The 49ers’ decision to start overtime with the ball in their Super Bowl LVIII loss confused fans everywhere, and they weren’t alone.
After winning the coin toss, San Francisco opted to receive the ball first when the game against the Kansas City Chiefs went to overtime on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium – but that might have been a bad choice due to the news NFL playoff overtime rules.
And just like the fans, the players were also confused and had no idea about the recent change to the overtime rules, which ensures that both teams have at least one possession – unless the first possession ends in a security.
Several 49ers players admitted they didn’t know the overtime rules were changed after last season’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills.
“I didn’t even know about the new overtime rule in the playoffs,” defensive lineman Arik Armstead told reporters after the 49ers’ 25-22 loss. “It was a surprise for me. I didn’t know what was going on about it. They put it on the scoreboard and everyone thought that even if you score, they still have a chance.
San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk was equally perplexed.
“I didn’t even realize the playoff rules were different in overtime,” Juszczyk said. “So I just assumed you win the ball, score a touchdown and win. But I guess that’s not the case.
“So I don’t totally know the strategy there.”
The 49ers and Chiefs were tied at 19 points at the end of regulation when the former won the toss and elected to start with the ball, which ultimately resulted in a Jake Moody field goal to give them a lead 22-19. But Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes led a 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive in response to secure back-to-back championships for Kansas City.
After the loss, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan explained the decision.
“It’s just something we talked about, none of us have a lot of experience in this area, but we looked through the analytics and talked to these guys and thought it would be better,” Shanahan said. “We wanted the ball in the third position, but both teams drew and scored. We wanted to be the ones with the chance to win.
“We got that field goal, so we knew we had to hold them to at least a field goal and if we did, we felt like it was in our hands after that.”
Meanwhile, Chiefs were seemingly more than prepared and confident in the decision they would have made had they won the toss.
Chiefs safety Justin Reid told The Ringer that the team discussed the new extension rules as early as training camp last summer — before the 2023 season officially started. Defensive lineman Chris Jones also told The Ringer that the players were prepared for what to expect if the match went into overtime.
“We talked about it for two weeks,” Jones said. “How we were going to give the ball to the opponent; if they scored, we were aiming for a double at the end of the match. We rehearsed it.”
It appears San Francisco wasn’t as prepared or, at least, as familiar with the rule change.
The NFL changed the playoff overtime rules in 2022 after the Bills failed to get the ball back in an overtime loss to the Chiefs in the 2021 divisional playoffs.
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