Giants: Barber 115R, Collins 342P, Toomer 136C 49ers: Garcia 331P, Owens 177C squirted the ball low and so far to the right that Allen grabbed it, rose up, and yelled “Fire” to his teammates to signal a broken play.
Allen rolled out with 49ers in pursuit as guard Rich Seubert, an eligible receiver on this play, went out for a pass. Allen unloaded the ball in the direction of Seubert, who was open at the 2-yard line, but Chidi Okeafor of the 49ers tackled Seubert as penalty flags flew and the pass fell incomplete. To the amazement of everyone, the Giants were called for having an ineligible receiver downfield because guard Tam Hopkins was also inexplicably at the goal line, but interference was not called on Okeafor so there were no offsetting penalties, and the game was over.
Fassel pointed out after the game that Allen was supposed to simply call timeout in that situation, and others speculated he could have quickly thrown the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. However, as Michael Strahan complained afterward, “Screw the botched snap, screw the calls after that. It should never have come to that. This game was like our season look about as good as you can look on a football field and look about as bad as you can look.”
Two months earlier in Arizona, Junkin had been interviewed for a piece in Sports Illustrated in which he described the anonymous nature of his long, strange career: “Ideally, my name should never come up. If it does, I’ve made a mistake,” he said. Unfortunately, Junkin did just that on the immense stage of the NFL playoffs.
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One day later, the NFL admitted its officiating error and said that interference should have been called and that the offsetting penalties should have resulted in a rekick for New York. San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci responded sarcastically to the news with the comment, “Bummer,” but his fortunate 49ers lost the following week in Tampa to the eventual champion Bucs.
The NFL also altered its procedures to allow for more consultation among officials in the future, but nothing could change the result of the game. One direct carryover for the Giants came in Week 2 of 2003, when Fassel had his field-goal unit kick a lead-changing field goal against Dallas with too many seconds left on the clock, allowing the Cowboys enough time to kick a
52-yard game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation. Dallas won in overtime. New York finished 4-12 and Fassel was fired.
Quarterback Kerry Collins stares in disbelief after the Giants fell to the 49ers 39-38.
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