What was league thinking on Crabtree?

Officials flagged San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree for unnecessary roughness and the NFL fined him $2,500 for the hit Crabtree made following a late interception against Philadelphia in Week 5.

CrabtreeCrabtreeWhat was Crabtree supposed to do in that situation? More on that in a bit. First, let's set the scene:

Eagles cornerback Trevard Lindley picked off the third-and-10 pass from 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, essentially sealing the game's outcome. Lindley slid to the ground, but no one touched him. To my knowledge, no whistle was blown. Crabtree barreled into the picture and hit Lindley, forcing loose the ball. Lindley recovered, and only then did we hear whistles on the NBC broadcast.

The NFL rulebook defines several dead-ball situations, including:

"... whenever a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball at the instant the runner so touches the ground. Since the down is over when any part of a sliding runner’s body, other than his hands or feet touches the ground, defenders are required to treat a sliding runner as they would a downed runner. A defender must pull up when a runner begins a feet-first slide. That does not mean that all contact by a defender is illegal. If a defender has already committed himself, and the contact is unavoidable, it is not a foul unless the defender makes some other act, such as helmet-to-helmet contact or by driving his forearm into the head or neck area of the runner."

Lindley did slide to the ground, but he did not necessarily slide with both feet first. He dropped onto his left hip. His left hip and left leg ran across the 30-yard line. His feet were pointing sideways. His shoulder then touched the ground. No whistle could be heard. Lindley then stood up. Still no whistle. Crabtree was already running toward Lindley at this point. He went after the football and struck Lindley in the process.

This play wound up being no big deal because Lindley recovered the ball. But if a 49ers player had scooped up the ball and run it into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, this play would be a talker.

I'll pass along any clarification if I get one.