photo from sfgate.com: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) stands on the field, during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs’, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla
By: Joe Lami
This one is going to sting the faithful for quite some time. The Kansas City Chiefs completed their third double-digit comeback of the postseason to blow past the Niners 31-20 in the closing minutes of Super Bowl LIV to capture the franchises’ second Lombardi Trophy, and first in 50 years.
Epic collapses are becoming a common theme for Kyle Shanahan in big games, as the 49ers coach has been the offensive play-caller for two of the largest blown leads in Super Bowl history. 10-point, fourth-quarter leads have been blown three times, with Shanahan now operating the offenses of two of them.
ESPN’s Ed Werder later pointed out that the Niners had 14 snaps with the lead, and Garoppolo drop backed to pass on nine of them, a higher dropback percentage than his first Super Bowl mishap with the Falcons.
His misfortune becomes Andy Reid’s celebration as the future Hall of Famer finally captures his first Lombardi Trophy. Patrick Mahomes was named MVP, solidifying his position as the face of the league. His electric playmaking ability was just too much for a tired-looking 49ers’ defense to hang on at the end.
The Niners played great up until the fourth. The run-game was dominant, with Deebo Samuel leading the way with three carries for 52 yards, while hauling in five catches for 39 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo threw a TD and an interception, completing 17 of 20 passes for 183 yards.
Then, Shanahan began to out-think himself with shotty playcalling, with a tired defense on the other end that held Mahomes to what would have been a career-low 10 points. After intercepting a pass on Kansas City’s first drive in the fourth, the offense stalled with what should’ve been the dagger.
The Niners started to get pass-happy on the drive, dropping back on three of the five plays with two being incompletions and one turning into a Jimmy G scramble. After just taking three minutes off the clock, it quickly gave the ball back to K.C. as they jump-started their comeback.
There was no need to pass the ball; they were averaging 6.4 yards-per-carry and dashing the Chiefs every time they ran to the right, finishing with eight carries for 79 yards. Instead, they coughed up momentum to the NFL’s best player with a championship on the line.
The Niners’ next shot to end it came on the ensuing possession. They even forced Kansas City into a 3rd and 15, but Mahomes found Tyreek Hill on a 44-yard bomb, (that was set up by an obvious non-holding call), thanks to Emmanuel Moseley biting off of his Cover 3 zone to an underneath route. Later a defensive P.I. Call set up the Chiefs on the one-yard-line for an easy score, making it 20-17.
Shanahan then turned to the dull, run, pass, pass for a quick three and out, only taking 1:03 off the clock, allowing Mahomes ample time with 5:03 to go to set up the victory. He quickly marched down the field, picking up a huge chunk of their 65-yard drive on a pass to Sammy Watkins that burned Richard Sherman in one-on-one coverage, eventually setting up the score.
Thanks to the quick score, they were given another chance with 2:44 to operate, down 24-20. After advancing the ball to midfield, thanks to a 17-yard rush by Mostert (to the right side), and a quick pass over the middle to Kenrick Bourne, they decided to take their chance. Garoppolo fired one deep to Emmanuel Sanders, attempting to cement his name in the record books alongside Joe Montana and Steve Young, but overthrew the wide-open target by five yards.
Instead, the Niners turned the ball over on downs and the Super Bowl to Kansas City.
It’s unfair to point all of the blame for this collapse solely on Shanahan. The defense didn’t step up when it needed like it had most of the season, and Garoppolo misfired a couple of crucial throws. But then again, it was Shanahan that forced them into that situation due to poor clock management and only running the ball three times with the lead in the fourth.