Kyle Shanahan's Last Super Bowl

28-3. It wasn’t his side of the ball that gave up 25 straight points.

Jim Rome
January 21, 2020 - 12:19 pm
Kyle Shanahan

USA Today


I got the Montana Bowl reference out yesterday and now it’s been banned. Might as well get out all your 28-3 jokes now too, because my guess is that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has already heard them all. You don’t need to ask him if he remembers Super Bowl 51 against the Patriots. Because he does.

He was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons. And that was a nightmare of a Super Bowl, not just because of how it ended, but because of how it started. That was the year that he lost his backpack at Media Night. A backpack that had his iPad with the game plan on it, as well as nearly 50 Super Bowl tickets and “a lot” of cash for those Super Bowl tickets.

Talk about a nightmare. 

After ninety minutes of searching, he eventually tracked it down. But that wasn’t the best omen. You know it’s a bad week when you misplace the most valuable backpack in the world and it’s not the worst thing that happened to you all week. 

Because what happened on Sunday, with a 28-3 lead, was even worse. So of course he was asked about it yesterday and asked how often he thinks about it.  

"Not much at all anymore, to tell you the truth. You do it every second in the days after; they were real tough. Losing the Super Bowl is extremely tough for everybody, especially when you have a 28-3 lead going into the fourth.” 

And he had more on the subject. Because he knows it’s out there. He’s not trying to ignore what happened. He lived it and he’s dealt with it. 

“But the way it came down on me personally, I didn't react to that the way people would expect because there were definitely parts of that Super Bowl I would love to have back and I was very hard on myself. But the whole narrative of 'if I just would have run it, we would have won,' I know that wasn't the case. I know what went into that game and all the stuff that happened, so that stuff didn't bother me. You've got to deal with that and listen to other people, but it was nice to be able to move on and move out here and just keep working. I'm glad I'm going to get the chance to go back."

But he still learned from it, especially the 2nd and 11 call at the New England 23 with just under four minutes left and a 28-20 lead. Shanahan called a pass, because he remembered an earlier play in the game where he called a run and it didn’t work. And because the offense hadn’t really picked up a third down for most of the second half. 

So he went with a pass instead of a run. 

The pass didn’t work either. In fact, it was a complete disaster. Matt Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss, the Falcons chased that with a holding penalty on the next play, and the implosion was on. 

"That put us way back and (we) had to throw again to get back into it and we missed it. But yeah, I wish I didn't call that play on second-and-11 that led to that sack."

If you think the 49ers were aggressive with their lead against the Packers and were looking to floor the accelerator when they had a chance, you’d be right. Because according to Shanahan, that all goes back to 28-3. 

"That's why, I promise you when we're way up in the fourth quarter on Green Bay and stuff, I know what 28 minus 3 is and I know a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter isn't enough. So, when we have a 14-point lead with eight minutes to go versus Green Bay, I can promise you that I think I feel from experience like the game is tied and that we don't have a two-score lead.”

Also, for all the heat that Kyle Shahanan receives about 28-3, it wasn’t his side of the ball that gave up 25 straight points. Sure, he would like to have a couple of those play calls back, but I’m guessing that Falcons defense would like to have the whole second half back. 

So here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you prepare for the Super Bowl and all the witty and smart things you’re going to talk about at your Super Bowl party. Kyle Shanahan knows about 28-3. He knows everything about it. And if he’s in that spot against Kansas City, you don’t need to tell him to run the ball.

He’s already going to be doing that. And he’s got the running game to back it up. In fact, if he’s up 28-3, it’s probably because he was running it all day. And he’s certainly not going to stop. He’s not the same coach that he was with the Falcons and this 49ers team isn’t that Falcons team. That Falcons team was really good, this 49ers team is much better. 

I’m not big into predictions, but here’s my Super Bowl prediction more than one week out: there’s no chance this 49ers defense gives up 25 unanswered points in the second half to blow a Super Bowl. And you can take that to the bank. In fact, you could bet your life on it.