The 49ers have no reason to hang their heads after their last-second 20-17 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.
Coach Kyle Shanahan's club went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in the NFL, but couldn't make the crucial plays necessary to win a slugfest at M&T Bank Stadium.
Shanahan had questionable clock management at the end of the first half, which might have cost the Niners much-needed points. Then, with the game tied in the fourth quarter, Shanahan went for a fourth-and-1 at the Ravens' 35-yard line. Instead of handing the ball off to get the yard, Shanahan had the 49ers go into the shotgun, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's pass was batted down. The 49ers never saw the ball again.
49ers legend Jerry Rice was proud of the Niners' effort in Baltimore but took umbrage with the fourth-and-1 call.
"We got to find a way," Rice said Monday on 95.7 The Game's "Jo, Lo and Dibbs." "Fourth-and-1, you've got to give the ball to that running back. You've got to leave it up to that offensive line to get you one yard. That hurt us during this football game, and it also hurt us during the game against Seattle."
Shanahan always has been an aggressive play-caller, and Sunday was no different. The 49ers went for a fourth-and-2 on their first drive, and Garoppolo threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to rookie Deebo Samuel. On a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, Shanahan once again dialed up a pass play and Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey was flagged for pass interference on Emmanuel Sanders.
Still, it was odd not to give Raheem Mostert the ball on that late fourth-and-1. Mostert had a career day up until that point, getting to the outside and forcing the Ravens secondary to make open-field tackles. It seems more than probable he would have gained a yard.
It was an aggressive play call that backfired, but one that Shanahan likely would call again if given the chance.
The 49ers now sit at 10-2 and need the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in order to maintain their hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Still, the Niners look like one of the elite teams in the NFL and will have another chance to prove it next week when they travel to New Orleans to face the 10-2 Saints.