It didn't take long for the first controversial play to pop up on conference championship weekend. It occurred on the first drive of the NFC Championship Game, when Jalen Hurts hit DeVonta Smith for a 29-yard gain on fourth-and-3. The Eagles quickly ran off a play following the completion before taking an early 7-0 lead on Miles Sanders' 6-yard touchdown run. They went on to beat the 49ers, 31-7, to reach Super Bowl LVII.
While it was an impressive effort, Smith did not actually complete the catch, as replays showed that the ball hit the ground as he fell to the turf.
Needed 3, got 29 🤯@DeVontaSmith_6 | #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/SFd2Tb0p3N— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) January 29, 2023
Catch or no?? 👀 pic.twitter.com/iH7LeYhPy2— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 29, 2023
The missed call, along with the 49ers' decision not to challenge the play, ultimately led to the catch counting and thus setting up the game's first touchdown.
After the game, Kyle Shanahan explained why he did not challenge, saying the angles the 49ers saw did not show that Smith did not have control of the ball.
"The replay we saw didn't definitively show that," he said in the postgame press conference (via NFL.com). "We saw one up on the scoreboard. I wasn't going to throw one anyways just to hope to take the chance. But they showed one up on the scoreboard that didn't have all those angles you guys saw. That looked like a catch and we didn't want to waste a timeout. Which we definitely would have if we didn't see that. I heard they got a couple other angles and you guys ended up seeing later that it was not a catch."
Shanahan was then asked if he wished he had better angles of the play and he said he did, adding that it is the job of the league to catch these things.
"I mean I think the NFL can do that, if they can see it, they're supposed to do it," Shanahan said. "But I mean, we didn't see it. There's a play clock. You have 40 seconds. They're going to get it off. They got it off. I wasn't going to throw it anyway. I was just hoping. But it looked like he caught it. And then they showed a replay up there. Which I was shocked they showed it. But it ended up looking like a catch on the replay too because you couldn't see the other angles. So that's why we didn't. I was told at the end of the drive they saw a couple other angles and I was told that it was incomplete."