David Newton | ESPN.com
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell, who earlier this season called out the NFL for making him a target for fines, on Sunday called out the officials for missing several calls in a 23-10 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I can’t wait to play them [again] with a new set of refs in a new game,” Mitchell said of the 49ers, who advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
Mitchell’s first beef was an unnecessary roughness penalty called on him in the game’s first series for a late hit on receiver Anquan Boldin after a third-down incompletion from the Carolina 40-yard line.
“That was a terrible call,” Mitchell said. “This is playoff football, the National Football League. That was a terrible call. The ball was not on the ground. The replay showed it was still in the air. The receiver actually had an opportunity to bend over and catch the ball.”
The play led to a San Francisco field goal and 3-0 lead.
“It was a terrible call,” Mitchell said. “A terrible call. One more time, a terrible call.”
Mitchell’s next issue was with the officials’ failure to call Boldin for a head-butt after a 15-yard catch to the Carolina 9-yard line with 53 seconds left in the half. He was upset because the officials called Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn for a 15-yard penalty for a head-butt on San Francisco’s second possession, moving the 49ers to the Carolina 20 to set up a second field goal.
“It was just ridiculous,” Mitchell said. “A couple of things weren’t called the same way. I made a good play taking his legs out, and he gets up in my face and head-butts me, which is the same exact thing you saw Captain Munnerlyn do.”
Mitchell noted that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was at the game, “so I’d be curious to see what he thought about that.”
“It was the exact same play,” Mitchell added. “One team gets the call, the other doesn’t. I guess that’s human error in football.”
Mitchell’s next complaint was about a pass interference call on Carolina cornerback Drayton Florence on third-and-9 of that series. The officials said Florence never made a play on the ball. That gave the 49ers first-and-goal from the 1.
“I don’t know if you call that in playoff games, but it is what it is,” Mitchell said.
On the next play, television replays showed 12 players in the San Francisco huddle prior to a 1-yard touchdown catch by tight end Vernon Davis. It was not called.
“They had a guy in the huddle and they ran him out,” Mitchell said. “We were all screaming 12 in huddle.”
Referee Carl Cheffers said after the game he didn’t call a foul because “the ball was not in play yet.”
Davis’ touchdown gave San Francisco a 13-10 halftime lead. Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the 12th player “was missed.”
“Or at least I thought it was missed,” he said. “I saw the guy run off late. Our players saw it.”
Rivera wasn’t as outspoken on the officiating as Mitchell was, but said, “there were some things in the first half that really bothered me.”
Mitchell said he can’t wait to play the 49ers again in the future.
“Everybody was emotional and upset, and rightfully so,” he said of the scene in the locker room after the season-ending loss. “But I told guys as soon as they got in here, remember this feeling, that team. Remember this feeling and that team we just played because we will see them again and it’s not going to be sweet.”
- Covered Panthers, NFL for 11 years
- More than 25 years experience covering NFL, college football and NASCAR
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