Why play call on Kittle's circus catch made Shanahan nervous

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The 49ers had just one touchdown drive in Sunday's divisional-round playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, and it was sparked by a jaw-dropping catch seen around the NFL world.

But before tight end George Kittle could make his juggling grab, his coach Kyle Shanahan was a bit anxious about the play call.

"That was our best drive," Shanahan told Carlos Ramírez, Donte Whitner and Rod Brooks on "49ers Postgame Live" after the victory. "I think we started on the [8-yard line], it was like 13 plays. Our bootlegs and stuff, [the Cowboys] were defending well. We had to do them to slow down how they were playing the run, and we were struggling to do it.

"I was kind of nervous to call that play because I didn't know if it would be there, but I thought we had to help out our run game."

And it wasn't there. With the game tied at nine apiece in the third quarter, quarterback Brock Purdy rolled out to his left on a bootleg that Dallas covered perfectly. But then, there was Kittle.

"It wasn't there," Shanahan continued. "And then Brock went to go back inside, and Kittle saw a hole in the defense and went to a spot that they're normally not at. Hats off to Brock for seeing it and letting it rip with no hesitation, and what a hell of a catch by Kittle."

Hats off to Shanahan as well for calling the play despite his nerves to get something, anything going against a stifling Cowboys defense.

RELATED: Shanahan strikes optimum balance with Purdy, 49ers' run game

Even though it didn't pan out exactly how the 49ers drew it up, Kittle's huge catch -- which he called a made-for-TV moment -- led to a touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey just a few plays later.

And as Sunday's one-score game showed, sometimes a little off-schedule magic can make all the difference.

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