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Kyle Shanahan explains the Arik Armstead play at the end of the game

“I can totally see why it happened, and that’s just kind of the challenges these guys have.”

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With 45 seconds remaining in the divisional playoff, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys took the field at their six-yard line, hoping to pull off a miracle to tie the game.

The first play had a chance to seal the game emphatically as Arik Armstead had Prescott in his sights and in his own end zone. Armstead pulled up short and didn’t finish the play, resulting in an incompletion.

To the average fan, it was fair to wonder why Armstead didn’t complete the play. Another way to view it was Armstead avoided a roughing the passer penalty.

Kyle Shanahan was asked about the play after the game:

DL Arik Armstead obviously looked like he had a safety on Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and pulled up because he was afraid of the penalty. I guess what would be your coaching point on that, and did you understand his thought process?

“Yeah, I did. It’s an unfortunate, tougher position than it looks to get caught in and I think he thought Dak was going to throw it, so I think he was going in there with the mindset to get his hands up to try to tip it and then Dak didn’t and it caught him off guard and then he was afraid the position he was in, he was about to hit him high and get a penalty. When you’re approaching a quarterback, it’s so hard for these guys to hit in that target area and not get a penalty that you really have to approach it the right way. And I believe without talking to him, just watching on film, he was approaching him to get his hands up to tip it, and then all of a sudden when he saw he wasn’t in that situation, he didn’t want to get that 15-yard penalty, which I think someone gets him in an embarrassing spot, but once I watched the tape, I can totally see why it happened and that’s just kind of the challenges these guys have.”

The rules surrounding quarterbacks and their safety have caused players to second-guess themselves. It’s easy to be upset at the moment, but Armstead did the right thing.

Ultimately, the 49ers closed the drive and game out.