The Seahawks put the final nail in their coffin on Thursday night when they were called for a holding penalty in their own end zone with under a minute left to play, giving the Niners a two-possession lead. Or, should we say, it would have given San Francisco a two-possession lead had Jim Harbaugh not declined the penalty.
The play also happened to be 4th down, and Seattle came up short of the first-down mark on its completed pass. Instead of accepting the penalty and taking the safety, Harbaugh took the result of the play and had his offense take the field for a kneel down. Same outcome for the 49ers, entirely different outcome for the sports gambling world.
San Francisco was favored by anywhere from 7 to 8 points before the game began. Harbaugh’s bizarre decision resulted in a push for many gamblers and was the difference between a win and a loss for others. According to R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, an estimated 65% of the money on the game backed San Francisco while 35% backed Seattle. That would mean an estimated $75 million was transferred from the hands of bettors into the hands of bookies as a result of the decision to decline the safety.
The good news for the NFL is that this time it’s on Harbaugh. Unlike with this guy who won a fortune on the infamous blown call in the Seahawks-Packers game, Thursday night’s unexpected swing was not the result of poor officiating. It may have been a head-scratching move from the Niners coach, but such is life when you bet on sports. No refund will be handed out this time around.