|Harbaugh: 'In my opinion, that was a fumble." (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has exceeded everyone's expectations in his first year with the 49ers. He led them to a 13-3 record, the NFC West title, and San Francisco was possibly one play away from the Super Bowl. No, not that play, the Ahmad Bradshaw fumble that wasn't.
With 2:29 to go in the fourth quarter and the scored tied 17-17, the Giants running back lost the ball -- except that the officials ruled that Bradshaw's forward progress had already been stopped. The play was blown dead and anything subsequent to that -- including a fumble -- didn't matter.
The Giants would go on to win in overtime.
On Monday, Harbaugh compared the Bradshaw ruling to a four-letter word that the NFL would probably prefer never be uttered again: tuck. As in "tuck rule."
"In my opinion, that was a fumble. I'm sure the league will defend it and the officials will defend it. But to me, that play was still going on," Harbaugh said during his news conference Monday, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Michael Erler. "There was still struggling by Bradshaw. ... I felt like it was analogous with the tuck rule."
Judge for yourself:
Was Bradshaw's forward progress stopped before he fumbled?
The "tuck rule" game turned 10 years old last week and it's still hard for many of the Raiders players and coaches involved to talk about it.
Just like the Raiders-Pats game from January 2001, the NFL confirmed afterwards that the officials made the right call, citing Rule 7, Section 2 (b) of the NFL Rule Book which covers "dead balls": "An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (b) when a runner is held or otherwise restrained so that his forward progress ends." That was the immediate ruling yesterday, which is not subject to a replay review."
This isn't tuck-rule magnitude type stuff although we're certain that doesn't make Harbaugh feel any better. The problem with forward progress is that, like most rules, it's not consistently enforced. And that, no doubt, is the source of Harbaugh's frustration.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're at it, add our RSS Feed.