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49ers dispute critical call

Steelers/NFL Videos

Monday, Sept. 24, 2007

Every week, the Steelers leave the opposing offense in a state of disarray.

After a season-opening victory over Cleveland, the Browns traded their starting quarterback.

After a Week 2 victory over Buffalo, quarterback J.P. Losman ripped the Bills' coaching staff.

And after a 37-16 victory Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers, coach Mike Nolan took a shot at tight end Vernon Davis, while others spoke of miscommunication in the passing game.

Earlier in the week, Davis visited Nolan's office and told the coach he wanted a bigger piece of the action after catching only four passes in two games.

Nolan obliged -- and commended Davis for having the courage to stop by -- but wasn't happy with Davis dropping a pass yesterday.

"Don't cry about the ball and then not catch the ball," Nolan said.

Davis and Nolan agreed on one thing, though: They thought Davis caught a 22-yard pass on third-and-13 with 5 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter, putting the ball at the Steelers' 10.

The officials thought otherwise after a lengthy video review and ruled the pass incomplete. The 49ers settled for a field goal but still trailed, 17-9.

"That hurt," quarterback Alex Smith said.

It hurt in more ways than one, as Davis, who had four catches for 56 yards, limped out of the game with what Nolan described as a strained knee.

Davis was undercut by safety Troy Polamalu on the play and crashed to the turf, causing the ball to pop out of his grasp. Steelers safety Ryan Clark scooped it in midair and raced 43 yards to the 49ers' 47.

The ruling on the field was a fumble. Nolan challenged, and the call was reversed to an incompletion -- not exactly what the coach had in mind.

What did the official tell him?

"He said, 'It has to be clear that two feet are down,' " Nolan said. "And I offered him my sunglasses because they're prescription."

After the game, referee Gerald Austin told a pool reporter that Davis needed to have two feet down and maintain control of the ball after he hit the ground.

Asked if Davis only had one foot down, Austin said, "He had one foot and a toe on the other one."

Reporter: "That's not considered two feet?"

Austin, in extremely convoluted fashion, said no.

Davis couldn't understand the call.

"It should have been a catch," he said. "I came down with the ball, and then, it came out."

Davis had a brace on his knee after the game and is expected to undergo an MRI, but he said he was "fine."

Nolan cut off further inquiries about the play.

"Let's not go there, guys," he said. "Like I said, excuses make it OK to lose, and we lost today, and it wasn't OK. It's that simple."

Truth is, there was no guarantee San Francisco would have scored from the 10. They'd already settled for field goals on two trips inside the Steelers' 15 and produced no running game with star running back Frank Gore, who was held to 39 yards on 14 attempts.

When Bryant McFadden returned an interception 50 yards to make the score 30-9, it gave Smith more touchdown passes to the other team (one) than to his own this season.

That changed with a garbage touchdown later, but nothing seems different about the San Francisco offense, which came into the game ranked last in the NFL and came out of it in a state of disarray.

Just like the Browns and Bills.




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