Nursing a 21-14 lead, the San Francisco 49ers managed a short drive into Dallas territory early in the fourth, mostly off an Alex Smith 12 yard scramble. David Akers then kicked a 55 yard field goal to give the 49ers a ten point lead with eleven minutes to go, putting the onus on their defense to finish this contest off.
Except ... there was a flag on the play.
The Cowboys committed a 15-yard penalty on Keith Brooking committing leverage on the placekick, which would've set up San Francisco with first and ten at the Dallas 22. The 49ers would've enjoyed excellent field position and could've had a chance to increase the score up to 28-14, maybe make sure it was still 24-14. Most importantly, they'd get to run clock.
But 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh declined the penalty. And it's still unclear why.
Harbaugh was probably concerned that the Niners ofense would struggle if he kept them in the game and didn't want to risk a future Akers field goal on the drive sailing wide. He appeared to have confidence that his defense could hold a ten point lead.
Whoops. The Niners offense stagnated on its next two (and final two, as it turned out) drives of the game. You'd think there would be no correlation between the decision to kick the field goal and the offense, but Harbaugh "playing it safe" might have played a factor in how Dallas was able to methodically march down the field twice and tie things up before regulation. Harbaugh might need to have more confidence in his offense if he plans on transforming them as a unit in the long-run.
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