Why 49ers' Kyle Shanahan kicked field goal to end historically long drive

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Shanahan explains kicking FG to end historically long drive originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Coach Kyle Shanahan had quite a conversation on the 49ers’ sideline before opting to send out the field-goal unit to cap the team’s first offensive possession.

The conversation, by and large, was with himself.

Nobody was offering much advice or input on the headsets.

“Usually, it’s crickets in those situations,” Shanahan said following the 49ers’ 30-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.

Shanahan made no friends among the self-professed NFL analytics community with his decision to send Robbie Gould out for a 20-yard field goal on a fourth-and-1 play from the Jacksonville 2-yard line.

The 49ers drove 87 yards in 20 plays. The drive, lasting 13 minutes and 5 seconds, was the longest possession in the NFL in the past 20 years.

Shanahan’s decision: Three points is better than the possibility of getting nothing and handing the underdog Jaguars a reason to get excited and ride the wave of emotions.

“You go that long of a drive, if we’d come out with no points, I think that was giving them a lot of momentum and got them going,” Shanahan said. “So I wanted to go for it bad. It was hard for me not to.”

Shanahan kept the offense on the field after running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was stuffed on a third-and-1 play. The 49ers broke the huddle before Shanahan signaled for the timeout.

“I called the play, I thought more out of emotion,” Shanahan said. “And the longer I got to think about it, I just didn’t think it was the smartest decision. I wanted to take the points and make sure we got three out of it.”

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It was easy to second-guess Shanahan’s decision based on probability, statistics, models and a lot of other buzzwords that mean nothing when it comes to the outcome of one play.

“You never know what’s the right answer until after it,” Shanahan said.

So did he supply the right answer?

“It’s better than the wrong answer,” Shanahan answered. “The wrong answer is when you get zero points. So at least we were halfway there.”

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