Gutting Loss For 49ers

San Fran didn’t lose that game, KC won that game.

Jim Rome
February 03, 2020 - 10:45 am
Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid

USA Today


And then there is the flip side. Because as awesome as that fourth quarter was for Kansas City and Andy Reid, it was that gutting for San Francisco and Kyle Shanahan. Because it was right there for the 49ers. From four wins to super bowl champs in one season. One of the best stories ever. And it was right there! Right there and it slipped away. 

How close was it? It was a stop on 3rd and 15 away. It was a Damien Williams reach away. It was about two yards away, the distance between an open Emanuel Sanders and the football when Garoppolo missed him with just over a minute left.

Let’s get something clear right off the bat, I’m not putting this on Jimmy Garoppolo. But if he hits Sanders for the touchdown there on third down with less than two minutes to go, he is an absolute legend. I’m not saying the Niners win the game, because there was still plenty of time for Mahomes, but damn that would’ve been a moment. Like some Joe Montana bleep. And if not Joe, then at least Steve Young: Jimmy G going toe to toe with Pat, and making him come up with a response. 

And that’s why it is so gutting for Niner fans. Because it was right there. And because it slipped away. And it slipped away in the worst way. 

Because in the second and third quarter, they had it rolling. The defense was getting after Patrick Mahomes and forcing him into his worst game ever. And the offense was doing what they do best. They stuck with their identity, even after falling behind. They were finding spots to run, Deebo Samuel was carving up the Chiefs defense as a runner and a receiver, and it was working.

Until it didn’t. And when you lose a game like that, there is going to be some second guessing. Like why Kyle Shanahan did not take a timeout late in the first half when everyone thought he would and when even John Lynch was calling for one.

Was he worried about his quarterback after James G threw that terrible pick earlier in the half? Did he just not trust his own qb on the big stage? Shanahan said that wasn’t the case. He says it wasn’t a matter of him not trusting his q...b, it was a matter of how much he respected the other team’s q.b.

“They had three timeouts, and it was 10-10, The last thing we were going to do there is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts left, especially with their quarterback and offensive speed, and go down and score before half. Felt real good at 10-10, especially with us starting with the ball (in the second half). I thought it played out all right. I thought we should’ve got points, but they end up calling that (pass interference) on (George) Kittle.”

We can debate whether or not that PI on Kittle was worth flagging in a game where the refs didn’t flag much. But you can’t debate that was a perfect pass from G. And you can’t debate that Kyle Shanahan has forgotten more football than any of us will ever know. Actually, that’s probably not true, because I doubt he’s forgotten anything.

But there’s an argument to be made that if you’re going up against Patrick Mahomes and that offense, you need all the points you can get. And when you have a chance to get points and then get the ball back to start the second half, you take that chance. Playing not to lose against a team like that is going to get beat. That was not the time to go into you PREVENT OFFENSE.  

Even worse, was it felt like they couldn’t decide if they were going to go for it or let the clock run out? And they kind of did both. They went with a run and let the clock run. Then went with another run, but snapped it with 15 seconds left on the play clock, and then KC called a timeout. And then they went with a 20-yard pass to Jeff Wilson and then the perfect deep route to Kittle that was erased.  

And the other question going into the game was how would Shanahan call the game if he had a lead in the fourth quarter. And the answer was kind of a surprise, because instead of going to the ground and sticking with what worked, he started passing. 

The Niners got to the Super Bowl because of their running game and they were leading in the Super Bowl because of their running game and then their play action. And then they started going heavy pass. And KC started getting to them. 

And I know about 28-3. And I know that Shanahan teams have been outscored 46-0 in the fourth quarter of Super Bowls that they’ve led. And that is an awful stat. And one that is going to sting for a long time. And stick to him until he does win one of these.

But all of Shanahan’s offensive play calling doesn’t explain his offensive line committing costly penalties and not giving Jimmy G time. Or Jimmy G not seeing George Kittle open on third and five with just over five minutes left. Or missing Sanders late. And it certainly doesn’t explain the Niner defense having its worst stretch at the worst time. 

Going from dominating Mahomes for 50 minutes to getting dominated by him for 10 minutes. That is some terrible timing. The offense and the defense collapsing at the worst possible moment. 

And that’s how you go from up ten in the fourth quarter to losing by 11. And here’s the other thing. Yes, they blew a lead in the final minutes of the Super Bowl and that is going to haunt them for years. But they didn’t hand the game away. Kansas City took it. Patrick Mahomes took it. Chris Jones and that defensive line took it by knocking down a pass in a clutch moment or getting pressure on Jimmy. 

San Francisco was this close, but they didn’t lose that game, Kansas City won that game. They made huge plays in huge moments and sometimes you just have to tip your cap and give them some bleeping credit