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