Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl LIV
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers have made Jeff Wilson active, a sign that A) Tevin Coleman's dislocated shoulder isn't 100%, B) Matt Breida likely isn't planned to have a huge workload, and C) Wilson will steal a goal-line touchdown, because that's what he does. He has 30 touches this season; five of them have ended up in the end zone.
Scott Spratt: Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy is a healthy inactive for the Chiefs. He hasn't played since Week 15 despite leading the primary Chiefs backs with a -3.5% rushing DVOA in the regular season. At the end of the regular season, stories were suggesting the team was simply resting the veteran McCoy to prepare him for the playoffs. Now, I'm a little confused about his role with the team at all this season. I guess he was simply depth, and Andy Reid (reasonably) prefers Damien Williams for his all-around contributions?
Vincent Verhei: I will go on record with this: San Francisco 34, Kansas City 31.
Aaron Schatz: My official prediction for ESPN was Kansas City 38, San Francisco 31. I've gone more towards San Francisco as I've researched the game but I think I'm still not all the way there, so I'll stick with that.
Bryan Knowles: Andrew and I both took Kansas City by seven to 12 in the Prop Bets Extravaganza. I can certainly talk myself into a 49ers victory without much trouble -- their strengths match up nearly perfectly with the Chiefs' weaknesses -- but at the end of the day, I do think the Chiefs are the better team.
Bryan Knowles: I dislike it when broadcast networks bring out new presentation during the Super Bowl. The new score bug, down-and-distance, etc. are probably fine, but they're just distracting at the moment because they're shiny and new.
Aaron Schatz: Uh-oh. Don't normally see Patrick Mahomes straight-out miss a pass to a running back like he did on third-and-3 on the first drive.
Scott Spratt: And then Richie James dropped the punt. He was super lucky it bounced back to him before several Chiefs crashed down on him.
Scott Spratt: Tevin Coleman has the 49ers' first three running back carries. So I suppose his shoulder his fine.
Dave Bernreuther: I don't like it at all, Bryan. The two logos are clustered right at the line of scrimmage and can interfere with the view if the offense runs trips or spreads out wide.
The 49ers open with a pitch to Coleman that goes nowhere, which gave Kansas City some confidence. The next two runs, including an end around to Deebo Samuel, are a lot more like what most San Francisco bettors were expecting. Throw in a first down toss to George Kittle and they're already in four-down territory.
And that was interesting... Samuel looked like he was about to throw a pass back to Jimmy Garoppolo, but he pulled it down, waited a second, and still ran a draw-ish play up the gut for a first down. Pretty good outcome for a broken trick play.
Bryan Knowles: That's really good awareness by the rookie Samuel to bring the ball down and run it when the trick pass wasn't there -- a lot of players would have just thrown it, because it's their one chance to throw it in the Super Bowl!
Drive ends up sputtering out and it's just a field goal, but the 49ers do strike first. 3-0.
Bryan Knowles: The third-down stop from Kansas City, courtesy of The Dots. Just nothing open whatsoever.
Third-down play for the 49ers. pic.twitter.com/HuTM8FroOh
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 2, 2020
Scott Spratt: I'd estimate that 25 quarterback starters would have thrown an interception on that 8-yard toss to Tyreek Hill. Richard Sherman definitely read it correctly, but Mahomes throws the ball so hard that the ball was there before Sherman could take a second step.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs running a surprising amount early. Damien Williams at four carries for 28 yards.
Dave Bernreuther: Jimmie Ward with a hit that fits the Bob Sanders standard of "hit him so hard I hurt myself" on Mahomes, who I was convinced was on his way in until he pulled up briefly, and I guess the whole notion of hitting him hard enough to make him less willing to run is in play here.
That cost them a first down too, so it's worth the play off for Ward. Reid wisely chooses to go for it, and the Chiefs will get four shots at the goal line now.
Bryan Knowles: Mahomes scrambles on third-and-11, gets first-down yardage ... and is slammed by Jimmie Ward, forcing a fumble backwards out of bounds. That's not a first down. After some confusion, the Chiefs (correctly) line up to go for it ... and pick it up on the direct snap. I don't know why they trotted the field goal team out to begin with!
Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid sends out the field goal team after a Patrick Mahomes scramble ends with fourth-and-1 at the 5 because of a fumble. What a terrible field goal attempt ... but they bring the offense back out! The Chiefs convert, move the ball to the 1, and take it in on second-and-goal for the touchdown.
Rivers McCown: Mahomes' running is a problem for the 49ers.
Scott Spratt: EdjSports' Game-Winning Chance model estimates that decision to run on fourth-and-1 improved the Chiefs' odds by 4.5% over a field goal attempt.
Bryan Knowles: Two plays later, Mahomes scrambles in for the touchdown. Big response drive after their first three-and-out; those nerves Mahomes seemed to have early have mostly gone away. 7-3, Chiefs.
Derrik Klassen: If that goal-line series tells us anything, it's that spinning, in some fashion or another, is Kansas City's key to victory.
Bryan Knowles: Moving forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards the end zone!
Vincent Verhei: OK, I have a new way to watch football, and it's just the best thing ever. Skip back ten seconds on your DVR, then watch the dots on Next Gen Stats live. That way you can see what happens live via the dots, then get a "replay" of why and how it happened on TV. It's fabulous. I feel like I'm getting smarter every play.
And watching the dots, I could see that Kansas City had the field goal team on the field forever, throughout the commercial break, before sending the offense back out. They have a convoluted play called with four coordinated pirouettes and a direct snap to a running back. They must have had that in their pocket ready to go, which leads me to believe that was the plan all along, and having the kicking team out there was just to confuse San Francisco. Obviously, it worked.
Then Kansas City scores on an option pitch play, their second of the first quarter. The running back could have taken the pitch and crawled into the red zone, but Mahomes kept it and took some hits to get in for the score.
Carl Yedor: Everyone at the Super Bowl party I'm at that didn't have a vested interest in a field goal was pro-go for it on the fourth-and-1. Not groundbreaking, but times have definitely been changing discourse-wise. It was just two years ago that the fact that Philly went for it on fourth-and-1 near the goal line was considered a gamble.
Vincent Verhei: One game after his 200-some-yard effort against Green Bay, Raheem Mostert finishes the first quarter with zero carries, one catch for 2 yards.
Bryan Knowles: And THERE'S the obligatory Terrible Garoppolo Interception. I suppose it's best to get it out of the way early.
Dave Bernreuther: That absurd decision and throw by Garoppolo is exactly why I wasn't willing to bet on the 49ers despite their other advantages in this one.
That was terrible.
Vincent Verhei: Bashaud Breeland for MVP! He had a big tackle for loss on a screen on second-and-8 that stopped San Francisco's first drive. Second drive, he gives up a completion to Emmanuel Sanders, but comes back with another tackle for loss on a screen, and then intercepts a Jimmy Garoppolo duck of a pass thrown under pressure.
Aaron Schatz: Sometimes you just have to take the sack. Or throw it away before the sack comes.
Vincent Verhei: As the announcers just pointed out, Kyle Shanahan's offense just committed a critical turnover in the Super Bowl because a running back missed his man and allowed the quarterback to be hit. Those who do not learn from history, I suppose.
Tom Gower: I don't even have to rewind or pause my TV to watch the dots first. The dots are ahead of Fox on this Dish Network show. It's an interesting way to watch the game, more interesting than Fox's base broadcast since you can't count on them to provide the replays I want to see.
I thought Jimmy G should have killed the screen the play before and was mentally criticizing him for that. Then he makes a far worse decision on the interception to Breeland on the subsequent play.
Aaron Schatz: I love you, fourth-and-short option. Yay, Kansas City going for it again!
Bryan Knowles: Andy Reid doesn't want to go home without a Lombardi this time.
Scott Spratt: That fourth-and-1 from the 49ers' 19-yard line was a +2.5% gain over a field goal attempt by GWC. Andy Reid on fire.
Aaron Schatz: I'm a big fan of the fourth-and-1 calls. I'm less of a fan of running the ball twice on second-and-long on that drive. Tarvarius Moore smacks the ball away from Darwin Thompson on third-and-7, and it's field goal time. 10-3 Kansas City.
Bryan Knowles: If there is one criticism of Reid here, it's a back-to-back runs on second-and-long. Four-down territory doesn't mean you can just waste second down.
The 49ers stiffen up, so it's still a one-score game; 10-3.
Vincent Verhei: I thought Mahomes would need to make a big play with his legs to win the game. Turns out the threat of those legs may be enough -- the option game has worked every time Kansas City has used it.
But on third down, Tarvarius Moore breaks up a pass to Darwin Thompson, and the Chiefs are held to a field goal and a 10-3 lead.
(Hey Scott, Thompson already has a goal-line carry and a third-down target. The Chiefs are finally going to your guy!)
Scott Spratt: Meanwhile the fourth-and-7 field goal try from the 49ers' 13-yard line was also the correct call for Reid, improving the Chiefs' GWC marginally from 64.9% on a pass to 65.4%.
(Vince, it's probably a bit too late for me to celebrate my 2019 fantasy season call of Darwin Thompson's breakout. That said, I'm pretty sure you are the one who ended up drafting him in our office league...)
Vincent Verhei: And San Francisco answers with an easy-peasy drive where everything they call works. They picked up first downs on six straight plays, the last of those a completion to Kyle Juszczyk in traffic, where he breaks a tackle and goes into the end zone. Insert Garoppolo's stats on drives following interceptions here.
Rivers McCown: Troy Aikman went from "this team can't run" to "you see this team win with the run game time and time again" in the span of about four plays.
Bryan Knowles: Deebo Samuel is having a hell of a game -- 39 yards rushing, 23 yards receiving, and some pretty nice blocks, too.
That last drive was just big run after big run (assuming we count Jimmy G's tap pass to Deebo as a run, which it was), and then two passes over the top once Kansas City moved nine to the line of scrimmage. It's basic football, but it works.
Carl Yedor: I can see Shanahan going back to whoever-Daniel Sorensen-is-guarding in coverage later in the game.
Dave Bernreuther: Not going to lie, I appreciated the post-San Francisco score outro music being Bertha by the Grateful Dead. It's fun that Fox lets their producers get creative with the musical interludes. Seems like they always find a good variety of topical or geographically accurate music.
Aaron Schatz: NBC may be even better with that than Fox is.
Vincent Verhei: A failed end-around on second down sets up a third-and-forever, so Kansas City runs a give-up screen on third-and-long. And San Francisco ... doesn't call timeout? With three of them in hand? So Kansas City doesn't punt the ball before they have to, and precious time ticks off. Punt goes into the end zone, and 49ers are going to have 59 seconds to go 80 yards. Had they called a timeout, they'd have over 90 seconds. I'm baffled.
Aaron Schatz: Chiefs offense has been a little subdued. They're not testing the 49ers downfield much, and running a double screen on third-and-14 instead of letting Mahomes sling it downfield seems like a mistake.
Bryan Knowles: The 49ers not calling a timeout after the failed third-down play ALSO feels like a mistake, though maybe they just want to make sure the Chiefs don't touch the ball again.
Still, at least they get a fourth drive in the first half -- this has been a VERY fast two quarters.
Carl Yedor: But San Francisco then meets that mistake with a potentially big one of their own by letting the clock run down after the third down instead of using one of their timeouts. They get a little fortunate that the ball goes into the end zone, but that decision could cost them a chance to score before half.
Aaron Schatz: San Francisco really turtling on offense. Not just by not calling a timeout, but running twice instead of trying to move the ball downfield in the final minute.
Scott Spratt: Do you guys think the 49ers' decision to not take a timeout there reflects their opinion about Garoppolo at this point? With their run-focused approach, they might need more than even 90 seconds to put together a field goal drive. Why not minimize the risk of Mahomes getting another shot, then?
Rivers McCown: Imagine wanting to score when you get the ball with three timeouts and roughly a minute left.
Bryan Knowles: I mean, the 49ers probably have a higher-than-average chance of breaking a run deep, but yeah -- this is an extraordinarily conservative decision from Shanahan. I assume the fact that the 49ers get the ball back after the half is playing into this, but man, that is some wimpy play calling. Shanahan has had problems being overly conservative all season long, but this almost feels more like performance art than anything else. Paying tribute to Andy Reid's history of time management, or something.
Vincent Verhei: Well that was a bizarre final minute where neither team could decide whether they wanted to use their timeouts or not, and San Francisco's biggest completion was wiped out by an OPI and they end up taking a knee near midfield with two timeouts in their pocket. Neither team had any idea what in the hell they were trying to do there. But it's a bigger wasted opportunity for San Francisco. Use your timeouts right, and you're at midfield with, what, 30 seconds to go? Easy time to get a go-ahead field goal.
All that said, the score is tied and they're about to get the ball. Life could be worse.
San Francisco's wide receivers have two carries for 39 yards; Kansas City's have one carry for a 6-yard loss. Honestly, that could end up being the difference in the game.
Aaron Schatz: At halftime, I feel like maybe the Chiefs are afraid of that 49ers pass rush because there are a lot of screens and not a lot of letting Mahomes sit in his pocket and find his guy. Also, that OPI call on George Kittle that finished the first half looked pretty phantom on replay.
Aaron Schatz: OK, I take that back. On closer look, there is full arm extension.
Flag was warranted but Kittle didn't even need to push off, the defender was way overmatched pic.twitter.com/TXMuo50kBh
— new-age analytical (@benbbaldwin) February 3, 2020
Bryan Knowles: Well, that was 28 minutes of really fun, exciting football, and then we will all agree to pretend the last two minutes didn't happen, for either team, right?
Shanahan butchered the clock; Reid took the ball out of his best player's hands with screens and end arounds. Where's John Harbaugh when you need him?
Still. 10-10, in what has been a really exciting game, and I'm far too nervous to provide much more trenchant analysis at this point in time.
Tom Gower: It was weird that both coaches decided to revert to type in the final two minutes, with Andy Reid getting way too creative and Kyle Shanahan managing the game like he didn't trust his quarterback or offense at all, but there we go.
Bryan Knowles: Add another conservative play call from Shanahan, kicking a field goal on fourth-and-2. It gives the 49ers the lead again, yes, but man, the Chiefs have just been picking up fourth downs left and right.
Aaron Schatz: Overall, the 49ers have been much better tonight. Almost 3 yards per play more. Kansas City has kept it close with the pick and the fourth-down pick-ups.
Scott Spratt: That was a 2.9% GWC mistake for Shanahan versus a rushing attempt.
Vincent Verhei:Field position also benefiting Kansas City so far. 49ers haven't started a drive outside their own 25 yet. All of Kansas City's have started at the 25 or better. But now, after a penalty, Kansas City begins at their own 9.
Aaron Schatz: They're rolling Mahomes out to the right a lot to get him away from Nick Bosa. One time they don't, Bosa gets the strip-sack but the Chiefs recover. Then Mahomes throws the interception on third down.
Bryan Knowles: And the field position flips back to the 49ers!
On second down, Nick Bosa swats the ball out of Patrick Mahomes' hands, but it bounces right back to him. Bullet dodged, Mahomes then tries to covert the ensuing third-and-long, but rifles it right to Fred Warner!
Bryan Knowles: Worth noting: Joe Staley is in the locker room with some kind of hand injury. Skule is in now; he had plenty of action when Staley was out earlier in the year.
Scott Spratt: It's a criticism for awareness rather than decision-making, but I think that Mahomes interception was worse than Garoppolo's from the first half. Fred Warner was standing there waiting for a throw.
Vincent Verhei: Chiefs have done a good job of moving Mahomes around to negate the San Francisco pass rush. But Nick Bosa comes up the middle for a sack on second down. (Mahomes fumbled and recovered.) On third-and-long, Mahomes rolled out right and had all day, but forced a pass to Tyreek Hill, who was in no way open, and Fred Warner gets the interception.
This game will be hyped as Mahomes vs. Garoppolo, but it's Warner & Greenlaw vs. the KC linebackers where this game is being won so far.
Bryan Knowles: Dots on the interception -- Mahomes is rolling away from a double-teamed Bosa, and I guess just never sees Warner lurking in the zone.
Mahomes INT dots pic.twitter.com/CUzy61APaW
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 3, 2020
Bryan Knowles: And the 49ers make the Chiefs pay for the interception, thanks to (shock) some nice passing from Garoppolo -- 16 yards to Deebo, a missed hold to Sanders, 26 to Kendrick Bourne, 10 more to Juszcyzk to the one. Mostert plows it in, and it's a 20-10 San Francisco lead late in the third.
Scott Spratt: I'm happy for Mostert, but it would have been amazing if Juszczyk had scored again. A fullback Super Bowl MVP would be hilarious.
Aaron Schatz: I thought the Chiefs were doing a reasonable job of blocking the 49ers pass rush in the first half, but it's dissolving.
Dave Bernreuther: The outtro music this time was Phish's Free, so now I'm thinking that the producer is just into jam bands rather than making clever geographical connections.
Vincent Verhei: Weird play where it looks like Travis Kelce has an easy first down, but he throws on the breaks to make a move and then gets tackled short of the line to gain. No matter -- Kelce takes the ball on a direct snap and the Chiefs pick up yet another first down on an option play. Fourth quarter ends with 49ers up 20-10, but Kansas City has a first down at their own 46.
Aaron Schatz: Nick Bosa:
— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) February 3, 2020
Rivers McCown: San Francisco's pass rush has really come alive in the second half, yeah.
Aaron Schatz: Uh-oh. Mahomes just threw behind Tyreek Hill and it was tipped and caught by Tarvarius Moore of the 49ers. I think this is Mahomes' first game all year with two picks.
Vincent Verhei: Indeed -- Mahomes' last two-interception game was the shootout with the Rams on Monday night last season.
Scott Spratt: That second Mahomes interception was just way too far behind Tyreek Hill. It feels like the pressure is affecting his accuracy in general, not just on the pressure plays.
Bryan Knowles: ANOTHER Mahomes interception kills a drive. And it's another poor throw; I'm not sure I've seen Mahomes make as many off-target throws as he has today. The ball was behind Hill, bounced in the air, and Tarvarius Moore was able to come down with it. HUGE play, as the Chiefs looked sure to at least cut it to a one-score game there.
Scott Spratt: They didn't show a replay, but I thought the Chiefs were offsides and hit Garoppolo late out of bounds on that third down. No flag for either. Anyone else see those?
Bryan Knowles: The Chiefs' defense rallied here, and for the first time tonight, the 49ers are forced to punt. A long touchdown drive there could have iced it.
Scott: I don't think the hit on Garoppolo was late; I think the shot happened as he was GOING out of bounds, but while he was still in the field of play. They may have gotten a bit of a jump.
Tom Gower: The hit sure looked inbounds to me. Not sure about offside.
I'll second Aaron's comment about the effect of the San Francisco pass rush. On the drive that ended with the interception off of Hill's hands, you could see from the dots a couple of potential deeper plays that Mahomes couldn't even try to attempt because of the pass rush.
Having a pass rush seems like a super-awesome thing, I wonder what it feels like as a fan.
Bryan Knowles: Gotta tell you Tom; it feels good.
Carl Yedor: Agree on the Garoppolo hit. It looked bad because of how he fell (and it was right on the San Francisco sideline), but it definitely looked legal to me.
Bryan Knowles: At first, I thought Shanahan threw the challenge flag just to give his defense a chance to catch their breath, but no, the ball bounced short on that second-and-15 completion to Hill. But no, it's a trap. Good time for the red flag...
... but then Mahomes hits Hill on the deep shot the 49ers have been fearing all night. Right on time.
Bryan Knowles: That throw to Hill was astonishing; 50 yards through the air off his back foot. Mahomes throws a couple of incomplete passes after that, but a clear and obvious interference call brings the ball to the 1, and it's an easy pitch-and-catch for the score. 20-17 49ers with 6:13 left.
Aaron Schatz: DPI on Kelce, then 1-yard touchdown throw to Kelce. 20-17.
I don't think I trust the Chiefs defense to contain the San Francisco offense on this next drive, though, and get Mahomes the ball back.
Vincent Verhei: On the one hand, the Chiefs can still win if they hold the 49ers to a field goal on this drive.
On the other hand, the 49ers can win without scoring at all if they can just hold the ball for six minutes. Which is a lot, but not impossible.
Vincent Verhei: Or not. A quick three-and-out, with incomplete passes on second (Chris Jones tips a pass at the line) and third down (a throw wide of everyone as Garoppolo hits the dirt under a six-man rush).
Scott Spratt: I'm stunned the 49ers threw passes on second-and-5 and third-and-5.
Aaron Schatz: And I was wrong about not trusting the Kansas City defense.
Aaron Schatz: I was just thinking "how often is Mahomes looking over to Richard Sherman's side?" and then Mahomes hits Sammy Watkins over Sherman for 38 yards.
Vincent Verhei: And then the Chiefs score too quickly! They get the touchdown for the 24-20 lead, but the 49ers have 2:44 to answer. They may even be able to get the ball twice if they're really quick about things.
It goes without saying but it's just massive that Kansas City got seven points and the lead there and not three points and a tie. Make the 49ers beat you with a touchdown, not a field goal.
And the kickoff return is tackled inside the 25 again. Outstanding work by Kansas City's kicking game tonight.
Bryan Knowles: How does Fox not have a camera right down the goal line in the freaking Super Bowl?
Bryan Knowles: Not a very exciting game. Just, you know, the two-minute warning with the 49ers needing to drive 65 more yards to win the Super Bowl. Nothing major. I'm totally fine over here.
Rivers McCown: Watching Aikman soft-peddle the idea that Jimmy G is playing well while every remotely difficult throw he has is incomplete has been hilarious.
How many times does a team start it's two-minute offense with two runs?
Aaron Schatz: Holy mackerel, Jimmy G just had Emmanuel Sanders with three different Chiefs defenders beat deep ... and overthrew him.
Aaron Schatz: Then the Chiefs send a big blitz on fourth-and-10 and sack Jimmy G in the grasp. That's ballgame.
I'm sorry, Bryan.
Bryan Knowles: Three timeouts left...
Vincent Verhei: Kind of a horsecrap in-the-grasp call there, considering he got the ball off, but then the pass was incomplete anyway. And we're in desperation territory for San Francisco.
Bryan Knowles: OK, NOW that's game, as Damien Williams runs the 38-yard touchdown in. Still 1:18 left to play, but no, Chiefs win.
I am very, very happy Andy Reid finally got a ring. He deserves every bit of this; he has never gotten the recognition he deserves because his Eagles teams never got over the top. I can't think of a coach I'm happier to see finally win the big one.
OK, I can think of ~one~ coach I'd rather see, but still...
Scott Spratt: So is Mahomes the MVP? I don't feel like he played great, but I'd be surprised if Damien Williams got it too...
Vincent Verhei: I was screaming at Damien Williams to go down instead of scoring on that long touchdown run. Am I alone?
Bryan Knowles: I'd give it to Williams, but it'd be hard to convince people not to vote for Mahomes.
Rivers McCown: Kyle Shanahan has now blown 28-3 and 20-10 Super Bowl leads.
Tom Gower:You were definitely not alone in screaming at Williams to just go down.
Vincent Verhei:It should be Williams. 133 yards from scrimmage and two scores, 6.1 yards per carry.
Garoppolo's desperation heave is intercepted, and that's game. Man, his fourth-quarter numbers are gonna be fuuuuuuuugly.
Aaron Schatz: How much do we blame Shanahan for this blown lead? Yes, he had the offense pass the ball twice instead of trying to run out the clock on second and third down when the 49ers still led 20-17, but there were over five minutes left at that point. If the 49ers run twice there, but also still punt on fourth down like they did after two incomplete passes, there's really no difference in the end of this game, Chiefs still win.
Scott Spratt: Not to be all meta-analytics, but I feel like the majority of Williams' success was a product of a 49ers defense that was desperate to stop Mahomes.
Bryan Knowles: I think it's fair to blame Shanahan for his play calling at the end of the FIRST half, but no, I can't find it in me to be TOO harsh on his fourth quarter play calling.
Vincent Verhei: Definitely blame Garoppolo more than Shanahan. The coach gave his quarterback a chance to win, and the quarterback responded by throwing into the line repeatedly, throwing wide under pressure, overthrowing a wide-open go-ahead score, and taking a fourth-down sack.
Andrew Potter: The fourth-and-2 field goal was overly conservative. The end of the first half was extremely conservative. They lost by 11, and they eschewed shots at a significant number of those points by their conservatism. Sure, they couldn't have known that the fourth quarter would go the way it did, but that's why you don't cede good opportunities for points earlier in the game.
Aaron Schatz: I agree on the end of the first half and the fourth-and-2 field goal. I was talking more about blaming Shanahan for blowing the lead, i.e. "between this and 28-3, it's obvious Kyle Shanahan blows leads."
Bryan Knowles: Oh, that will never go away unless Shanahan wins a Super Bowl. But both of them put too much blame on Shanahan; his hands aren't clean, per se, but a little better execution and Shanahan has two Super Bowl rings at the moment.
If wishes were horses and all that.
Tom Gower: My pregame thing to watch was "Jimmy G deep shots vs. brainfart turnovers." The 49ers' longest play was 32 yards, a Deebo Samuel rush. Their longest pass play was a 26-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne, which was listed was "short" in the play-by-play, meaning it wasn't thrown more than 15 yards downfield. He missed the deep shot to Sanders that would have given them the lead late. Even if you don't count the second intercetpion in a desperation situation as a brainfart turnover, he comes out -1 on that ledger.
But he was also -1 on that ledger at halftime when it was a tie game, and -1 when the 49ers were up 20-10 and looked like they might be in control of the game, so that's clearly not the whole story. Yes, the deep miss came later, but there's more to the story than that. To me, the biggest play was the third-and-15 that Mahomes converted with the deep shot to Tyreek Hill. But that neglects what may have been the larger story, the Chiefs' fourth-quarter adjustment. Aaron and I noted after Mahomes' fourth-quarter interception just how much the San Francisco pass rush was affecting what Kansas City was trying to do on offense. The last couple of possessions, not so much. They got the ball out quickly, even when it meant trying something aggressive (like the deep shot to Watkins). When we rewatch the game later (not this coming week for me), that's really the thing to keep an eye on, just what Kansas City did vs. what they weren't doing earlier.
Bryan Knowles: And, of course, the big thing the 49ers need to think about right now is what to do with Jimmy Garoppolo's contract. They're right up against the salary cap, with Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead, and Emmanuel Sanders as free agents. They can free up nearly $20 million, however, by extending Garoppolo and turning his base salary into a signing bonus, at the cost of making that money guaranteed. That's a tough call -- I still think Garoppolo is an above-average passer, but I'm not sure he's more than that, and that makes guaranteeing big money iffier than it might otherwise be. Some very interesting decisions to be made in that front office.
Aaron Schatz: The 38-yard Watkins catch was huge. He really abused Sherman on this play.
Sammy Watkins out here bullying Richard Sherman on national television. pic.twitter.com/EyPAr4pTRk
— Austin Pendergist (@apthirteen) February 3, 2020
Bryan Knowles: Mahomes does get the Super Bowl MVP, in case there was any doubt. Before the game, I figured that was a foregone conclusion if the Chiefs managed to win, and while I think the interceptions would bump him off my ballot, it's not like that fourth quarter wasn't deserving.
And yeah, that Watkins catch was play of the game.
Dave Bernreuther: I guess it's hard to quibble too much with the Mahomes MVP; he stepped it up when things got most difficult. They were down by two scores late and Bosa and the San Francisco D Line were starting to really dominate just about every play. Also, a big chunk of Williams' stats and one score came when the game was really pretty much decided.
His performance late, especially when compared to Garoppolo's, really was the difference in the game. It can be lazy to boil everything down to QB play, but the fact of the matter is that Mahomes was great in the fourth and Garoppolo couldn't be counted on. If they'd had just slightly better QB play late, the 49ers probably win the game. I agree with the other comments about the questionable passing calls, given the relative strengths of Jimmy and their run game (although surely the defensive alignment and personnel had something to do with that too), but I really can't fault Shanahan at all for that blown lead. They were doing everything well, and even the pass game was working well despite Garoppolo's issues. Kansas City just gave a great effort in the end... right as I was actually about to throw in the towel, because I really did think that even after the Kelce score there was a chance that they wouldn't see the ball again.
Kyle Shanahan really impressed me this year. I will admit that I didn't think much of that tandem hire of him and Lynch, but to build a #1 seeded team where the weak point is the well-paid quarterback, while being reasonably well set up for future years as well... that's solid work. And for all the (legit) criticism we have heaped on Garoppolo, it's still worth pointing out that that game was only his 29th game started. That's the same number of starts as Baker Mayfield. It's still entirely possible that by this time next year he'll have evolved into something more than a passer that only succeeds when his coach schemes up an easy read to an open guy in between dominant running plays. And if he is, look out. That division could be really tough, of course, but that team isn't going away. They'll be back on this stage.
I'm very, very happy for Andy Reid. And Chiefs fans in general. KC might be the only market in the NFL from which I've not met even one single unlikable fan. Congratulations to all those who have waited multiple generations to cheer a title.