There was no use in sugar-coating the way the 49ers felt about their 33-30 setback to the Green Bay Packers.
“It was a heartbreaking loss last night,” Coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday.
Worse, it was the kind of haunting defeat that left the doors open for second-guessing on both sides of the ball.
Shanahan, on his weekly day-after conference call, faced a pointed question about his crunch-time play-calling. At issue was the 49ers’ final drive, when he dialed up three consecutive pass plays from about midfield.
Not only did the 49ers fail to get a first down, but they also killed the clock along the way — a boon for a Packers team out of timeouts.
As it happened, quarterback Aaron Rodgers orchestrated the comeback with 10 points over the final 2 minutes, capped by Mason Crosby’s fourth field goal of the night.
Did Shanahan want those calls back? Or was it just a lack of execution?
“I don’t think it’s as simple as that,” the coach said calmly Tuesday. “You’re trying to win a game. And, yeah, in hindsight, anytime something doesn’t work, whether I like my play call or not, you always wish you did something different.”
The 49ers’ last possession came with 1:55 to play and the score tied 30-30. Because the Packers were out of timeouts, overtime looked like the worst-case scenario.
Instead, here’s how it unraveled, with Shanahan’s explanation:
On first-and-10 from the 49ers’ 47, quarterback C.J. Beathard threw a 7-yard pass over the middle to George Kittle.
On second-and-3, Beathard tried a short pass to Pierre Garcon, but the ball was tipped away by Packers linebacker Nick Perry.
“I felt pretty strongly that (the Packers) were going to come after us and bring more than we could handle in the run game, which usually leaves open a very good slant window,” Shanahan said. “That’s what I thought was the best thing at the time. But they tipped the ball and we didn’t get a chance to complete it, which was unfortunate. If I were to have it back, yeah, I’d love to call something that worked.”
On third-and-3, and Beathard operating out of the shotgun, the Packers came with a zero-blitz. Beathard responded by launching a deep shot to Marquise Goodwin, who had a huge night (4 catches, 126 yards, two touchdowns). But this time Kevin Perry intercepted the pass at the 10-yard line. The 49ers’ drive consumed only 48 seconds, leaving Rogers ample time to work his magic.
“When you get into third-and-3 vs. an all-out blitz, there’s not many runs for that,” Shanahan said. “That was the play that we didn’t make right there and that’s what happened.
“You’re always concerned about giving it back to Aaron. But I thought … that was our biggest opportunity right there, and we came up short.”
— In the rest of review, Shanahan mostly praised Beathard, who went 16 for 23 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 115.3 passer rating.
“He had a couple of opportunities that he missed, but he also had a few opportunities early in the game that he made, which is one of the reasons we were in the positions we were,” the coach said. “By no means was he perfect but I was happy with how he played and proud of how he played.”
The quarterback went cold, though, just as his counterpart got hot. In the fourth quarter, Rodgers went 10 for 20 for 145 yards, a touchdown and a 90.6 rating. Beathard went 3 for 6 for 15 yards with an interception and a 16.7 rating.
— The 49ers signed veteran quarterback Tom Savage to their roster. Savage is expected to serve as the No. 3 man behind Beathard and backup Nick Mullens.
“He’s got a strong arm. He’s a very tough player. Hangs in that pocket and plays the position well,” Shanahan said. “I was a fan of him coming out of college. He’s gotten to play in a number of NFL games so he’s been battle-tested.”
Shanahan has been in search of an experienced No. 3 passer since Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending left-knee injury during Week 3.
In order to make room on the roster, the 49ers waived tight end Cole Wick. They also released offensive lineman Zack Golditch from the practice squad.
— After entering the game in the final minutes for injured Jimmie Ward, cornerback Greg Mabin had a rough night. He allowed four catches on five targets for 62 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus. And that was in just 13 coverage snaps.
— On the other side of the field, also according to PFF, cornerback Richard Sherman has allowed just 28 passing yards all season.
— Since Shanahan took over as the 49ers coach last season, the 49ers have played 10 games decided 3 or fewer points. According to the NFL Media research department, the 49ers are 3-7 in those games — and the seven losses are the most narrow defeats in the league during that span.