Kyle Shanahan

49ers coach Shanahan steadfast in approach to throwing challenge flag

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SANTA CLARA — Coach Kyle Shanahan on Friday said nothing that happened last season in the 49ers' NFC Championship game has changed his approach on throwing the challenge flag.

“When they rush to the line, if it's a big play and you don't have any clue, I'd throw it,” Shanahan said of his general rule.

For instance, the 49ers used a challenge in the third quarter of their Week 10 game this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars when Trevor Lawrence’s deep pass for Christian Kirk was ruled complete.

The Jaguars’ offense quickly got to the line of scrimmage to run the next play.

Shanahan threw the challenge flag before Jacksonville could snap the ball. The replay showed Kirk got his hands underneath the ball and secured the catch. The 49ers lost the challenge.

Shanahan was asked about his philosophy on challenges in light of what happened in the first quarter of the 49ers’ 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game last season.

Just minutes before 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy sustained the elbow injury that rendered him unable to throw the football, the first big play of the game occurred.

The Eagles went for it on a fourth-and-3 situation from the 49ers’ 35-yard line. Jalen Hurts threw a deep pass for DeVonta Smith that was ruled a catch.

If Shanahan had not seen a replay of the 29-yard pass play or if there seemed to be any question, he said he would have thrown the challenge flag.

“The problem with that one is everyone on our headsets thought he caught it, and then they showed something on the replay (board) that looked like he caught it,” Shanahan said.

“So we didn't want to waste the timeout because the replay we saw, the way we thought they were acting, and from everyone who saw it live from our side, we thought it was complete,” Shanahan said.

It was not until after the Eagles scored a touchdown two plays later that the FOX television broadcast showed an angle that clearly showed Smith did not make the catch.

“If we don't know at all, and it's a big play, I usually throw it,” Shanahan said. “But we just thought he caught it because of what we saw and the fact that no one live from where we were standing knew it was questionable.”

Shanahan said it generally is not a giveaway when the offense hurries to the line of scrimmage to quickly run the next play, as the Jaguars proved against the 49ers three weeks ago.

“That's something teams do just automatically,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes it gets you to waste a timeout. And sometimes because after explosives, it's best to run down there and go real fast because the defense isn't quite ready.” 

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