SANTA CLARA – The 49ers converted a fourth-and-1 situation on their way to the game-winning points in the fourth quarter.
But a fourth-down decision at the end of the first half did not get nearly as much attention in the 49ers’ 17-13 victory over Washington on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
Tight end Vernon Davis was tackled 2 yards short of a first down with :40 remaining in the first half at the Washington 48-yard line. CBS analyst Rich Gannon questioned why the 49ers would let so much time run off the clock before calling a timeout. He referred to the 49ers' confusion on the sideline. But Harbaugh appeared calm on the sideline as he let the clock run down before calling a timeout.
“We have end-of-the-half scenarios, but that was a particularly unique one,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday.
The 49ers called a timeout with :11 seconds remaining in the half before sending in the fourth-down play.
“The idea was take our shot to get the first down and still had a timeout left if we happened to get enough yards," Harbaugh said. "The object was to get a field out of the half. The risk was leaving them the ball at their own 48-yard line with time to throw a Hail Mary themselves.”
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree along the left sideline for a 25-yard completion. That fourth-down conversion set up Phil Dawson’s 41-yard field goal, which gave the 49ers a 10-7 lead at halftime.
“That was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing,” Kaepernick said.
The key was to run a play with enough time to allow for a field-goal opportunity, while not giving Washington the ability to do the same if they took possession on downs.
“And it worked out good,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to get our shot. They may get a shot, but that’ll be the risk if our shot doesn’t work. Worked out. Players made it right.”