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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Baldinger explains why 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan should have challenged the catch vs. Eagles

Jan 31, 2023 at 11:26 AM--

It wasn't a catch. We learned that soon after the Philadelphia Eagles quickly got back to the line of scrimmage and ran another play, after which the San Francisco 49ers could do nothing.

In what looked like an amazing one-handed leaping grab by DeVonta Smith, replays showed that the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver failed to maintain possession. Many feel that, in the end, it would not have mattered. The Eagles ended up winning the NFC Championship Game 31-7.

Maybe it would have mattered, though.

Who knows what would have happened had officials overturned that play call? The drive would have ended because it was a 29-yard catch on a 4th-and-3 play during the game's opening possession. Philadelphia scored the game's first points two plays later, going up 7-0. Many questioned head coach Kyle Shanahan's decision not to challenge the catch.

"The replay we saw didn't definitively show that," Shanahan explained after the game. "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 time out, which we definitely would have if we didn't see that. But then I heard they got a couple of other angles and you guys end up seeing later that it was not a catch."

By then, it was too late. The play could no longer be challenged. Still, one NFL analyst believes Shanahan should have thrown the red flag in the seconds following the play regardless of what he initially saw.

"I'm not blaming Kyle, but I would have challenged it," Brian Baldinger said on 95.7 The Game's The Morning Roast. "If you think about it, Bonta [Hill], it's 0-0 then. Who knows what happens?"

Maybe quarterback Brock Purdy never gets hurt, and the 49ers' talented roster can compete against the Eagles, possibly reaching the Super Bowl.

"Maybe that ligament never gets damaged," Baldinger noted.

It was undoubtedly a pivotal play in the game, maybe significant enough that Shanahan should have risked challenging the call, even that early in the game. Baldinger believes something else should have prompted action from the head coach.

"I thought it had to be challenged, just the way DeVonta got up," Baldinger explained. "I mean, you've got to study your opponent. ... He gives a signal that I guess all the receivers in Philadelphia [know], which makes sense. ... The field judge is [Jabir] Walker, and the first thing DeVonta does when he [gets] up is, Is it a catch? Is he ruling it a catch? That's the first thing he does when he gets up.

"So now, it's ruled a catch because he didn't know if it was going to be ruled incomplete—because incomplete, there's nothing to do—it's Forty-Niner ball. But it's ruled a catch, and he sees it. So then, immediately, he gets up off the ground, runs, gives the signal. Like, Let's go, let's go. ... Do you need a replay? The player's telling you that there's a trap."

What's done is done, but many will question Shanahan's decision not to challenge the call. After all, it could have changed how the game ended up playing out.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Baldinger below.


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