Rarely before has “victory formation” been botched in such a way to enable the opponent a final chance to pull off the victory. But that is what happened at Levi's Stadium, leaving both teams stunned that Denver still had time to run a play.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal because we won now,” Shanahan said Wedesday, three days after the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Brocnos. “It would have been a huge deal.”
Shanahan explained what led to quarterback Nick Mullens snapping the ball on fourth down with :07 remaining on the play clock and :08 remaining on the game clock. After gaining a first down on the final play before the two-minute warning, it should have easily taken just four kneeldowns from Mullens to run out the clock. The Broncos did not have any timeouts remaining.
But things started to go wrong when Mullens snapped the ball with :08 remaining on the playclock on second down. They still should have been able to run out the clock on fourth down.
But Mullens lost track of the downs. Shanahan said he was yelling at Mullens to take a “slow knee” to enable a couple of extra seconds to run off the clock to ensure that the Broncos would not get another chance.
“The problem was when we were telling him that, he’s not thinking much and you tell him and he looked right up at the scoreboard, you can see it on tape, the scoreboard says third and 12,” Shanahan said. “It’s fourth and 12.”
Shanahan had already taken off his headset at that point and was not using the sideline-to-helmet radio signal to communicate with Mullens. He said he would never do that again.
“But it’s a good learning lesson for him that you snap it at one second no matter what, that you don’t pay attention to the scoreboard because they’re not always on it, and that your coach should never take his headset off,” Shanahan said. “So I’m going to try not to, unless we’re up a lot.”
On the Broncos’ final play, Tim Patrick caught a 20-yard pass from Case Keenum, but his attempted lateral throw intended for running back Devontae Booker skipped out of bounds to end the game.