Why play­ers were op­posed to play­ing for a tie vs. Sea­hawks

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Chris Biderman

One of the talk­ing points that came out of the 49ers’ over­time loss to the Sea­hawks on Mon­day night was the team should have elected to sit on the ball and play for the tie late in over­time rather than try three straight pass­ing plays.

There’s some logic to the ar­gu­ment. Af­ter the loss, San Fran­cisco (8-1) is up just half a game on the Sea­hawks (8-2) in the NFC West stand­ings. It would have been a game-and­half mar­gin with a tie.

Of course, the de­ci­sion would have been made with play­off seed­ing in mind. The dif­fer­ence in win­ning the di­vi­sion ver­sus fin­ish­ing sec­ond could mean hav­ing to play in the NFC Wild Card round while not get­ting a home game in the post­sea­son, which get­ting to the Su­per Bowl much more dif­fi­cult.

Win­ning the di­vi­sion would guar­an­tee a home play­off game. Fin­ish­ing in the top two seeds would en­sure a first-round bye, which is im­pos­si­ble with­out a di­vi­sion crown.

But there are ob­vi­ous flaws in the ar­gu­ment to play for a tie. First and fore­most, a win Mon­day would have been the best pos­si­ble out­come for seed­ing, ob­vi­ously.

The 49ers would have been three games up in the loss col­umn on Seat­tle and owned the head-to-head tiebreaker. That would have been a huge ad­van­tage for San Fran­cisco head­ing into the meat of its sched­ule with a three-game stretch against the Pack­ers (8-2), Ravens (7-2) and Saints (7-2) loom­ing, who all lead their di­vi­sions.

Then there’s the ar­gu­ment about the hu­man el­e­ment, which has been the po­si­tion the 49ers have unan­i­mously sup­ported this week while talk­ing both on and off the record.

Cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man was asked about the idea of play­ing for a tie and how that would have been re­ceived by play­ers in the locker room.

“That’s com­ing from peo­ple who don’t know ball, if we’re be­ing hon­est,” Sher­man said. “And you get to a point where you got arm­chair quar­ter­backs or arm­chair GMs, arm­chair coaches, like, ‘Oh man, I would have done this.’ That’s why you’re sit­ting on the coach and not in this sport as a pro­fes­sional.

“You got peo­ple who don’t do this for a liv­ing talk­ing about what they would have done. It’s cool for so­cial me­dia chat­ter, it’s great for (that). But as peo­ple who play the game and who put the sac­ri­fice in, who go out there and put their bod­ies on the line, you don’t play for a tie.”

The last point is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant. The 49ers played a long, emo­tional and hard-fought game, and play­ers would have been up­set had Kyle Shana­han de­cided to take his foot off the gas pedal and de­lib­er­ately play for a tie.

“I’m pretty sure that we all know that an­swer,” Shana­han said when asked how play­ers would have re­sponded to play­ing for a tie. “I would hope that ev­ery­one in the world would be pretty dis­ap­pointed in that. No, when I look back at that, I wish we had the clock mov­ing and we had in­com­ple­tions and that could take it over. I should’ve just called a play that we didn’t have an in­com­ple­tion on and would’ve kept the clock run­ning.”

The prob­lem Shana­han had dur­ing the team’s fi­nal over­time pos­ses­sion was not tak­ing enough time off the clock, which al­lowed the Sea­hawks to drive for the game-win­ning field goal just be­fore over­time ex­pired.

Shana­han di­aled up three pass­ing plays, which all fell in­com­plete, tak­ing just 14 sec­onds off the clock and leav­ing Seat­tle 1:25. In hind­sight, the 49ers should have run the ball at least once to en­sure the Sea­hawks wouldn’t get a fi­nal pos­ses­sion.

Shana­han said he called “con­ser­va­tive un­der­neath” pass­ing plays on the first two downs. The first was bat­ted at the line of scrim­mage and the sec­ond was dropped by re­ceiver Dante Pettis. The third was a slightly un­der­thrown deep shot for rookie Deebo Samuel that took a great play from cor­ner­back Shaquill Grif­fin to break up. If any of those plays are com­plete, the 49ers would have been in far bet­ter po­si­tion to at least avoid the loss.

Ad­di­tion­ally, call­ing three pass plays with­out star tight end Ge­orge Kit­tle and top wide­out Em­manuel San­ders out was more risky given Jimmy Garop­polo com­pleted just 12 of 23 for 108 yards af­ter half­time be­fore the fi­nal se­ries.

On the other hand, Garop­polo drove the 49ers 40 yards over 1:44 to tie the game at the end of reg­u­la­tion to set up over­time in the first place, even with­out Kit­tle and San­ders.

Ul­ti­mately, for­mer Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Ed­wards said it best: “You play to win the game.”

K’Waun Wil­liams added to Pro Bowl bal­lot

The 49ers pulled some strings this week to get slot cor­ner­back K’Waun Wil­liams on the Pro Bowl bal­lot as vot­ing be­gan Thurs­day.

He was pre­vi­ously left off, but Sher­man took to Twit­ter and the team made its case to the league that he should be added to on the heels of his nine-tackle, two-forced fum­ble ef­fort against the Sea­hawks.

“It speaks a lot about our or­ga­ni­za­tion, our guys. Ev­ery­body, we just rally around each other,” Wil­liams said. “I’m proud just to be able to be on the bal­lot. I know nickel back is not a po­si­tion that they al­ways put on there.”

Wil­liams is off to the best start of his ca­reer hav­ing al­lowed a 67.6 passer rating when tar­geted, ac­cord­ing to scout­ing ser­vice Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus. His two in­ter­cep­tions are tied for sec­ond on the team be­hind Sher­man’s three. He’s played 65 per­cent of the de­fen­sive snaps while the de­fense en­ters Sun­day’s game against Ari­zona ranked No. 1 against the pass al­low­ing 144 yards per game.

“He’s earned it, he’s worked his tail off and he’s been healthy,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robert Saleh said. “I think peo­ple are start­ing to rec­og­nize how valu­able he is in the slot.”

Pro Bowl bal­lot­ing only al­lows two cor­ner­backs to be el­i­gi­ble per team. The 49ers made the case to the league to have Wil­liams on the bal­lot over Ahkello Wither­spoon or Em­manuel Mose­ley be­cause Wil­liams has played a full sea­son. Mose­ley and Wither­spoon have shared time due to Wither­spoons foot and quadri­ceps in­juries.

Wither­spoon started off the year play­ing well but got hurt Week 3 against the Steel­ers and Mose­ley has been in the start­ing lineup since.

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