There was a tense moment in the third quarter of the 49ers-Eagles showdown at Lincoln Financial Field when 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw tackled Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith after the whistle.
The play resulted in a 15-yard penalty for Greenlaw and an ejection for the LB after a confrontation with Eagles security chief Dom DiSandro. It appeared on replay that DiSandro shoved Greenlaw after the play, and Greenlaw while pointing at DiSandro or someone else, touched DiSandro’s face. The officials ejected Greenlaw and DiSandro.
Philadelphia went on to score a touchdown on that series, but the 49ers responded with a score of their own and eventually put the game away.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was incensed that his starting linebacker was tossed, and addressed the play after the game.
“I didn’t get to see it all from where I’m at, but when I started hearing people explain it to me and stuff,” Shanahan said, “I just can’t believe someone uninvolved in a football game can taunt our players like that and put their hands in our guy’s face. From what I was told, Dre did it back to him and I was told that he mashed him in the face a little bit, so he got ejected. It was a very frustrating play. I have to watch it to have a true opinion on it. I love how we rallied after.”
Philadelphia finished off that drive with a one-yard touchdown run from QB Jalen Hurts that cut the 49ers lead to 21-13 with under seven minutes to go in the third. San Francisco scored five plays later, forced an Eagles punt on the ensuing drive, and then iced the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that made it 35-13 in the fourth quarter.
The Greenlaw play wound up not having much of an impact on the game, but Shanahan’s point stands. Team personnel on the sideline shouldn’t be able to interfere with players and coax them into getting ejected. Especially when that team personnel isn’t subject to being flagged for egging on opponents per the post-game pool report with NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson.
“The officials had a flag on the field for a personal foul by San Francisco No. 57, and then there was continuing action,” Anderson said. “And so what Rule 19 allows us to do is provide assistance by looking at the video. And we saw video that showed that there was a staff person that made contact with the player and that the player involved, No. 57, made contact with the staff member which warranted his disqualification. The non-player, he was contributing to that escalation. Rule 19 does not afford us the ability to help the officials in throwing a flag that they do not throw for a non-player. That’s only afforded for a player action.”
It’s unclear whether there will be additional action from the league on Greenlaw or DiSandro, but the league should probably adjust its rules to ensure team personnel aren’t incentivized to try and insert themselves into plays and draw out ejections in key spots.
On the other hand, Greenlaw has to know the situation and stay out of that kind of confrontation.
For now it’s a learning moment for the 49ers and their linebacker to stay more level-headed in big spots because there was a real chance that confrontation could’ve swung a massive game away from San Francisco.