The 49ers tested Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ ability in clutch moments, and it came back to bite them in their gut-wrenching Super Bowl LVIII loss on Sunday.
San Francisco’s decision to receive the ball after winning the overtime coin toss confused the general NFL world while also motivating some Chiefs players.
“Yeah, I think as a defensive player, it’s a little disrespectful,” Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton told reporters after Kansas City’s 25-22 Super Bowl win. “But at the same time, you understand that their defense was out there the whole last minute and a half. So, the legs are a little bit tired. Yeah, that’s part of it.”
While electing to take the ball second seemed like the clear right choice to most people watching given the NFL’s new overtime playoff rules, which allow both teams a fair chance with the ball, San Francisco went against the general consensus.
Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the loss that he didn’t regret his decision, stating they wanted the ball “third” if both teams matched and scored.
San Francisco’s reasoning was mindboggling to Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones.
“They’re crazy, they’re crazy,” Jones said postgame. “Because the overtime rules have changed where both teams get the ball no matter who scores. So, originally, you want to let the other team get the ball, stop them holding the three, so you know what you got. Or if you stop them, they punt it, then all you have to do is kick three.
” … I think we talked about it when we went to TV break and they was on the 25. That whatever we do, we can’t let them score. If we can keep them to three, this game is won, and we was able to do that.”
The 49ers’ opening drive of overtime resulted in a Jake Moody field goal to give them a 22-19 lead. But Mahomes only shined brighter under pressure, leading a game-winning, 75-yard touchdown drive in response to secure back-to-back championships for Kansas City.
Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman shared what was going through their heads when the 49ers elected to receive the ball to open the extra quarter.
“I thought the right thing to do was defer, but when they took the ball, we knew what we had to do as an offense,” Hardman said. “It’s kind of one of those things. They kicked the field goal, we look at each other and thought let’s go score. It’s time to go score, and let’s go win this game.
“That is what was our mindset the whole way, and we walked it off.”
On top of the players weighing in on San Francisco’s decision, several sports analysts wasted no time questioning Shanahan and the 49ers the following morning.
“Honestly, I like the ball second because I want to know what I need,” ESPN’s Shannon Sharpe said Monday on “First Take.” “And guess what? I get an extra down because I get to go for it on fourth down if I didn’t get it on third down. And that was the difference. Kyle Shanahan, he took the field goal, but had he known he needed a touchdown, he’s going for it. It’s not like the old rules. It’s the postseason. Everyone’s going to get a possession. So scoring first does not matter.
“I would have deferred because I need to know what Patrick Mahomes did so I get an opportunity to either match or exceed what he did.”
Sitting next to Sharpe was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who was more critical by his choice of words, referring to San Francisco’s decision and its players’ lack of knowledge of the new rules as “a smear on the entire organization,” “embarrassing” and a “negligence of duty.”
But Shanahan said he has no regrets about the decision-making in the loss, and it might take some time, but the 49ers will hope to shake this painful loss off and get back to their Quest for Six in 2024.
Daniel Miller is a sports fanatic who lives and breathes athletics. His coverage spans from major league championships to local sports events, delivering up-to-the-minute updates and in-depth analysis for sports enthusiasts.