Up 23-21 with a chance to step on the Eagles' proverbial throat in the third quarter Sunday, Colin Kaepernick was facing a third-and-3 from the Eagles 11-yard line.
After surveying the defense, the ball was snapped a moment too late and suddenly the 49ers were in a far less manageable third-and-8 from the from 16. Delay of game. San Francisco was unable to get the first down after a three-yard run by Carlos Hyde over the right side.
Instead of going up by nine points with a touchdown, making it a two-possession game, the 49ers settled for a 31-yard field goal from Phil Dawson. The Eagles were still in it, down 26-21.
Had Philadelphia won the game by scoring from one yard out on their second-to-last drive inside of two minutes, Kaepernick's clock management would have been the story of night.
Instead, the 49ers defense survived and the team is 2-2 instead of a miserable 1-3 to start the season, avoiding a three-game losing streak for the first time since Jim Harbaugh became coach.
"That’s something we have to keep addressing and stay on top of," Harbaugh said Monday. "There were a few too many times when they play clock was ticking down close to zero. We all got to do a better job getting back into the huddle, getting the plays in quickly and early and managing the clock."
The dwindling play clock can also help the pass rush time the snap. The Eagles pressured Kaepernick on 17 of his 37 drop backs (45.9 percent) Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus.
"That’s part of it. That’s a factor,” Harbaugh said.
Kaepernick burned a timeout on the drive earlier Sunday, when the 49ers tried to draw the Eagles offsides on fourth-and-2 at their 43. When Kaepernick pulled away from center to call a timeout, offensive coaches upstairs in their booth were audibly upset. And Harbaugh took the blame for that misuse of a timeout after the game. The five yards might have given the punt team more room to pin Philadelphia deep.
"I wanted to take the delay of game, but I didn’t tell (Kaepernick), I didn’t tell him that. I got to tell him that," Harbaugh said. "So, that’s sloppy play on me. I should have alerted him if we didn’t get the offsides to take the delay of game. Sloppy, sloppy coaching on my part."
With the Eagles a yard away from taking a late lead, the 49ers would have been forced to come back without any timeouts, having used their final timeout to challenge Jeremy Maclin's spectacular one-handed, 22-yard catch on third-and-14 on that last-minute drive.
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