Why 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan didn’t challenge Devonta Smith call

PHILADELPHIA — Instead of waiting for a delayed replay, the 49ers could’ve noticed something was fishy by DeVonta Smith’s live reaction

The officials in the NFC Championship game blew a pivotal first-quarter call Sunday by ruling a completion on a one-handed 29-yard catch by Smith on a fourth-and-3 that set up the Eagles’ first touchdown. Smith waved his teammates back to the line of scrimmage to get off the snap before the 49ers could throw a challenge flag — and it was clear why when the one telling replay angle shown on the Fox broadcast finally appeared, showing the ball came loose as the receiver hit the turf. 

“I didn’t know if I caught it or not,” Smith said, “so I was like, ‘Let’s just hurry up.’ ” 

Blame also lies with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and his replay advisors for not challenging with so much to gain and so little to lose. Not that one reversed call would’ve made a huge difference in a 31-7 victory by the Eagles, who capitalized on the 49ers playing the second half without a quarterback who could throw. 

Devonta Smith
Devonta Smith’s one-handed grab appeared to not be a catch on replay.

Kyle Shanahan reacts during the 49ers' loss to the Eagles on Jan. 29.
Kyle Shanahan reacts during the 49ers’ loss to the Eagles on Jan. 29.

“The replay we saw didn’t definitively show that,” Shanahan said. “We saw one up on the scoreboard. I was going to throw one anyways just to hope to take the 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 don’t want to waste the timeout … but then I heard they got a couple of other angles and you guys end up seeing later that it was not a catch.” 

Shanahan later flipped out on the officials when Jordan Mason was called for a roughing-the-punter penalty that took the ball out of his offense’s hands. Trailing 21-7 and playing with injured Brock Purdy at quarterback at the time, the 49ers couldn’t afford any more bad breaks. 

But it looked like Mason was blocked into punter Brett Kern. At worst, it could’ve been a running into the kicker penalty that wouldn’t have handed the Eagles a drive-extending first down on the way to a touchdown. 

“After the roughing the punter,” Shanahan said, “it was real tough to catch up.” 

The 49ers were flagged 11 times for 81 yards, while the Eagles were called for four penalties for 34 yards. But the 49ers inflicted a lot of damage on themselves with undisciplined personal fouls once frustrations mounted over being dealt bad injury fortune.

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