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Harbaugh: Matthews Made ‘Cheap Shot’

Posted Sep 9, 2013

Jim Harbaugh had choice words for Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews after his late hit on Colin Kaepernick.

Clay Matthews didn’t impress Jim Harbaugh on Sunday.

Some of the 49ers said they respected the relentless effort of the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker, but San Francisco’s coach didn’t feel the same way.

Matthews was flagged for a late hit on Colin Kaepernick in a key first-half sequence in the 49ers 34-28 victory at Candlestick Park. It left a lasting mark on Harbaugh.

Before the diving clothesline from the Packers star defender took place, Kaepernick was short of the first-down marker. The 49ers would have been facing a 4th-and-2 from Green Bay’s 6-yard line. But because of Matthews illegal tackle, which was followed by an offsetting penalty on left tackle Joe Staley for sticking up for his quarterback, the officials ruled a replay of downs.

It was a mistake on the part of respected official Bill Leavy. With both flags being dead-ball fouls, the penalties should have offset, leading to a fourth-down.


With a new down, 3rd-and-6 from Green Bay’s 10-yard line, Kaepernick fired a slant touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin to put the 49ers up 14-7.

The aftermath of Matthews’ hit still resonated with the 49ers on Monday.

“Colin scrambles out of bounds, you get the personal foul play,” Harbaugh began. “You talk about launching, you talk about a clothesline to the neck area when our quarterback is 6-7 feet out of bounds… I was kind of struck.

“It was like, ‘I’ve seen this play before.’”

Harbaugh said the clothesline tackle reminded of something he’d seen from New York Giants Hall of Fame safety Emlen Tunnel.

“You all know who he is,” Harbaugh, the football historian, said to the media.

“He would stand over the middle of the field and wait for receivers to cross and he’d clothesline them. Their feet would fly up in the air and their backs would hit the ground.”

When Matthews launched at Kaepernick, Harbaugh had flashbacks to the hard-hitting safety who established a physical brand of football in the 1950s.

“I was struck,” Harbaugh said. “‘I’m seeing Emlen Tunnel here.’”

Harbaugh wasn’t pleased with what transpired next from Green Bay's sideline. The 49ers offensive players came to the defense of their quarterback, Harbaugh didn't mind that. The linemen did what they were coached to do. Staley went immediately over to Matthews, locked out both his arms on Matthews chest, and made sure the Green Bay linebacker knew his tackle wasn’t appreciated.

Harbaugh didn’t like how Green Bay’s bench cleared towards the goal line skirmish without “repercussion.”

The 49ers coach liked how Staley had Kaepernick’s back, but he wasn’t a fan of Matthews retaliation: one punch and one slap punch.

“I looked at it with my own eyes, I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head. Well, one punch and one open slap,” Harbaugh said. “If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles… I think that young man works hard on being a tough guy, he’ll have some repairing to do to his image after to the slap.”

Harbaugh felt like there shouldn’t have been offsetting penalties. The NFL came out and said Staley shouldn’t have been penalized.

“All in all, there were a lot of things going on in that stretch,” Harbaugh said.

“That certainly was a cheap shot,” Harbaugh later said of Matthews’ launching tackle. “In Emlen Tunnel’s day, that was legal. In our day, that’s not legal.”

When asked if Harbaugh had respect for Matthews, the 49ers coach was quick to answer.

“I don’t really have any more comment about it,” he said.



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