What will officials dream up Sunday night when the Rams take the field in San Francisco? Letís turn back to 1998. The first call occurred with the Colts leading 21-7. The ball was intercepted by Indianapolis defensive back Jeff Burris in his own end zone. He returned it to the 9ers' 32-yard line, which almost certainly would have led to a 24-7 lead and, given the way that Peyton Manning was carving up the 9ers' at the time, most likely an insurmountable 28-7 lead. Instead, the officials called Burris for "holding" and the 9ers were handed the ball back and ultimately a touchdown.
On the 9ers' next possession, Young again threw a pick, again it was overruled ruled by a defensive holding penalty, and again the 9ers got the ball back and scored. The result of the botched calls? A point swing of a minimum of 14 and as much as 28 points. The blown calls by the referees were so bad; the NFL had to come out with a statement in essence apologizing for the poor officiating.
The Colts farce allowed the 9ers to host the wildcard game Enter Green Bay, a team they hadnít beat in 5 tries. A Jerry Rice fumble was ruled down by the referees, and four plays later, a touchdown pass to Terrell Owens.
Enter New York; another playoff game which the 9ers had little chance of winning even with all the referee huddles that always end in gifting the 9ers the ball or the call. Even though the Giants blew a sizeable lead and deserved to lose the game given the fact that they laid down like dogs for the 9ers one cannot deny the injustice of the referee shenanigans which gifted the 9ers yet another referee aided win. Once again the NFL had to cut and paste their 49er apologist bile as if this sort of thing is not common in the NFL. Oh wait they are right, its not common place in the NFL unless itís an important 49er game.
Does anyone remember the game last year? The NHS describes it best in this snippet.
So when 12 seconds into it, an important game for the 9ers was being dictated by an inexplicable referee reversal to give the 9ers a touchdown on the opening kickoff, followed minutes later with a penalty negating a would-be 9ers turnover on a kick return, followed by several more of the classic "referee huddles" throughout the afternoon, fans nodded and understood. Even if the Rams injury-depleted split squad came to compete today (which they didn't), the script already had cast them as losers.
The opening minutes were the 49er Problem in a nutshell. As the 9ers broke open the opening kick return, the "flag" message clearly appeared during the run-back. No big whoop, all seasoned NFL fans are well accustomed to having penalties negate good returns. The ref signaled the illegal block against the 9ers, and the game was set to start with the 9ers mired deep in their own territory.
But wait! Someone, somewhere instead decided that it wasn't a penalty after all! Who exactly this anonymous benefactor was will always remain a mystery, but in a stunning turn that could only happen for the 9ers that those same seasoned NFL fans couldn't believe, the penalty was magically reversed. The same ref that just seconds before motioned the illegal block penalty now muttered something into the mic like, "Um, I was just practicing my miming before. There's actually no penalty. When we threw the flag, we didn't think the 9ers would score, but since they did, there's no penalty."
That made it 7-0, and then after the Rams scored on their first possession to make it 7-3, the 9ers coughed up the ball on the ensuing kick near their own 10-yard line. Unlike before, there was no "flag" message displayed on the screen, no flag could be seen thrown, and even though the announcers were in the middle of talking of a huge turnover for the Rams, once again, seasoned fans knew what was coming. Sure enough, that same ref was now muttering something about an "off sides on the Rams because they got the ball, which would be unfair to the 9ers."
More huddles and inexplicable calls followed, but don't take our word for it, here's what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had to say: "That belated roughing-the-passing penalty on Toyoka Jackson to prolong a 9ers drive? That wasn't just a horrible call, [it was] one that calls the integrity of the officiating crew into question."
So instead of the game starting potentially 10-0 Rams, the ball went back to the 9ers, and the Rams deflated faster than the Hindenburg.
Of course as Rams fans we have seen every ploy the NFL can come up with to favor the 9ers so this is nothing new for us. The question is how much does it now take to gift the 9ers their wins? Have the Rams learned that they must play well enough to overcome the unforeseen circumstances that will undoubtedly favor the 9ers? Are we going to hear from the announcers like we do in every 49er game ďI have never seen that beforeĒ. The Rams better expect it if they want to win on Sunday night. For those of you that are new to the stench of playing the 9ers we do not expect you to fully understand but if things go as normal you will. Or maybe itís finally over? We shall see.
Got any horror stories relating to the 9ers? Post them here. They are not limited to Rams games.