Quinton Dial's roughing penalty on Carson Palmer raises questions, ire among 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Looking for a flashpoint in the San Francisco 49ers’ 19-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday?

Niners defensive lineman Quinton Dial still is looking for an explanation.

It was second-and-10 for the Cardinals at their own 32-yard line midway through the fourth quarter of a tie game when Dial came free up the middle and sacked Carson Palmer for an 8-yard loss.

But then came the flag.

“No,” Dial recalled thinking. “This can’t be. This can’t be real. No.”

Dial was penalized for roughing the passer, and instead of facing a third-and-18 at the 24-yard line, Palmer and the Cardinals had a first down at their own 47.

“There’s no debate here,” Palmer said. “He hit me right in the face with the crown of his helmet. I don’t think there’s any debate over that.”

Replays seemed to show a textbook hit to the chest from Dial to Palmer, and yet there had to be a reason Palmer’s helmet was knocked upward so that his chin strap was on covering his nose.

And while Niners coach Jim Tomsula said he would not comment on the officiating, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “He got hit right in the face, yeah.”

Such is the speed of the game, and many onlookers wondered if the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Palmer ducked into the oncoming 6-5, 318-pound Dial to create the contact.

“Yeah, when I watched the replay, I saw that he just kind of ducked into it and there was obviously nothing I could do at that point, just fall into him,” Dial said.

Then did Dial think it was a legal play?

“Me, personally? Yes,” he said.

“It seems like every year there’s something new.”

Eight plays and nearly four minutes later, Palmer rumbled in from eight yards out for the winning score.

The 49ers were incensed at the officiating after being penalized 13 times for 81 yards. Receiver Anquan Boldin said it felt like the Niners were playing two different teams, left guard Alex Boone said the refs “sucked” and free safety Eric Reid added, “It’s not in my nature to blame the refs but, man, were there some questionable calls.”

The biggest question mark, though, hovered over Dial’s hit on Palmer. At least, in Santa Clara.