American Football

Shanahan explains his decision not to challenge DeVonta Smith’s 4th down catch


NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Hard to imagine we’re not talking about a different result has this catch been overturned.

The 49ers forced the Eagles into a 4th & 3 on the first possession of the game. It took a Herculean catch from DeVonta Smith to keep Philadelphia’s drive alive.

But the replay showed that Smith never had full possession.

The Eagles never showed the replay on the Jumbotron, so Kyle Shanahan was left in the dark on whether it was a catch or not:

“The replay we saw didn’t definitively show that. We saw one up on the scoreboard. I wasn’t going to throw one anyways just to hope to take the chance. But they showed one up on the scoreboard that didn’t have all those angles you guys saw.

That looked like a catch and we didn’t want to waste a timeout. Which we definitely would have if we didn’t see that. I heard they got a couple other angles and you guys ended up seeing later that it was not a catch.”

From everything that was shown at Lincoln Financial Stadium, there was no replay that was worthy of a challenge. So it’s tough to fault Shanahan there. But the same cannot be said for his mindset on timeouts.

I’ve long felt like we overvalue timeouts, specifically in the first half. It’s easy to use hindsight and say Shanahan should have thrown the challenge flag regardless, but the 49ers were never in a position to use any of its first half timeouts.

We also have ample evidence that Shanahan isn’t one to use his timeouts during end-of-half situations anyway. Shanahan said he didn’t have access to other angles, making this argument moot:

“I wish. But I mean there’s people, I mean I think the NFL can do that, if they can see it, they’re supposed to do it. But I mean, we didn’t see it. There’s a play clock. You have 40 seconds. They’re going to get it off. They got it off. I wasn’t going to throw it anyway. I was just hoping.

But it looked like he caught it. And then they showed a replay up there. Which I was shocked they showed it. But it ended up looking like a catch on the replay too because you couldn’t see the other angles. So that’s why we didn’t. I was told at the end of the drive they saw a couple other angles and I was told that it was incomplete.”

We can play the what-if game until we are blue in the face. But it’s difficult to imagine the game unfolding similarly if the 49ers take over from around the 35-yard line with the score at zero and the momentum on their side.

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