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Jim Harbaugh’s decisions come back to haunt 49ers

Jim Harbaugh AP

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is taking some heat for some questionable fourth-quarter decisions in the 49ers’ 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.

The decision that’s drawing the most attention is keeping the three points on the board after the Cowboys were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct on David Akers‘ 55-yard field goal with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. If Harbaugh had wanted to, he could have taken the three points off the board and put the 49ers’ offense back on the field with a new set of downs, giving them the chance to drive for a touchdown and a 14-point lead or, at the very least, take some more time off the clock before putting Akers back in for another field goal attempt.

Harbaugh chose to stand pat, however, and he said afterward that he thought being ahead two scores in the fourth quarter was enough.

“The thinking behind that at the time was to have the two-score advantage at that point,” Harbaugh said. “Felt that we would be able to get off the field and that would lead to a victory.”

In general, Harbaugh seemed like he was playing it very safe in the fourth quarter. For starters, he decided to send Akers in for that 55-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-1. Then he decided not to put his offense back on the field after the Cowboys’ penalty gave the 49ers an automatic first down. According to AdvancedNFLStats.com, which analyzes plays based on how they affect a team’s expected probability of winning the game, both of those decisions were mistakes.

It’s also worth considering that after Harbaugh decided to take the Cowboys’ penalty on the ensuing kickoff, he could have called for an onside kick from the 50-yard line, rather than just booting it through the end zone for a touchback. All he would have been risking is about 20 yards of field position if the Cowboys had recovered the onside kick. But, again, Harbaugh decided to play it safe.

Harbaugh made another tactical mistake late in the game: The 49ers still had two timeouts left after they stopped the Cowboys on a third down with 43 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and they should have immediately called timeout and forced the Cowboys to kick the field goal then. Instead, they allowed the Cowboys to let the clock run down to just four seconds remaining before kicking the game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime on the final play of the fourth quarter. If Harbaugh had called timeout with 43 seconds left, the Cowboys would have had to kick their field goal right then, and then kick off to Ted Ginn, the 49ers’ dangerous return man, with 38 seconds left — and even if Ginn didn’t get a big return, the 49ers’ offense would have had time to try to get into field goal range for a game-winning field goal of their own at the end of the fourth quarter.

But instead Harbaugh let the Cowboys control the clock, they controlled it effectively, and they won.

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74 Responses to “Jim Harbaugh’s decisions come back to haunt 49ers”
  1. krioniq says: Sep 19, 2011 1:30 PM

    None of those hindsight-is-20-20 “tactical mistakes” would have mattered if the 49ers had not decided to fall asleep on defense.

    San Francisco allowed Dallas to score on each of its final three drives following that field goal. In today’s NFL, your defense has to be able to make a play when your team needs one.

  2. billionsvsmillions says: Sep 19, 2011 1:31 PM

    Hes a Harbaugh, enough said.

  3. joetoronto says: Sep 19, 2011 1:32 PM

    It’s a NinerDynasty! :)

  4. sdboltaction says: Sep 19, 2011 1:32 PM

    Damnit, 49ers!!!!!

  5. Deb says: Sep 19, 2011 1:32 PM

    According to AdvancedNFLStats.com, which analyzes plays based on how they affect a team’s expected probability of winning the game, both of those decisions were mistakes.

    Not saying Harbaugh made the right calls, but there is an adage that you never take points off the board. And coaching involves a lot more than punching data into a Gameboy and following the choice that has the highest probability of succeeding.

  6. djteknision1200 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:33 PM

    This ain’t college anymore Jim. You need to prepare a little harder for the Pro’s

  7. jessethegreat says: Sep 19, 2011 1:34 PM

    To sumarize: Be Careful What You Wish For, Because You Just Might Get It.

  8. nflsucker says: Sep 19, 2011 1:34 PM

    He must have apprenticed with Herm Edwards. Herm is very likable, but he played not to lose all the time when he coached the Jets.

    In other words, “You play to win the game!” often means, in reality: “You play to not lose the game!” It’s almost always the wrong attitude.

  9. highoctane1 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:36 PM

    The failure to call time out with 43 seconds left was a mistake, but the others were simply judgment calls. They didn’t work, but every game has reasonable calls that don’t work. None of the other decisions were unreasonable. We live in a monday-morning-qb world where blog people have to create controversy, and the fans (What, me?) eat it up.

  10. tdk24 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:37 PM

    You never take points off the board. And putting the 9ers offense back on the field has not been a good idea since about 1995.

  11. Nevis says: Sep 19, 2011 1:37 PM

    The heat he’s getting is a JOKE. Based on ODDS, the Niners chances of winning went from 91% by taking the penalty all the way down to a whole 90% by keeping the FG. That’s right, a whole 1% difference in win percentage.

    The Niners had 11 minutes to put the Cowboys away. The offense failed, the defense failed. The Niners started OT with the ball, failed again.

    Conservative? Yes. The reason the 49ers lost? Absolutely not.

    Bottom line: Harbaugh will continue to be conservative until he feels the team is 100% comfortable with the playbook and schemes. He’s had no offseason and actually has this team playing better than expected under the circumstances.

    I expect ups and downs for this young team until mid October, maybe even early November.

  12. thephantomstranger says: Sep 19, 2011 1:38 PM

    I guess his biggest mistake was he didn’t have AdvancedNFLstats.com pulled up on his iphone so he would know what to do in every situation.

  13. bigd4defense says: Sep 19, 2011 1:39 PM

    A lot of hindsight analysis… Can’t we say that about the 15 other teams that lost yesterday?

  14. duncanthecat says: Sep 19, 2011 1:40 PM

    Notch it up to inexperience.

    The blown coverages and missed tackles did not help. To have a 4th string WR come in and play all-world was pathetic.

  15. toaster463 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:42 PM

    Oh yeah, take 3 points off the board and put the game back in the hands of Alex Smith….brilliant. The cybertron 2000 thinks it was a bad call, but anyone who has ever played football knows you NEVER take points off the scoreboard, least of all when it puts you up two scores.

    If they take the penalty, the most likely situation is another FG attempt, followed by a turnover, followed by a TD.

    What a cheap shot, Harbaugh should be commended for even having the 49ers in the game vs the Cowboys.

  16. tdoggnutts says: Sep 19, 2011 1:43 PM

    Go cowboys woot, on a side note the 49er’s played hard. there D looked great..Hard loss for all 49er fans believe me I know from the Jets loss..

  17. theandy59 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:44 PM

    There is no reasonable defense for those decisions except that he’s a rookie NFL HC and he froze up. How do you not take the penalty? Can you imagine any of the successful coaches in this league making that decision? Harbaugh clearly coached with an eye on what could go wrong, as opposed to with what could go right.

  18. airraid77 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:45 PM

    yeah he was going to drive the ball down the field with alex smith as his qb……
    Fact; EVERY PREGAME SHOW, and writer in america had that game as a locke for the cowboys….EVERY SINGLE ONE! the fact that the cowboys were down 14 nothing was it? speaks volumes….WITH ALEX SMITH AT QB.

  19. herkulease says: Sep 19, 2011 1:45 PM

    too bad statistics doesn’t take into account that niners offense did essentially NOTHING in the 2nd half.

    outside of the 1 td pass on what amounts to a blown assignment in the 2nd half the other 3 possessions before the FG were

    3 plays, -4 yards, punt
    3 plays, 2 yards, INT
    3 plays, 4 yards, punt

    possession that lead to FG was a pathetic 4 play, 9 yards.

    Only thing taking the penalty would’ve done was take a minute or two off the clock.

    the defense got rolled over. dline hardly got any pressure on romo

  20. nyyankeedave says: Sep 19, 2011 1:47 PM

    Bigger question is will he learn from it? Nolan and Singletary NEVER did. Of course, only time will tell-but keep playing it safe instead of going for the jugular and Harbaugh won’t have a job for long.

  21. theandy59 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:50 PM

    Oh, and can we please dispense with the “you never take points off the board….” nonsense. Who said this and why is it sacrosanct football logic? It doesn’t make any sense. I can see declining a penalty if it doesn’t get you a first down, not wanting to go for it on 4th and inches for instance, but we’re talking about a 15 yard penalty and a first down. Assuming they don’t gain a yard, you’re looking at a 40 yard FG and if you’re not confident that your kicker can’t routinely knock a 40 yarder through, you need a new kicker. Also, defensive’s are routinely demoralized when after they think they’ve made a stop, they have to trot back out there. Just a stupid, stupid call….

  22. rexismybff says: Sep 19, 2011 1:53 PM

    Everything Harbaugh did was by the book. Same moves Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Don Shula and Bill Walsh would have made.

    1. Never take points off the board. That is absolute coaching dogma, and your stats website should know it. The chance of something bad happening is too high. John Madden has repeatedly made this point – its part of the NFL coach’s Bible
    2. Always kick deep with the lead. The chance of an onsides kick recovery is lower than your defense’s chance to defend a long field.

    The one error would have been going for the long field goal, but that was actually the decision that worked out in his favor. The 49ers lost because of their inability to pass defend in the 4th quarter and overtime at home against the Cowboys’ injured starters and second stringers – not because of Harbaugh’s decisions.

  23. dgforreal says: Sep 19, 2011 1:56 PM

    You don’t take points off the board, but you also don’t put the ball in the hands of a capable quarterback with over 10 minutes left to play.

    The more I look at it, it was a lose-lose situation for Harbs.

    Niners have got to do a lot better in the future. They kept it close, but this was against a pretty depleted Cowboy’s team.

    Niners were outgained 300+ yards to about 70 yards in the second half. It was a messed up situation since at that point confidence in either side of the ball was fleeting.

  24. Nevis says: Sep 19, 2011 1:56 PM

    theandy59 says:
    Sep 19, 2011 1:50 PM
    Oh, and can we please dispense with the “you never take points off the board….” nonsense. Who said this and why is it sacrosanct football logic? It doesn’t make any sense. I can see declining a penalty if it doesn’t get you a first down, not wanting to go for it on 4th and inches for instance, but we’re talking about a 15 yard penalty and a first down. Assuming they don’t gain a yard, you’re looking at a 40 yard FG and if you’re not confident that your kicker can’t routinely knock a 40 yarder through, you need a new kicker. Also, defensive’s are routinely demoralized when after they think they’ve made a stop, they have to trot back out there. Just a stupid, stupid call….

    ——————

    Riiiiight. And what would we all be talking about if Harbaugh took the penalty and there was a turnover, blown snap, missed FG and the Niners lost by 3?

    Hindsight decision making must be pretty easy from where we’re sitting, isn’t it?

    Again, chalk it up as conservative, but not even CLOSE to the reason the 49ers lost.

  25. cowboy88 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:57 PM

    Harbaugh’s only real goof was to not call TO with 43 ticks left.

    What if he accepts the penalty on the Aker’s kick and the next play they fumble or throw a kick? All you Monday Morning QBs would be criticizing his bad judgment.

  26. texanfan4life says: Sep 19, 2011 1:57 PM

    Harbaugh has David Akers on his fantasy team.

  27. cowboy88 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:57 PM

    I meant throw a pick.

  28. majorseahawk says: Sep 19, 2011 1:58 PM

    So let me get this straight, he had to settle for a 55 yard FG, but got a penalty on the Cowboys on that play which would have kept the drive going but he decided to decline it? That is so stupid, are they sure Singletary still isn’t with the team? They better check.

  29. santorin4 says: Sep 19, 2011 1:59 PM

    “It’s also worth considering that after Harbaugh decided to take the Cowboys’ penalty on the ensuing kickoff, he could have called for an onside kick from the 50-yard line, rather than just booting it through the end zone for a touchback. All he would have been risking is about 20 yards of field position if the Cowboys had recovered the onside kick. But, again, Harbaugh decided to play it safe.”

    Up two scores in the fourth quarter and NOT choosing an kick onside is playing it safe?? Who would print such a thing?! A little Monday morning wake-and-bake perhaps?

  30. chaseright says: Sep 19, 2011 2:01 PM

    I hate to use a term like this, but this is an idiotic post. You make it sound like he made a “series” of bad decisions, but most of them surround a single decision – to kick the FG instead of go for it on 4th and 1. Harbaugh decided that 1) Akers was good from 55, 2) he wanted a 2-score lead, and 3) going for it on 4th down when the D knew a run was coming, was perhaps even more risky than kicking the FG (and again, he knows his veteran kickers range). Then, when the kick is good, he makes the same decision that a lot (if not most) coaches do – which is to leave points on the board.

    Also, and this is where idiotic comes into play – NO WAY do you on side kick in q4 with a 10 point lead, just because you are kicking from the 50. That would be a categorically horrendous decision. You have a team on the ropes, you make them drive the field, not give them a shot at the ball at the 50. Just dumb.

    Thank goodness you’re a writer, free to come up with inane posts like this. Because if you were a coach using this logic/decision-making, you’d promptly be fired. I know your job is to comment on things and sometimes take a contrarian view, but chalk this post up as one of your worst. Hopefully you can review the film on this one and learn from it.

  31. nyyankeedave says: Sep 19, 2011 2:02 PM

    Of course, I believe Harbaugh is sculpting a good offensive team-something Nolan and Singletary couldn’t conceive of doing. That said, once Harbaugh got comfortable at the college level, he was merciless-with time, it’s reasonable to except he could? do the same on the pro level.

  32. sc5000 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:03 PM

    I didn’t get to watch the game, but he definitely made the wrong decision not taking the penalty. Regardless of who your QB is, when you have the lead and are trying to protect it, the clock is your friend, esp. if it continues to run. You people defending this decision need to ask yourself this, would the Cowboys of had enough time to make a comeback if it weren’t for the two extra minutes of time Harbaugh provided them? Judging by how things went, the answer is no. The decision is definitely questionable, just because Alex Smith is the Qb doesn’t mean he can’t turn around and hand the ball off to kill some clock, how stupid is that argument…

  33. moseszd says: Sep 19, 2011 2:04 PM

    That was a good decision. The bad decision was to play soft against a QB with a broken rib…

    They should have been coming and coming and coming…

    Instead they just got passive…

  34. kevpft says: Sep 19, 2011 2:05 PM

    Not really buying these arguments. If Harbaugh makes any one of the alternate decisions you describe and they go wrong, then he’s front-page news and a lousy coach. If more than one go wrong, then he’s seen as insane. I expect most NFL coaches still remember Belichick’s 4th-down-against-the-Colts media explosion.

    I don’t normally like to see teams play it too safe, but these are reasonable decisions. They’re decisions that say, “our team is good enough to see this through”, not “uh oh, we better prepare for falling apart later”.

    Harbaugh didn’t fail to score late in the game, or fail to prevent the Cowboys from scoring – his players did. Both players and coach could have done better, but there’s no smoking gun here. Better all-around effort when it counted from the Cowboys.

  35. sickpuppyz says: Sep 19, 2011 2:06 PM

    Deb says:
    Not saying Harbaugh made the right calls, but there is an adage that you never take points off the board
    —————————————————
    In that case teams should kick field goals as soon as they are in range. Why go for a TD and risk a fumble or INT?

    What a loser mentality. Its evident the guy played it all safe (i.e. scared) and lost. playing not to lose is a self defeatist mentality!

    There is another adage that says if you don’t play to win you will LOSE! “

  36. dspohn55 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:07 PM

    This speaks directly to how little confidence he has in his offense

  37. johnnyshore says: Sep 19, 2011 2:07 PM

    As a 49er fan, I think he made the right call by keeping the points. Anything can happen if you choose to take the field goal off and continue on (especially with Alex at qb). Although I do think they should have called a timeout so Ginn could have had a shot at the return. If the 49ers won, no one would be questioning Harbaugh’s decision. They lost, so it was obviously wrong. If the Saints failed on that onside kick in the super bowl, it would have been looked at as one of the worst decisions of all time. They didn’t, so Sean Payton is remembered as gutsy and smart instead of stupid and risky.

  38. nineroutsider says: Sep 19, 2011 2:13 PM

    I didn’t like the call Harbaugh made on keeping the 3 points, but I get why he did it. In the past, the Niners would have never been in that game so I give them credit. 206 total yards of offense and they should have won it…most teams can’t do that.

    Harbaugh will continue to play hide the offense until he thinks everyone is comfortable in his scheme. Yeah it will get annoying, but it makes sense. The Niners will look better each week and make a good run at the end and in the NFC West that gives you a pretty good shot. This team will look much different in December.

  39. 1phd says: Sep 19, 2011 2:14 PM

    Playing to Win
    Not afraid to take chances. Trust and use your biggest play makers. Trust that your offense can make the plays and move the ball and stick it to the other team. Whenever you have or are given the chance to score more points, you do. Never let up on your opponent. Play with the killer instinct. ATTACK and TAKE NO PRISONERS!

    Playing Not to Lose
    Play it safe because you are afraid your key players might make a mistake. Hope that your defense can stop their offense without giving enough thought to how explosive your opponent can be. PLAY IT SAFE and HOPE FOR THE BEST!

    For all those who have argued that not taking the points off the board was the correct call (based on the adage from the days of Lombardi and very little passing in the game compared to today) or are blaming this loss on the defense not doing their job (which they didn’t), the key difference between the two comes down to where you want to put the burden of winning the game. Putting the burden on your defense is playing not to lose. Putting it on your offense is playing to win. Apparently Harbaugh believes in playing not to lose.

  40. sj39 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:15 PM

    Um, I would say the decisions coming back to haunt him have more to do with the last few drafts.

  41. cletusvandam says: Sep 19, 2011 2:17 PM

    Harbaugh’s stupid decisions and poor clock management helped to lose this game for the Niners, but the real reason Dallas came back was the 49ers field the two sorriest excuses for NFL safties in the world.
    I lost count of the times M Williams was in the wrong place or D Whitner was late coming over to help.

  42. yayarea3 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:17 PM

    There are no blanket NFL coaching rules! This is the problem with harbaughs decision! How do you ask you offense to believe you have confidence in them later in the game or in the next game? Usually taking points off the board is a no no! BUT when the other teams passing game is destroying your secondary regardless of which qb was in the game! The other problem I have with not taking the penalty and the points off the board is you get the ball at the 22 yard line. The TWENTY TWO!!!! If you play scared in that situation you deserve to lose! Why not punt on 3rd and long if your scared of something bad happening! Hell why not just not play at all? 11 minutes is a lifetime in the NFL!

  43. Deb says: Sep 19, 2011 2:32 PM

    @sickpuppyz …

    As I said, I wasn’t agreeing with Harbaugh but was simply repeating an adage several others also repeated (why not call out them?). Can’t address the other plays because I didn’t see the game, but I would definitely have taken the new set of downs over the field goal. My issue was with the idea of condemning Harbaugh based on a statistical model. There’s more to coaching than stats.

  44. getyourownname says: Sep 19, 2011 2:33 PM

    Actually as explained on NFL Radio this AM, that “never take points off” is an old-school philosophy. Further, it always depends on the specific circumstances. If it’s late in the game and you can take more time off the clock, and you statistical chances of winning don’t go down, why not?

  45. phosox says: Sep 19, 2011 2:36 PM

    Take the penalty and if you don’t trust your offense that much. Then take three kneel downs and run an extra couple minutes off the clock and kick another (shorter) field goal.

    That would have been real unconventional.

  46. dasportsninja says: Sep 19, 2011 2:36 PM

    Donte Whitner is a terrible cover guy. To have him matched up against the speedy slot with no help is a HUGE mistake. Trust me, I watched it happen in Buffalo on a weekly basis.

  47. cytofed says: Sep 19, 2011 2:42 PM

    Alex smith simply can’t lead any NFL team to anything positive, don’t blame the decision on harbaugh. Any coach in the NFL would have made the same decision if they have Alex smith at qb. Ninners fan go thank mike nolan this smart decision. Aaron Rodgers had a fantastic day by the way.

  48. xtb3 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:50 PM

    wrong! guy who lost the 49drs the game was whover was offside on the 3rd and long play just before the half up 14-0 and incomplete forcing a cowboy punt to get to halftime. instead gave cowboys another chance and scored and went into halftime with the momentum seized and back in the game at 14-7.

    the bonehead niner who was offside lost this game.

  49. broncfanor says: Sep 19, 2011 2:55 PM

    You don;t take points off the board if the penalty doesn’t result in a first down, HOWEVER seeing as they had the first down it was absolutely MORONIC to not put your offense back on the field. Heck he could have ran it 3 times and it would not have hurt anything other than maybe getting closer for the field goal.

    Simple fact is that was a dumb thing to do regardless of the defense breaking down.

  50. johnkoehnen says: Sep 19, 2011 2:56 PM

    He made the right call. You ALWAYS make that call. Go ahead by 2 scores in the 4th quarter? Um, yes please!

    Now, if your defense sucks so bad (like my pathetic Vikings) that you can’t hold a two score 4th quarter lead, then you are screwed anyway, because any bad team can find a way to lose.

    But, he made the right call. His D just let him down!

  51. trollhammer20 says: Sep 19, 2011 2:57 PM

    Know what’s funny? How so many people can’t remember back one week.

    Against the Seahawks, the Niners also had a big first-half lead, in that case, 16 points. Like against the Cowboys, they watched that lead slowly disappear.

    At one point against Seattle, they had a six-point lead, when they put up their only scoring drive of the second half. That drive ended with a field goal.

    But on that field goal, there was a “roughing the kicker” penalty. So what did Harbaugh do?

    Yep, you guessed it. HE TOOK POINTS OFF THE BOARD. He did what some people say you “never” do, only one week before the Dallas game!

    The penalty gave the Niners first and goal at the 1. They ran the ball for three plays, burned up almost two minues, then kicked it again to take a 19-10 lead.

    Pretty hilarious how so many people are calling “Never take points off the board” as some kind of NFL mantra, when the guy they’re applying it to did just that seven days earlier.

    Harbaugh has been conservative his first two weeks, and if Ginn doesn’t step up and deliver with big return TDs at the end of the Seattle game, he could well be 0-2 as a result.

  52. sonoco says: Sep 19, 2011 3:04 PM

    This loss is on Akers for making the 55 yarder. If he misses Harbaugh doesn’t have to make the decision. Cut Akers now !!!!

    But seriously, say Harbaugh takes the penalty and the Niners don’t convert another first down . . . like they hadn’t for the entire second half. They would have maybe run another 2:30 off the clock. Assuming the 49ers convert the second FG, all that would have been accomplished is putting Dallas in a two minute mode, probably in their drive immediately after the FG to conserve time for a final drive, which wouldn’t have exactly been a huge disadvantage, even on the road given the 50/50 crowd at Candlestick yesterday.

    The call was debatable, but this loss is on the o-line and defensive backs. But blaming a Harbaugh will generate more internet traffic . . . so there you have it.

  53. judsonjr says: Sep 19, 2011 3:12 PM

    The article content on PFT is really misleading compared to the context in the links. The decision to take points off the board is pretty much a push in this particular instance.

    The onsides kick being a good call would be very dependent on whether the Cowboys expected it and the personnel package they had in.

    I will say that anyone that absolutely lives by “don’t take points off the board” is a tool.

  54. raiderrob21 says: Sep 19, 2011 3:12 PM

    Nolan, Dingleberry, now Harbagh. Maybe they need to give the wonderlick test to potential 49er Head Caoaches.

  55. 49erjohnny says: Sep 19, 2011 3:18 PM

    Jim Harbaughs a coward plain and simple.

  56. commentcentral says: Sep 19, 2011 3:24 PM

    This is a ridiculous criticism. If he takes the points off the board he is just a sack or holding call away from punting. Perhaps if it’s a chipshot you do it when you can still salvage your points if something goes wrong.

    Of course if he would have done it the other way and it didn’t work out, he could have always said to the press to take it up with AdvancedNFLstats.com and I’m sure you guys would have had his back.

  57. jpb12 says: Sep 19, 2011 3:26 PM

    Cardinal rule of Football: Never take points off the board.

  58. bsizemore68 says: Sep 19, 2011 3:42 PM

    The Dolphins wanted this coach to replace the playing not to lose against playing to win coach Harbaugh, perhaps its a good deal that they didn’t get him. Bill

  59. cowboysfan18 says: Sep 19, 2011 3:46 PM

    That’s what happens when you are playing not to lose instead of playing to win. That also shows he had no faith that the O.

  60. 1captain1 says: Sep 19, 2011 3:54 PM

    With Alex Smith Superstar (A.S.S. for short) out there I can’t blame Harbaugh for taking the friggin’ points!

    Take the 3 points off and A.S.S. would have thrown a Pick 6!

  61. b1gwin says: Sep 19, 2011 4:07 PM

    Whenever you dont nut up and go for the kill shot it can always come back to bite. As a Boys fan Jim, i say THANKS!

  62. badintentions11 says: Sep 19, 2011 4:20 PM

    Guess he had more respect for Dallas overall as a team than he did for Seattle which is understandable.

    If you are going against a team where you are confident about your offenses chances of scoring then try for the TD, if not then keep the FG.

    People would be really be in an uproar if he took the penalty and Alex Smith ended up throwing an INT the next play. People would be saying “why didn’t you just keep the fg! never take points off the board” So I feel like he was damned either way.

    I wouldn’t have faith in Alex Smith against a decent team either.

  63. ricofoy says: Sep 19, 2011 4:23 PM

    Since when is attempting a 55 yard field goal with 11 minutes to go in the game and a lead playing it very safe?

  64. calihawk says: Sep 19, 2011 4:24 PM

    By keeping the points on the board was a dumb move. Take the penalty and the ball on the 22 yard line. Hand the ball off to Gore 3 times and run time off the clock. If they do not get a first down than kick the field gull and give the Cowboys 8 or 9 minutes to make 2 scores. Who knows they may have lost anyway but you always want to keep the clock running when you have the lead. Keeping the points, is saying you do not trust your offense.

  65. marcsasharc says: Sep 19, 2011 4:27 PM

    ya first and goal at the 1 is a little different than 1st and 10 at the 23. that would be ludicrous to not take points off the board in THAT situation. yesterday’s situation? no, that was the right move.

  66. sonoco says: Sep 19, 2011 5:05 PM

    If you saw this would you have played for the two score lead?

    Dallas’ 2nd half drives . . .

    Drive #1 – Kitna at QB / 7 Plays/48 yards / Ends with Whitner INT
    Drive #2 – Kitna at QB / Short Field due to Smith INT / 5 Plays/18 Yards / TD to Austin
    Drive #3 – Kitna at QB / 6 Plays/23 yards / Ends with Brock INT
    Drive #4 – Romo at QB / 3 Plays/-2 yards / Punt (Romo looked like a whipped puppy)

    Then the Akers FG to go up 10, which looked pretty at the time . . . Then the 49ers D fell a sleep and Romo went off.

  67. mhalt99 says: Sep 19, 2011 5:12 PM

    “Hes a Harbaugh, enough said.”

    Exactly right! He is a Harbaugh. Both he and his brother are excellent football coaches. They have been outstanding in both the college and coordinator/assistant ranks. Furthermore, while their time as NFL head coaches is limited, they seem to both be on an upward trajectory to becoming excellent head coaches in the league.

    Lombardi was such a horrible coach, he lost to the Eagles in the playoffs……or better yet, Bill Belichick sucks, I mean he lost to the Steelers when he was coach of the Browns….not to mention how horrible a coach he was in his first season with the Pats.

  68. Mr. Super-Cool Awesome says: Sep 19, 2011 5:35 PM

    Bottom line, coach Harbaugh gets the airtime and highlights he whined about last week. Any other requests, coach?

    Go Cowboys

  69. rarson says: Sep 19, 2011 5:37 PM

    Both Harbaughs made some questionable decisions on Sunday.

    You can argue all you want that his call on the penalty was “by the book”, but I’m pretty sure the guys that win a lot write their own books.

    Oh, and last time I checked, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Don Shula and Bill Walsh hadn’t coached in DECADES, so I think that argument is invalid.

  70. chaseright says: Sep 19, 2011 6:52 PM

    Trollhammer20, you make a nice point, except for one thing: there’s a huge difference in having the ball on the 1 yard line (vs Seattle and their crappy O) and having it on the 30 or wherever they would have been (I didn’t see any of these games) vs Dallas and their potentially explosive O.

    There are no absolutes and you never say never, but you have to look at the situation. Against a crappy Seattle team, having the ball on the 1 is a low risk, high reward situation. Yesterday vs Dallas was quite different.

  71. MichaelEdits says: Sep 19, 2011 9:28 PM

    Maybe he wouldn’t play it so conservatively if he had an NFL-caliber quarterback.

  72. bobhk says: Sep 20, 2011 3:23 PM

    This may be a little late but not every one agrees with the AdvancedNFLStats.com guy.
    From espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest:

    One of the items posted Monday morning offered thoughts on Jim Harbaugh declining a 15-yard penalty after his San Francisco 49ers kicked a 55-yard field goal for a 24-14 lead against Dallas.

    Statistical analysis suggested the decision barely affected the 49ers’ probability of winning.

    Albert Larcada of ESPN’s analytics team echoed those thoughts and offered some elaboration:
    “Our win probability model is based on all NFL plays since 2001. We look at the game context and situation for each play and determine the probability each team has to win the game based on results from teams in similar situations historically.

    “By choosing to take the three points, the 49ers were up 10 points with 11:16 left. Playing at home and kicking off from midfield because of the penalty (essentially guaranteeing a touchback) gave the 49ers a 91.4 percent chance to win at that moment.

    “If instead the 49ers had chosen to take the 15-yard penalty, they would have had first-and-10 on the Cowboys’ 22-yard line, up by seven points instead of 10. Given this situation, our win probability model says the 49ers would have had a 91.6 percent chance to win.

    “One argument that has been made is that this does not take into account the time the 49ers would have ‘wasted’ by keeping the ball. This is not actually true since such a tactic would have been used historically to arrive at the odds quoted above. One reason for this is that keeping the ball and running the clock down is inherently risky.

    “It certainly is possible the 49ers could have scored a touchdown and put the game away or made another field goal. However, it is also possible they could have walked away with no points via a missed field goal or turnover. This added variability in outcomes is not something a team playing at home with the lead in the fourth quarter wants to have.

    “Given the added risk and the negligible difference in win probability, Jim Harbaugh made at least a solid choice, if not the right choice.”

  73. travisblink619 says: Sep 22, 2011 12:00 AM

    We obviously have a group of people split down the middle about whether or not keeping the 3 points was the right thing to do. Say what you will about Alex Smith, but one particular place he has done well is in the red zone. Regardless of the outcome, I was upset the moment it happened. It reminds me of the same mentality coaches have been enlisting in SF for a decade now. Playing not to lose. Remember two years ago, had a lead on the Vikings late in the 4th. Gore had been shut down all day, but the passing game was moving the ball. So what does Singletary do? Gore up the gut three times then punt it away. Favre takes the Vikes down and boom Favre adds to his resume with a 40 yard toss to the TE in the back of the end zone.
    All I’m saying, is I hope the same coach taking a two point conversion with a 30 point lead is the same coach the Niners inherited!!!

  74. Parttime Guru says: Sep 22, 2011 12:31 AM

    I agree that Harbaugh should have taken the first down, but I would hardly call trotting out a 36 year old kicker for a 55 yarder (in the ‘Stick no less) a “conservative” move. Now punting to try to pin them…

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