Early in the second quarter on Sunday night, the Broncos were called for holding on a third down that they failed to convert, leaving 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan a choice: Decline the penalty and give the Broncos a chance to try a 55-yard field goal on fourth down, or accept the penalty, push the Broncos out of field goal range, and trust his defense to make a stop on third down.
Shanahan chose to decline. The Broncos made the field goal for three very important points in what turned out to be an 11-10 Broncos win.
Why didn’t Shanahan take the penalty to push the Broncos out of field goal range? He said he worried that Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson would pick up the first down if given another third-down opportunity.
“I was told it was a 50-50 decision,” Shanahan said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was a little nervous about Russell making a big play on 3rd-and-long. Get a pass interference or a [defensive] holding and give them an automatic first down. So we went with the 55-yarder.”
Given how well the 49ers’ defense played for most of the game, it’s surprising that Shanahan didn’t think they would get a stop in that situation. And it’s probably a decision he wishes he could have back today.