The NFL downgraded referee Bill Leavy, whose crew gave the San Francisco 49ers two third-down plays in the first half of their victory over the Green Bay Packers, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
NFL officials are judged and graded every week, and are often downgraded for issues. In the end, egregious mistakes can draw fines or cost officials assignments in the playoffs or Super Bowl.
After a third-and-6 play at the Green Bay 10-yard line in the second quarter, Colin Kaepernick was hit out of bounds by Clay Matthews. The Green Bay linebacker drew a personal foul penalty, but so did 49ers tackle Joe Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The NFL said Monday that a review showed Staley should not have been penalized.
"After reviewing the play, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino determined that Joe Staley should not have been penalized," spokesman Randall Liu said in an email. "It should have been first-and-goal for the 49ers from the Green Bay 3-yard line."
Because both penalties came after the play ended with Kaepernick stepping out of bounds without gaining a first down, it should have become fourth down. The league said Sunday the penalties were dead-ball fouls and the ball should have been spotted at the Packers' 6, making it fourth-and-2.
However, game officials gave the 49ers another third-and-6 play, and they scored a touchdown on Kaepernick's 10-yard pass to Anquan Boldin.
The touchdown gave the 49ers a 14-7 lead with 8:57 remaining. At that point, according to ESPN Stats & Information's win-probability calculator, the 49ers had a 76.6 percent chance to win.
If the correct ruling had been applied, assuming the 49ers attempted and made a field goal on fourth down to give them a 10-7 lead, their win probability would have been 64.5 percent, a difference of 12.1 percent. San Francisco won 34-28.
"The down should have counted," Leavy said after the game. "The penalties were both dead ball, and they should have offset at the spot where the runner went out of bounds. And it would have been fourth down."
The rule in question states:
"Dead ball fouls by both teams are offset at the succeeding spot, and the down counts, and any disqualified player or players must be removed ..."
When asked if he was aware of the mistake, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, "Yes. I mean, I'm aware of it now.
"Hey, that's part of the game. The ball doesn't always bounce your way."
Information from ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky and Bill Williamson and The Associated Press was used in this report.