When the San Francisco 49ers took the ball for the final drive of the second quarter of their Week 20 game against the Dallas Cowboys, the team had two goals: 1. put points on the board and 2. let Dak Prescott and co. not allow that do the same.
Participating in a game by inches that was ultimately decided by the efficiency of both teams’ pitchers, Kyle Shanahan oddly chose to let the clock run with 50 seconds left in the third and 1 quarters, even though his team wasn’t within Robbie Gould’s field goal was reach. When asked why he made the decision during his post-game media session, Shanahan explained that while it wasn’t particularly entertaining for fans at Levi’s, the decision was intentional.
“This is a difficult thing for me,” Shanahan said of the 49ers WebZone. “I know it’s hard for our fans to watch, but if it’s three-one and I think it’s been 50 seconds, they have two time-outs. I would hate not getting this first to show you guys why I did it. That’s what we believe in, we don’t want to give them the ball back. We liked where the score was. We still think we have time to score, but when you come to a third and one and we’ve had a time-out and they’ve had two, we didn’t plan on missing that third. Slam it to them where if we threw it they still had two timeouts and 45 seconds and now they end up with points in the half if they score, much like Seattle did at the end of the half , but the difference is that they also started with the ball in the third quarter. Well, once you get the first down, yeah, then I wish we were faster, but you don’t know if you’re going to make the first down or not, so you want to play it the smart way, and I thought we did did that. I thought we did some big games. I wanted [WR] Continue [Jennings]the protection of waiting for Jauan but still getting a field goal was huge.”
Given that the Cowboys were supposed to receive the ball after halftime, the decision to keep the game tight, even if it meant leaving points on the board, was certainly justified given Dallas’ playmakers like Tony Pollard and in Hurry points can CeeDee lamb. Reporters still wanted to know if Shanahan had given thought to how fans would feel watching the team seemingly squander a scoring opportunity when the ball was in their proverbial court?
“Yeah, not just because I can hear, but also because I’m a fan and I would be very upset,” Shanahan said. “But I’m pretty confident with what we did there. I think that’s one of the reasons why you keep 12 points against such a good team. I think that stuff has to do with it. I think playing the game like that and the situation you’re playing against, the dynamic of the game. I think that stuff is important.”
While fans will debate Shanahan’s decision to go conservative rather than attempt a halftime touchdown, 49ers rookie Brock Purdy, who was only playing in his second playoff game, had his at the end of the second quarter own problems with clock management. when he almost ran out the clock trying to throw the ball away despite being within Gould’s field goal range. After clearing up general questions about the game, reporters asked Purdy why he checked to the bottom right before throwing the ball away with three seconds left on the clock.
“All week we know what we’re trying to do, what their defense is doing, what our plan is,” Purdy said. “But then also like our thought process, dude, those are our playmakers. If we get the ball to this or that person, chew a watch, let the defense play the ball, we have a chance to set ourselves up for success and win the game. So he always goes through a little bit of situational football throughout the week. And then before the 15 seconds he’s still saying some stuff into the headset like, “Hey, that’s the situation, if it’s not here throw it away, we’re in field goal range,” whatever. So he’s always done a great job communicating for me and keeping things clear and I appreciate that about him.”
While the Niners certainly ran through all sorts of different scenarios throughout the week, it certainly wasn’t one based on how Shanahan reacted to Purdy’s error in killing near the drive to check to the right with three seconds left.
When asked to specifically cover the penultimate game of the second quarter, Purdy let it be known that while the Niners wanted to eat the clock, they weren’t looking to spoil their own scoring opportunity by holding the ball too long.
“Yes. I looked to the left, I didn’t see anything, our bookmark was obscured,” Purdy said. “So I figured I had a little more time than I had to look right back at it [WR] debo [Samuel]. And obviously it was a pretty close decision, so I have to deal with it better when it’s not there to throw the ball away. So he coached me and rightfully stepped up to me.”
When asked how Shanahan reacted to his near-faux pas, Purdy admitted he wasn’t happy but didn’t get too angry because it all worked out in the end.
“He said you just have to get better,” Purdy said. “I told you if it’s not there, throw it away. So I figured I had a little more time and looked left, looked right and just came closer.”
To his credit, Shanahan also commented on this particular piece and concluded that he might have left out a word or two that wasn’t safe for the work.
“That’s why I had my game sheet over my face [smiling]. It was just getting a little tight for us over time, so I just wanted him to throw it away a hair sooner.
In the end, all is well that ends well, and that particular play will simply go down as one of the few negative points of Purdy’s magical rookie season, especially since it ultimately had no bearing on the final score of the game.