Questionable Decision Making by Kyle Shanahan Cost 49ers Second Loss
Jose Luis Sanchez III
It was cold, wet and early for the San Francisco 49ers in their battle against the red hot Baltimore Ravens. This was a game that drew much excitement and it lived up to the hype.
Questionable decision making and play calling by Kyle Shanahan, however, contributed to the 49ers second loss of the season.
It started with poor clock management by Shanahan when the 49ers went into their two-minute drill with a drive that started at their own 25 with 1:58 left in the first half. The 49ers were moving, despite an illegal block in the back penalty on Emmanuel Sanders on the second play, that put them in an early hole. That penalty is likely why Shanahan opted to drain the clock. Shanahan is known to be overly-cautious, which has benefited the Niners more times than not.
However, in a game of this magnitude playing scared will not garner positive results and it showed in this loss. Following the penalty, Deebo Samuel reeled in a quick pass and took it for eight yards. He essentially got back the yards caused by the penalty. At that moment a timeout should have been called. Second-and-12 was more than manageable for the 49ers. Instead, Shanahan chose to run out the clock.
That forced the Niners to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt. A pressure-filled attempt for Robbie Gould, who barely made his return back from a quad injury. Oh ... and it also was raining. Of course, he missed the kick, which left Shanahan open to second-guessing why he didn't aggressively try to get closer.
As bad as the clock management was, Shanahan's most egregious error was the fourth-and-1 call in the fourth quarter with 6:28 remaining.
Rather than trust handing the ball off to Raheem Mostert, who finished the game averaging 7.7 yards per carry, Shanahan dialed up a shotgun pass play for Jimmy Garoppolo that was batted down at the line of scrimmage by Chris Wormley. The decision to go for it on fourth down was not the issue—it was the play call. The failure to convert turned the ball over on downs to the Ravens. They never gave it back, setting up Justin Tucker's 49-yard game-winning field goal on the final play.
There is no sugar coating it: this loss falls on Shanahan.
Of course, some penalties and a fumble by Garoppolo were factors in the loss as well. But Shanahan's decisions late in the first half and on the fourth-and-1 were too much to overcome. The players stepped up in a game where they had to travel to the east coast, play at 10 a.m. body time against the hottest team in the league.
This game reinforced that the 49ers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They can play with anybody. Their two losses were by three in overtime to the Seahawks and three points on Sunday to the Ravens.
The 49ers will now focus on the New Orleans Saints. A win against them in the Superdome next week will make their loss against the Ravens less painful because it's a conference game with playoff seeding at stake. The 49ers and Saints are 10-2 and the Seahawks are 9-2 going into their home game Monday night against the Vikings.
It's December and for the first time in a long while, the 49ers are right in the middle of things.