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Should the 49ers have taken the sack and declined the holding penalty vs. the Cardinals?

It didn’t matter in the end, but there’s always room for debate

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers lost a tough one on Sunday, giving up a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown reception in the final minute overtime, losing 18-15. As with any last minute loss, there is plenty to pick apart from the final drive.

The Cardinals set the game-winning touchdown up thanks to four straight passes of at least 11 yards, totaling 50 yards. They moved down to the 49ers 25-yard line with 1:10 left in overtime. On 1st and 10, Carson Palmer connected with Jaron Brown in the end zone, but the receiver barely missed getting in-bounds. On the next play, DeForest Buckner burst through for the sack. However, Arizona was called for holding. Kyle Shanahan elected to take the penalty, pushing the Cardinals back to the 49ers 35-yard line.

I’ve seen some criticisms of Shanahan’s decision to give the Cardinals an extra down. After the game, Shanahan said he felt like declining the penalty to set up 3rd and 15 at the 30 was playing for the tie, while taking the holding penalty put them in a more difficult field goal position. It was all for naught given the Jimmie Ward holding penalty, but in the context of the decision at the time, I have to agree with Shanahan.

Maybe the 49ers defensive front busts through on 3rd and 15 for another sack, but more than likely Palmer at least gets an incompletion off to set up a 47-yard field goal. On the other hand, at the 35, it’s a 52-yard field goal. If you think the pass rush could have gotten through, then wouldn’t you want them pushing the Cardinals even further back? Phil Dawson’s a great kicker, but if you think the pass rush can get through, pushing them to a 57 or 58-yard field goal makes the game that much more winnable for the 49ers.

The wild card in this would be the clock to some extent. Arizona had one more timeout remaining, so with a little over a minute left when the sack happened, I’m not entirely sure that time would have been a huge issue. It could have been, but we’ll never know on that front.

What would you have done on the play?


What would you have done on that OT penalty?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Accept the penalty, Cardinals set up 2nd and 20 at 49ers 35
    (216 votes)
  • 68%
    Decline the penalty, Cardinals set up 3rd and 15 at 49ers 30, clock running
    (462 votes)
678 votes total Vote Now