The NFL playoff overtime rules changed several years ago, but Super Bowl LVIII was the first playoff game where the new format was in effect. The basics of the new overtime rules are simple: both teams gain possession of the ball, regardless of whether or not one team scores a touchdown on the first possession.
The Kansas City Chiefs certainly knew what was happening. The San Francisco 49ers did not. And that was the ball game: Chiefs 25, 49ers 22.
Here’s a look at the stark difference in how the two teams prepared for a potential overtime.
The 49ers didn’t know the new playoff rules
The day after the Chiefs’ Super Bowl overtime victory, San Francisco players admitted they were unaware of the new overtime rules, even though they had been in effect for two years.
“I guess it’s not,” 49ers guard Kyle Juszczyk said. via The Ringer. “I don’t really know the strategy.”
Juszczyk believed that a team that got the ball first in overtime won if it scored a touchdown, which was the rule instituted in 2010. Under these playoff overtime rules, the game would not end immediately if the team whoever got the ball first scored a basket. on its first possession – but the game would end if a touchdown is scored by the offense or the defense scores a safety on the first possession of the overtime period.
49ers’ Arik Armstead also admitted that he was unaware of the new overtime rule, without knowing that the other team had possession of the ball even though the team that won the toss – and chose to receive – scored a touchdown. These were the rules applicable to overtime in the event of sudden death before 2010.
If the 49ers players didn’t know about the new overtime rules, did Kyle Shanahan know? If Shanahan knew that, how did he prepare for a Super Bowl that certainly had the potential to go to overtime? It was a possibility that skyrocketed after kicker Jake Moody blocked an extra-point attempt with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter, resulting in just a 3-point lead.
The 49ers decided to take the ball first in overtime, an even worse decision since at least some of Shanahan’s players didn’t know what the protocol was if the 49ers scored. With both teams gaining possession in overtime, going first was not the optimal strategy.
No matter what the 49ers did, the Chiefs knew exactly what they needed when they got the ball. Yes, in case the 49ers didn’t know: the Chiefs got the ball back in overtime. Of course, by choosing to get the ball first, Shanahan wouldn’t be aware of what was needed or what the Chiefs could do.
“It’s something we’ve talked about, you know, and none of us have a lot of experience with it, but we went through all the analytics and talked with these guys and we just thought this would be better, we just wanted the ball on third down.” Shanahan said after the game, via a league transcript. “If both teams drew and scored, we wanted to be the ones with the chance to go in.
“We got that basket, so we knew we had to force them to at least make a basket. And if we did, we thought it was in our hands after that.”
The 49ers clearly showed a lack of awareness. With the Niners’ field goal, the Chiefs knew they needed a touchdown to win the Super Bowl. Even if the 49ers had scored a touchdown, the pressure would have been on them to choose between kicking the extra point or attempting a two-point conversion.
In fact, the only way the 49ers would have benefited from choosing to get the ball first would have been to score a touchdown and then convert the two-point attempt. Nothing else? Advantage, bosses.
Chiefs discussed playoff extension strategy with analytics coordinator
Kansas City was certainly prepared for the new overtime rules, as head coach Andy Reid continued to discuss the rules with his team throughout the playoffs. He knew the possibility of an extension was always on the table.
How did Reid know what to do if the Chiefs won the coin toss? Reid trusted Mike Frazier, who was with Reid for all 11 seasons in Kansas City as statistical analysis coordinator. Frazier held the same role with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2003 to 2012 – also with Reid.
“That’s Mike’s value. He does a great job with that,” Reid said via a league transcript. “There are two ways to do it. You can either throw it or receive it. I’m not sure there’s necessarily a right answer. Ours ended up being the right one.
“It could have easily gone the other way. It’s what we thought was the right thing to do… It’s just something we chose throughout our studies. We thought that it was important.”
The Chiefs wanted the ball on second down. The 49ers wanted the ball on third down (if that was a possibility).
Clearly, the 49ers made a mistake by failing to get into the end zone. With Patrick Mahomes on the opposite sideline, the 49ers should have put pressure on him to score a touchdown first (and for Reid to make the decision to score two later).
Of course, this would have been avoided if San Francisco knew the rules. Neither the players nor the head coach were aware of the situation.
And that was the ball game.
Gn En sports