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49ers 31-7 loss to Eagles falls at feet of Kyle Shanahan

The 49ers never had a chance in their 31-7 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Losing Brock Purdy just six plays in and having to rely on Josh Johnson was a bridge too far for a team which had already overcome the loss of its top two quarterbacks earlier in the season.

It’s easy to point to the ineptitude of the offense under Johnson to absolve Kyle Shanahan of the loss. However, looking at why Johnson was in the game to begin with points directly back to a head coach who made three mistakes in the first half which cost his team.

Not challenging fourth down catch by DeVonta Smith

On the opening possession of the game Philadelphia faced fourth and three from the 49ers 35. Instead of kicking the field goal Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni chose to go for it.

As Jalen Hurts dropped back to pass the 49ers defensive front got good pressure forcing the quarterback out of the pocket. Rolling to his left, Hurts lofted a pass deep down the left sideline to DeVonta Smith. The receiver made a spectacular catch.

As teammates and fans celebrated, the receiver jumped up and yelled for the offense to hurry up and get the next play off.

Despite the odd reaction from Smith and 49ers safety immediately signaling incomplete, Kyle Shanahan chose not to challenge the ruling of a completed catch.

“The replay we saw up on the scoreboard didn’t definitively show that (it was incomplete). I wasn’t going to throw one anyways just to hope to take the chance,” said Shanahan after the game. “That looked like a catch and we didn’t want to waste a timeout.”

In fairness to Shanahan, the NFL has a replay assist rule which allows the replay official to make a quick reversal without a coach’s challenge. However, the Eagles rush to the line of scrimmage beat them to seeing an angle which would have overturned the play prior to the ball being snapped for the next play.

As chaotic as the scene was, Hufanga signaling incomplete and Smith’s reaction to hurry the offense to the line of scrimmage should have tipped Shanahan off.

Forget wasting a timeout. This was the first big play of the game. Take the shot and throw the flag. Even if you lose the challenge at least your defense gets time to settle in.

Instead of getting the ball at the 35 with no score, San Francisco gave up a touchdown two plays later. Little did they know their ship was about to hit an iceberg.

Plan to block Hasson Reddick

Philadelphia’s prowess at getting after opposing quarterbacks was a point of discussion throughout the week leading up to the game. The Eagles had four pass rushers reach 11 or more sacks during the regular season. Hasson Reddick led the charge with 16.

On the 49ers sixth offensive play of the game it was Reddick who screamed around the right side of the San Francisco line, hitting Brock Purdy and forcing a fumble the Eagles would recover.

The strip sack was the least of the 49ers worries. Reddick’s hit on the quarterback’s arm while in the motion of throwing injured Purdy’s elbow knocking him from the game.

This play showed a fatal flaw in Shanahan’s game plan.

San Francisco had chose to try and block one of the best pass rushers in the NFL with its backup tight end.

“It’s a tough block, but all play-actions are tight ends versus edge rusher,” Shanahan replied when asked about the decision. “You hope you can step up on it, which you usually do in the pocket. It was going, Aiyuk beat him. It was going to be a big play, but I didn’t see what else the pocket was like.”

This was not the first time a missed block by a tight end in pass protection had led to a 49ers quarterback being injured.

Jimmy Garoppolo suffered torn ligaments in the thumb on his throwing hand against Tennessee last year after George Kittle was beat, allowing a hit on the quarterback.

This time around it was Kittle’s backup, Tyler Kroft. What makes the plan all the more curious is Shanahan and the coaching staff made Kroft inactive last week against Dallas.

From inactive to being tasked with taking on one of the best pass rushers in the league in consecutive weeks?

Two-minute offense

After San Francisco tied the game at seven, Philadelphia drove 75 yards to retake the lead with just 1:36 left to play in the first half.

Instead of playing it conservatively and trying to run out the clock Shanahan went for it. A quick completion on first down to Deebo Samuel emboldening the coaches choice.

On the next play Josh Johnson couldn’t handle the shotgun snap, the ball hitting him in the hands before falling to the ground. Philadelphia recovered at the 49ers 30, extending their lead to 21-7 just three plays later.

For all intents and purposes the game was over as soon as the referee signaled Eagles ball.

Without Purdy it was clear San Francisco’s offense was in no position to come back from multiple scores down.

Instead of trying to go the length of the field in a minute and a half with a quarterback who joined the team eight weeks ago, Shanahan should have run the clock out and taken his shot after the half. Afterall the 49ers were going to have the ball to open the third quarter.

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