There were multiple storylines leading up to Week 1 of the regular season for the San Francisco 49ers. One of them was Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews saying, “You have to take your shots on the quarterback” when given a chance.
Matthews was referring to a rule that allows defenders to hit quarterbacks when they are carrying out read-option fakes. The linebacker said the Packers planned to take full advantage of the rule. The Niners were fully aware of the comment and took it to mean that he and the Packers defense would be taking shots at Colin Kaepernick in the game. The linebacker took his so-called tough talk to the field by launching himself at Kaepernick in the second quarter. Kaepernick was clearly out of bounds when Matthews took his cheap shot at the quarterback. He was called for a personal-foul penalty.
After the takedown, left tackle Joe Staley rightfully retaliated by grabbing Matthews and barking in his face, who then took a few shots at the offensive lineman. In his postgame news conference, Jim Harbaugh did not hold back on his words for Matthews, claiming the linebacker is not a “tough guy” because he slapped Staley:
I look at it with my own eyes and I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head. Well, one punch and one open slap, which was just a … if you’re going to go the face, come with some knuckles. Not an open slap. I think that young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.
Harbaugh also didn’t mince his words when talking about the illegal hit Kaepernick took from Matthews:
You talk about launching. You talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback’s six, seven feet out of bounds. I was standing there. I was kind of struck. ‘I’ve seen this play before.’
I thought of Emlen Tunell. You all know who he is — No. 45 of the Giants. Back when that was legal, he would stand there in the middle of the field waiting for receivers to cross and clothesline them. And their feet would fly in the air and their backs would hit the ground. I was struck. ‘I’m seeing Emlen Tunell here.’
Like I said last week, usually a man will tell you his intentions if you just listen. That certainly was a cheap shot. Launching, clothesline to the neck-head area. Bad play.
NFL: Staley Shouldn’t Have Been Penalized
For what it’s worth, the NFL today said Staley should not have been flagged for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for grabbing Matthews after he hit Kaepernick out of bounds. The two penalties offset and third-down was replayed as a result. According to the rules the officials shouldn’t have replayed the down. Instead they should have counted the down because the infractions occurred after the play was over.
But in reality the refs should have awarded the 49ers a 1st-and-goal at Green Bay’s three-yard line because Staley did not deserve the penalty. Either way it would have worked out for the Niners. Following the officials error the offense scored on the next play with a 10-yard TD pass to Anquan Boldin for a 14-7 lead.