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Shutdown Corner

Jim Harbaugh’s safety refusal could be a big deal in Vegas

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

It's not like NFL coaches think of the betting line as they're in the game -- at least, we hope they don't -- but one decision made by San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh late in the 49ers' 13-6 Thursday night win over the Seattle Seahawks might have some serious betting implications. The game's line, which had been as high as 9.5 in San Francisco's favor, moved down to 7.5 by game time. And as it turned out, Harbaugh turned down a chance to make those bettors happy.

With 56 seconds left in the game, and the Seahawks at their own 4-yard line with fourth-and-17, guard Paul McQuistan was penalized for a chop block. Referee Walt Anderson called for a safety as the penalty was in the end zone, but as Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had thrown what turned out to be a 16-yard pass to receiver Ben Obomanu, Harbaugh wanted to measure for the first down and decline the penalty and the subsequent safety if Obomanu's forward progress didn't take him over the first-down marker.

So, when Anderson's crew decreed that Obomanu came up short, Harbaugh declined the penalty, and the 49ers took over at the Seattle 20-yard line. Forty Niners quarterback Alex Smith took two kneel-downs, and the 49ers walked off their home field at Candlestick Park with their fifth win of the season.

"We can just kneel on the ball and the game will be over," Harbaugh said after the game. "Otherwise, they can onside kick it [on the subsequent kick] and [it] give[s] them a chance."

Uh ... you would have been up, 15-6 with less than a minute left in the game, coach. How exactly were the Seahawks going to score nine points in that time? It was a correct football decision, however, in that Harbaugh minimized the chance for injury in what was a very chippy and aggressive game all the way through.

Those who took the 49ers to cover were undoubtedly less gratified.

Pete Carroll, who wanted to know what Harbaugh's deal was when Carroll's USC Trojans were crushed by Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal in 2009, had to wonder why two points weren't as important to Harbaugh as they had once been. Carroll called Harbaugh out after that game, because Harbaugh called for a two-point conversion when the game was already out of hand.

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