Kyle Shanahan officially has a fourth-quarter playoff problem

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Reasons why Kyle Shanahan has gone cold in fourth quarter of NFL playoffs

Perhaps Kyle Shanahan isn’t the best expert at clock management. Maybe he doesn’t get quite as aggressive as he should in certain key situations, the “schwerpunkt” of games that could potentially prove to be turning points.

There’s an even better case example from the NFC Championship in the fourth quarter at a moment when the Niners could have effectively iced the game over Los Angeles.

San Francisco gained 9 yards on a 1st-and-10 play with 12:02 left in the fourth quarter. The Rams had inexplicably burned all three of their second-half timeouts and wouldn’t be able to stop the clock, not a good situation to be in when they were trailing 17-14.

Two gut runs, the first by running back Elijah Mitchell and the second with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, failed to generate the first down. And despite being on LA’s 45-yard line, in one of those midfield situations, Shanahan elected to punt instead of being aggressive.

All three of those plays failed to involve the 49ers’ top offensive weapon, Deebo Samuel, which is exceptionally questionable in itself.

Granted, Shanahan certainly recognized and later admitted there were no second thoughts about punting in that situation. Perhaps he felt confident in his defense getting a key stop, which it arguably did the subsequent drive by only allowing a field goal to tie things up at 17 apiece.

Still, the inability to seize the game at that crucial moment was a key reason why the Niners ultimately lost the game.

So, is there hope?