steratore's crew, a figure that could have justifiably doubled if Steratore wanted it to.

Of bigger note, of course, were two calls that occurred at CenturyLink Field, one that seems likely to spur an offseason rule change and another that reminds us -- for the upteenth time this season -- how complex the NFL rule book is.

The first instance was an apparent fumble recovery by 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the fourth quarter. Replays clearly showed Bowman in possession of the ball on the ground (after suffering a horrific knee injury), but at some point afterwards, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch grabbed the ball. Steratore's crew missed the initial possession and gave the Seahawks the ball back.

The play was not reviewable for reasons that don't make intuitive sense, and it seems an easy fix for the competition committee. The bigger question is whether the group, which makes rule-change recommendations to ownership, will consider multiple suggestions that all plays should be made reviewable rather than continuing the process of adding specific instances in piecemeal fashion.

Meanwhile, Steratore's crew either missed where the Seahawks' Chris Maragos hit 49ers punter Andy Lee in the third quarter or lost track of the defined difference between running into the punter (a 5-yard penalty) and roughing the punter (15 yards).

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 11, Item 1 of the rule book defines roughing the kicker as, among other things, contacting "the plant leg of the kicker while his kicking leg is still in the air." Replays show that's exactly what happened, but Steratore called the five-yard variety instead. The decision made the difference between the 49ers retaining possession and the Seahawks getting the ball for a drive that ended in a touchdown.

During the game, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen tweeted: "NFL is getting too cute with rules. Simplify rules= better game."

I agree.