SAN FRANCISCO — At first it looked like the 49ers caught a break. Then it appeared they were getting jobbed. Hours later came the final word: Jim Harbaugh's team definitely got lucky.
When Clay Matthews went airborne to hit Colin Kaepernick out of bounds with 9:02 left in the second quarter, it enraged the 49ers — left tackle Joe Staley, right guard Alex Boone and wide receiver Anquan Boldin were among the teammates who rushed to Kaepernick's defense and got physical with the Packers — but it was clear that Matthews had made a huge mistake, turning a third-down stop into a penalty for a late hit.
Then referee Bill Leavy announced offsetting penalties; Staley had been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, though it appeared Matthews had taken a swing at him, and not vice-versa. Harbaugh went nuts, but to no avail.
After the game, though, Leavy acknowledged the real officiating error.
"On the play where the quarterback went out of bounds and was hit late out of bounds. And then there was a subsequent hit by a San Francisco player. The down should have counted," Leavy said in a choppy statement distributed to media. "The penalties were both dead ball, and they should have offset at the spot where the runner went out of bounds. And it would have been fourth down."
Instead of fourth and 2, it reset to third and 6. Kaepernick fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Boldin on the next snap.
As for the fracas, Matthews and Staley both sounded contrite afterward.
"I had already committed to hitting the quarterback," the Packers linebacker said. "I guess I should have figured he was going to step out of bounds, but it was nothing personal. I went up to him later and was joking around with him. Not a very smart play."
<b>NNOT THE SAME OLD NNAMDI</b>
<MC>Nnamdi Asomugha, the 49ers' third cornerback, was on the field for the vast majority of snaps against the pass-happy Packers, and the results were mixed.