When the 49ers got the ball Sunday night down six with less than three minutes to play at Levi's Stadium, their first goal was to find the end zone. But they also wanted to do so without leaving Aaron Rodgers any time to get the Green Bay Packers into field goal range.
But when fullback Kyle Juszczyk turned a 5-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo into a 12-yard, go-ahead touchdown, he gave Rodgers 37 seconds to engineer a game-winning drive, which the Packers star did in two throws, setting up Mason Crosby for a game-winning 51-yard field goal that the Packers kicker drilled to give Green Bay a 30-28 win.
The 49ers' clock management strategy was a hot topic after their first loss of the season, and head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed the situation Monday in his conference call with local media.
"Yeah, totally. That's why we worked really hard to not use any timeouts that entire drive," Shanahan said. "We wanted to run it down. No one wants to give it back to Aaron. I'm also not going to tell Juice to not try and score. You try to dictate that with some play calling. I thought we had a choice route called, which is a 5-yard in-route or out-route based off of leverage by [Mohamed] Sanu. And if he's not open, you're just going to go hit it to Juice on your checkdown.
"Usually checkdowns, at the best, are about a 5-yard gain, but Juice ran a hell of a checkdown and then ran over two people to score. So we had three timeouts, so I'm not telling Jimmy to run it down yet. You want to get that under 30 seconds and inside the 10-yard line and then you can control it with your own three timeouts.
"But the only other option would have been to tell Juice not to score, which is something that you wouldn't do. It took us seven plays in the second quarter to score from inside the 11. Five plays from the 1 to score. So, you want to make sure that you get those plays and everything, but we definitely weren't expecting the score on that play."
The 49ers did struggle to score from the 1-yard line before halftime as Trey Lance followed Trent Williams in for a 1-yard score on the team's fifth try from the 1-yard line.
While the 49ers weren't expecting Juszczyk to score on that play, Garoppolo also snapped the ball with 12 seconds remaining on the play clock.
Rodgers spiked the ball with three seconds remaining after hitting Davante Adams for a gain of 17 to get into field goal range.
Against Aaron Rodgers, every second matters and the 49ers' poor clock management left him enough time to put on his cape and rip out their hearts.