Winner: Head Coach Kyle Shanahan
While he probably would never admit it, games like this are probably ones Kyle Shanahan wants to see.
The back-and-forth effort required Shanahan to bring his A-game, which was largely the case. Outside of the 10 penalties called against San Francisco, which can ultimately be placed on the head coach, Shanahan dialed up one of the best play-calling efforts we’ve seen since he took over the job in 2017.
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And considering the context — being in a hostile environment at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, against a top-seeded Saints team with a high-powered offense of its own and calling plays against another offensive genius, New Orleans’ head coach Sean Payton — Shanahan deserves a ton of credit for helping the 49ers first get back into the game, then recapture the lead late.
Of course, some key players like Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle making plays helps a ton. Yet Shanahan put both in positions to succeed.
There were the trick plays, the well-designed routes and some notable moments where Shanahan flashed his ingenuity.
Shanahan didn’t prove anything new, naturally. The league already knows how good a play caller Shanahan is. But doing this in such a crucial game, amid all the pressure of a playoff atmosphere, Shanahan exemplified just how good he can make the 49ers offense.