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How was that 49ers fumble recovery not reviewable?

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

With less than nine minutes remaining in the NFC championship and the Seattle Seahawks on the verge of scoring a game-opening touchdown, Jermaine Kearse caught a Russell Wilson pass and stretched out to try and sneak the ball over the goal line to give his team a 10-point lead. As he did that, the ball was stripped by San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. After taking possession, Bowman fell to the ground with control of the ball. It was a clear fumble, 49ers recovery and a major swing in the game.

Except it wasn’t any of that. Despite it being an obvious fumble to the 65,000 people watching the game in the stadium and the 40+ million watching on television, the 49ers didn’t get the ball. Seattle retained possession. The reason: The play wasn’t reviewable.

How? How is that play not reviewable? What’s the point of having any sort of replay if there’s going to be arbitrary distinctions about what can and can’t be looked at?

This particular rule states that recovery of a loose ball in the field of play isn’t reviewable because the fumble itself cannot be reviewed unless it’s been called on the field by the refs. Such plays are reviewable if they happen in the end zone or the sideline.

Confused? Of course you are.

To make matters worse, Fox’s Mike Pereira said he has heard the NFL had been thinking of making this particular play reviewable in 2014.

For a few minutes, it felt like that change would come about eight months too late for the San Francisco 49ers. Then, on the fourth down play, Marshawn Lynch bobbled the handoff, San Francisco stuffed him before the goal line and took over on downs.

It was a roundabout way of getting to the proper outcome. Justice was served through no fault of the absurd, inane NFL rules.

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