SEATTLE -- While the San Francisco 49ers took umbrage with the controversial roughing-the-passer penalty that extended a game-clinching Seattle Seahawks touchdown drive, referee Ed Hochuli explained his rationale for throwing the flag at Niners linebacker Nick Moody.
“I felt that he hit the quarterback in the chest with the hairline,” Hochuli told ESPN Seahawks reporter Terry Blount, “and that’s a foul unless he has his face completely up and would hit it face on with the face mask. It’s a foul, and that’s why I called it.
“The first thing that hit (Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson) was the hairline of the helmet.”
Moody hit Wilson on an incompletion on third-and-5 from the Niners’ 15-yard line. No flag, and the Seahawks attempt a 33-yard field goal to take a 13-7 lead. Instead, given a fresh set of downs, Wilson hit Paul Richardson for a 10-yard touchdown pass two plays later and the Seahawks were up by two scores, 17-7.
“No, I don’t agree with the call,” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I did not get an explanation on that one. All three personal foul calls I did not agree with.”
Free safety Eric Reid was also flagged twice in the same first-quarter series, once for hitting Doug Baldwin out of bounds and again for hitting a defenseless receiver in Richardson across the middle.
The 30 yards in penalties enabled the Seahawks to drive down and kick a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
But it was Moody’s penalty that had the 49ers steaming, especially considering when and where it happened.
“I mean, I thought it was a clean hit,” Moody said. “Got to check the film, but it felt clean to me.”
Since Moody did not hit Wilson with the crown of his helmet, many in the Niners' locker room wondered why it was a penalty.
“I’m differentiating between the crown,” Hochuli said. “The crown is the top of the helmet; the hairline is up at the top of the forehead. That is still a foul when you hit the quarterback with that part of your head.”