On the heels of Deflategate, the last thing the NFL wants is another controversy in its lap, especially in the home of Super Bowl 50, but something sure didn’t smell right at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.
According to a league source who witnessed the game in the press box, the Baltimore Ravens lodged a complaint after live images were displayed on the large video board above the end zone while Justin Tucker attempted a kick in the first half. Reporters also overheard former NFL referee Jerry Markbreit, who was working the game in a supervisory capacity, speaking loudly on the phone about the issue.
Was this much ado about nothing — teams have been known to do this sort of thing every so often — or did the home team gain an unfair competitive edge, intended or not?
“There’s a league rule that says video cannot be played that could the distract the kicker,” said the source, who added that the message was relayed to the league command center in New York. “The people in New York were alerted, and I’m not sure why it was allowed to continue.”
Tucker, Ravens vice president of communications Kevin Byrne and 49ers communications executive Bob Lange said they were unaware of any complaint. Randall Lui, the NFC’s director of communications, did not return a request for comment Sunday night.
“No one came to me and said something needed to be done,” Byrne said. “My guess is that there wasn’t [a formal complaint].”
After two team officials pulled him to the side for a brief consultation, Tucker was reluctant to address the matter.
“All I’m focusing on is going out there and trying to put the ball between the uprights,” Tucker told Balls. “So I’ll just leave it at that.
“It doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, I just gotta find a way to make that ball go through the uprights regardless of what’s happening outside of our operation.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Tucker’s kick struck the right upright on a 45-yard attempt, only his second miss of the season. The 49ers followed with a touchdown to take a 25-13 lead then held on for a 25-20 victory.
Pressed further, Tucker said, “I’m just focusing on picking out a target and trying to hit it — that’s it. We do everything we can to block out distractions whatever they may be, wherever they may be. All we focus on in those moments is the action of snapping, holding and kicking the ball and hitting a small target between the uprights.”
WRIGHT HAS IT ALL WRONG: Shareece Wright helped win a game for the 49ers, after all. It’s just that the cornerback was dressed up as a Raven on Sunday when he did it.
Only days after 49ers granted his request to be released, Wright was toasted for two touchdowns that were crucial to the outcome.
In the second period, Colin Kaepernick and ex-Raven Torrey Smith beat Wright on a 76-yard bomb down the right sideline.
“Yeah, it was perfectly executed,” Wright told Balls. “You gotta stay on top of that and not be too aggressive.”
Wright said the only surprise was that the deep ball was so well thrown. When Balls asked whether Kaepernick had shown that kind of accuracy in practice, he responded, “No. He isn’t known for that. It is surprising.”
“It was pretty much the same [scheme except] they threw the ball a lot more than they usually do. They usually want to run the ball.”
In the fourth quarter, Quinton Patton burned Wright on a 26-yard TD after the two got their feet tangled and the defender fell to the ground.
“Oh, man, this is my first game being part of this defense,” Wright tried to explain. “I gave up a big play. That’s on me. I take ownership on that on my behalf.”
While the Ravens’ porous defense was ripe to be had on this day, it was obvious that Wright wore the biggest bulls-eye of all.
CONNECT THE DOTS: Seems ever since 18-year-old Dinah-Jane Hansen of Fifth Harmony fame became his main squeeze not long ago, Jarryd Hayne can’t keep his hands on the ball. In the first quarter, the 49ers’ rookie coughed up the ball for the second time this season. At least his team recovered.
Speculation about the Hansen-Hayne relationship mounted after they puckered up for selfies at Levi’s Stadium last month. While Hayne is nine years older than Hansen, they do have South Pacific roots in common. She is of Tongan descent, while his father Manoa Thompson is a former Fijian football player.
Hayne has been down this road before. The former rugby star was linked to Australia-based Rhiannon Villareal (So You Think You Can Dance) a while back.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW … : OK, coach John Harbaugh, how ’bout that USC head coach job now?
“I love the Ravens. I love being here,” Harbaugh said last week, when his name was linked to the vacancy. “It’s not a consideration.”
Now that the Ravens are headed for a rebuild project, Balls wonders if Harbaugh will be around after his contract expires after the 2016 season. His team is off to a 1-5 start.
Harbaugh was linked to UCLA in 2008 before the Bruins chose Rick Neuheisel instead. The Ravens hired him a short time later.
SASS ACTS: Tom Brady downplayed the rematch against the Indianapolis Colts, who turned him in for the Deflategate scandal earlier this year, but the New England Patriots’ quarterback didn’t have to say anything. His bitter old father said it for him.
“The main thing I want is to see them win,” Tom Sr. told the New York Daily News. “As long as they have one point more than the Colts, I’m fine. That being said, I’d like to see them put 60 points on the board and love to see Tom throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns.”
Then there’s the rest of of the country that hopes Tommy Jr. comes of the game with two torn ACLs, a collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen.
Turns out Young Tom threw for merely 312 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-27 victory Sunday night.
DUBS ARE NO. 1 AGAIN: According to an ESPN reader survey, the Warriors are the only Bay Area representative among the 25 best pro sports franchises in the country. The Warriors are first in Ultimate Value and 16th overall. Last season the Champs won 81.7 percent of their games yet were below the average NBA ticket price.
“Talk about a bargain: The Warriors had the best combination of success (67 wins and, uh, a title) and affordable prices (a $47.38 average ticket, more than six bucks below the league average),” ESPN reported.
Lew Wolff ranks 122nd and dead last among team owners, and Balls has one word for that.