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Shanahan explains why 49ers didn’t challenge DeVonta Smith catch that led to touchdown



© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One of the defining moments of the NFC Championship, before it completely unraveled, came on the opening drive.

It appeared like DeVonta Smith had snagged an incredible, one-handed catch on the Eagles’ opening drive.

Smith, though, knew better. He signaled to the Philadelphia offense to get a snap off quickly. They rushed to the line and got a play off before anyone was any wiser.

A few plays later, the Eagles had an opening touchdown courtesy of a 6-yard touchdown run. After that run, we got this angle:

Kyle Shanahan was in the same boat as the rest of us. He often watches the scoreboard in home games to decide whether to challenge plays, and did the same in Philadelphia.

He said he didn’t see any evidence on the first few angles that Smith had dropped the ball, and was initially thinking about throwing a challenge.

“The replay we saw didn’t definitively show that [he dropped it],” Shanahan said. “I was gonna throw one anyways just to hope to take a chance but they showed one up on the scoreboard that didn’t have all the angles you guys saw. And that looked like a catch. So we didn’t wanna waste the timeout — which we definitely would have if we didn’t see that — but then I heard they got a couple other angles and you guys ended up seeing later that it was not a catch.”

What’s interesting is that there is usually an emphasis on having someone in the coaches booth to radio to head coach to throw a flag.

But Shanahan said the 49ers didn’t get any helpful angles at the time.

“Yeah, we all do it. We all look at stuff. It’s real easy to see when you get to see it that is incomplete,” Shanahan said. “But that other person [in charge of replays], myself everyone in the stadium looking at the screen and all the angles that we had at the timing of when it was snapped, which I don’t know what you guys had, but we couldn’t see that.”

Shanahan credited the Eagles for getting the play off, and said he was only told at the end of the drive that other angles showed an incompletion. He also pointed out that the NFL has the ability to overturn calls independently, but they didn’t see a definitive angle in real time, either.