By Brady Henderson
The referee assignments for this weekend's conference title games were among the subjects discussed in Tuesday's edition of "Cold Hard Facts" with John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle.
Welcome to championship week, where the analysis leading up to each game is such that no storyline goes uncovered. This one, though, certainly seems worthy of some attention. Referee Gene Steratore has been assigned to the Seahawks-49ers game, which is significant from both teams' perspectives given one of his crew's notable tendencies.
"He lets them play," Clayton said, noting that Steratore's crew called only 13 pass-interference penalties in 15 regular-season games.
It should be noted that the championship-game crews will be comprised of the highest-rated officials from the regular season, so Steratore won't be working with his usual crew. Still, his assignment to this game is noteworthy.
A more loosely called game in terms of contact in pass defense would seemingly benefit the Seahawks given the physicality with which their defensive backs play. And the last time these teams met – a 49ers win in Week 14 – officials didn't let the Seahawks get away with some of that contact. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell were penalized for holding (another holding call on Sherman was declined). Receiver Golden Tate was flagged for offensive pass interference as well.
"I'm sure there was a lot of complaining about the pass defense from their end of it, and I think some calls went that way," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said afterward.
According to football-refs.com – which keeps track of assignments for NFL officiating crews – Steratore has worked one Seahawks game this season, which was their Week-8 win over St. Louis. Ten penalties were called against the Seahawks that game, including two for holding by their cornerbacks. None of Seattle's penalties were for pass interference.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.