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49ers Had a Chance, But Questionable Decisions Cost Them in Loss to Chiefs

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
February 12, 2024 at 11:16 am ET

49ers Had a Chance, But Questionable Decisions Cost Them in Loss to Chiefs(PHOTO: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 4 minutes

Raise your hand if you’d love to know what’s going through 49ers GM John Lynch’s mind this morning.

After the 49ers went up 10-0 early in Sunday night’s showdown against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII and seeing the way their defense was playing, the storyline appeared to be heading toward Kyle Shanahan’s club spoiling Patrick Mahomes’ shot at adding a third Super Bowl victory to his resume.

Instead, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid did what Shanahan should have done.  He remained patient, calculated, and that’s why Kansas City ended up being on the right end of Sunday night’s 25-22 overtime victory in Las Vegas.

Given how both defenses were playing, and with the success the 49ers were having running the football, the smart play by Shanahan would have been to stay the course and keep Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense off the field.

After all, that early strategy by San Francisco had managed to set the tone and kept this one from becoming a shootout, and it had paid off with an opportunity to play this one on their terms.

Instead, as the third quarter began and with San Francisco leading just 10-3, Shanahan clearly panicked.  He instead tried to force the issue, likely afraid that the seven-point edge his club held wouldn’t be enough to win.  So rather than be patient and run the ball and continue wearing the Chiefs down, Shanahan called for Brock Purdy to throw the ball on all but four plays in each of their third-quarter possessions, the first three of which ended with a 3-and-out.

By the time he figured it out, the Chiefs had gotten points on two possessions to take the lead.  One ended with Harrison Butker hitting a Super Bowl record 57-yard field goal (breaking the earlier 55-yard record set by 49ers kicker Jake Moody) to cut San Francisco’s lead to 10-6, followed by a muffed punt reception that the Chiefs recovered at the 49ers’ 16-yard line.

They immediately turned that miscue into points one play later, with Mahomes firing a touchdown to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to put them in front at 13-10.

Jake Moody

Moody’s blocked extra point was costly.
(PHOTO: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports)

While the 49ers answered with their own touchdown drive on the ensuing possession, Moody’s extra point was blocked, which would come back to haunt them down the stretch.

That quarter essentially decided the game.  The Chiefs ended up having the ball for nearly nine minutes in that third-quarter, which started wearing down a 49ers defense that put together an unbelievable effort against the defending Super Bowl champions.

But like any other great quarterback, the more possessions you give them, the more they’re going to figure things out, and the better ones typically end up eventually finding a way to win.

That ended up being exactly what happened.

It was tough.  The 49ers squandered an unbelievable defensive effort.  They also didn’t do them any favors in the second half until it was too late.

As a result, by the end of Sunday night, when they needed a defensive stop to win the game, they were gassed and couldn’t get one.

They gave up an 11-play, 64-yard drive to close out regulation that resulted in Butker hitting the 29-yard field goal to force overtime, and the final possession by the Chiefs was just brutal.

The 49ers forced a 4th down on the first set of plays, but allowed Mahomes to get upfield on 4th-and-1 to pick up 8.  Looking at that play, 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa blitzed inside, which left his side of the field wide open for both Travis Kelce and Mahomes to roll to that side.

Former Patriots defensive back Logan Ryan picked up Kelce, but Bosa blitzing inside rather than staying home allowed Mahomes to pick up that first down.  Had Bosa kept his edge assignment, it’s possible he stops Mahomes short of the first-down marker, and the outcome turns out differently.

Andy Reid

Andy Reid was the better coach Sunday night.
(PHOTO: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Instead, they moved the chains and couldn’t get a stop on a 3rd-and-6, and Shanahan even called a timeout on the next set of downs after he apparently didn’t like the defensive call given what transpired on the earlier play.

It didn’t matter.  Mahomes finished off the drive and Mecole Hardman ended up with the 3-yard touchdown for the game-winner.

While it’s the players who ultimately win the games, Sunday night is a reminder of how vastly underrated coaching is in key moments.  Former Patriots coach Bill Belichick is among those where patience and being situationally smart is what wins contests in January and February.  It’s also why Shanahan will spend yet another offseason second-guessing himself after coming up short for the second time against Mahomes and the Chiefs.

One other question is why the 49ers elected to take the ball in overtime rather than defer given the new overtime rules where each team would possess the ball, regardless of whether they kicked a field goal or scored a touchdown.

“We wanted the ball third,” Shanahan told reporters after the game when asked about his reasoning. “If both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones to have a chance to go win. We got that field goal so we knew we had to hold them to at least a field goal and if we did then we thought it was in our hands after that.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t end up being the case.

The only problem is, Shanahan could have prevented it from ever getting to that point.

It’s also why Lynch now has a difficult decision to make.

In the end, Shanahan’s team had its chances, and unfortunately, it’s also why he’ll shoulder a lot of the blame for this one.  It’s now the third time a team he led blew a double-digit lead on the biggest stage, and it’s a game they could – and should – have won had things been handled differently.

Owner Jed York recently said, “I want Kyle to be here for a long, long time.”  It’s hard not to wonder if he still feels that way after last night.

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About Ian Logue

Ian Logue is a Seacoast native and owner and senior writer for PatsFans.com, an independent media site covering the New England Patriots and has been running this site in one form or another since 1997.


Posted Under: NFL Commentary
Tags: Andy Reid Kyle Shanahan

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    Michael P. McGrath
    Michael P. McGrath
    1 month ago

    What I saw was KC making defensive adjustments to take away the run. SF dominated both lines ALMOST the entire first half. From then on KC dominated both lines. At the end of the day KC was the better team with Mahomes and Kelce stepping up when it mattered. KC won the game. SF did not lose it.

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