The 49ers tested the agility of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and it came back to bite them in their heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday.
San Francisco’s decision to receive the ball after winning the coin toss in overtime caused confusion in the general NFL world while 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 victory. “But at the same time, you understand that their defense was there throughout the last minute and a half. So the legs are a little tired. Yeah, that’s part of it.
While choosing to get the ball second seemed like the right choice for most spectators given the NFL’s new playoff overtime rules, which give both teams a fair chance with the ball, San Francisco is went against the general consensus.
Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the loss that he didn’t regret his decision, saying they wanted the ball “on third down” if both teams matched up and scored.
San Francisco’s reasoning was mind-boggling to Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones.
“They’re crazy, they’re crazy,” Jones said after the game. “Because the rules of overtime have changed, where both teams get the ball no matter who scores. So originally you want to let the other team get the ball, prevent them from holding the three, to that you know what you’ve got. Or if you stop them, they kick it, so all you have to do is shoot three.
“…I think we talked about it when we went to the TV break and they were on the 25. Whatever we do, we can’t let them score. If we can keep them to three, that match is won, and we were able to do it.
The 49ers’ first drive in overtime resulted in a Jake Moody field goal to give them a 22-19 lead. But Mahomes only shined more under pressure, leading a 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive in response to Kansas City securing back-to-back championships.
Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman shared what was going through their minds when the 49ers opted to receive the ball to open the extra quarter.
“I thought the right thing to do was to delay, but when they took the ball, we knew what we had to do on offense,” Hardman said. “It’s kind of one of those things. They scored the goal, we looked at each other and thought, let’s score. It’s time to score, and let’s win this game.
“That was our mindset throughout the whole process, and we achieved it.”
In addition to the players who weighed in on San Francisco’s decision, several sports analysts wasted no time in interviewing Shanahan and the 49ers the next 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 got an extra down because I can go for it on fourth down if I didn’t make it on third down. And that was the difference. Kyle Shanahan, he took the field goal, but he knew He needed a touchdown, he goes for it. It’s not like the old rules. It’s the playoffs. Everyone’s going to have possession. So scoring first has no point importance.
“I would have postponed because I need to know what Patrick Mahomes did to have the opportunity to match or exceed what he did.”
Sitting next to Sharpe was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who was more critical in his choice of words, calling San Francisco’s decision and its players’ lack of knowledge of the new rules a “slander on the ‘entire organization’, ’embarrassing’. and “negligence of duty.”
But Shanahan said he has no regrets about the decision made in the loss, and while it might take a while, the 49ers hope to shake off the painful loss and resume their quest for the six in 2024.
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