8:53 left in the fourth quarter and a 20-10 advantage for the 49ers. San Francisco had out-played the Kansas City Chiefs up until this point — as Kansas City did not have an answer for Kyle Shanahan’s offense and Andy Reid’s offense just couldn’t get uncorked through three and a half quarters.
It was a two-possession game, but I was nervous when the 49ers punted the ball back to quarterback Patrick Mahomes because of the Chiefs hit one play, then the flood gates begin to open and all of a sudden it’s a new ball game.
On 3rd-and-15 with 7:13 to go, the Chiefs’ Super Bowl hopes were hanging by a thread as Mahomes hit wideout Tyreek Hill for a 44-yard gain, and it was the first deep pass that San Francisco had allowed all evening long.
Kansas City’s offense was controlled through three quarters, thanks to the 49ers’ defensive line and soft coverage in the secondary. Despite a sub-par game from Mahomes till that point, it only took one play for the offense to find their rhythm again.
Mahomes has a Steph Curry likeability when it comes to finding his rhythm, it just takes one big throw, and all of a sudden, the entire playbook is wide open, and the Chiefs are off to the races. It’s eerily similar to how Curry needs one three-point shot to fall, and the flood gates open quickly.
Boom. Bang. Pat. Before you can blink, the Chiefs are in the end zone, and it’s a 20-17 ball game, and the 49ers’ offense needed to respond with a little over six minutes left in the game.
San Francisco flutters offensively and is now punting it back, and at this point, I’ve lost most of my faith that the 49ers will muster up the effort to get a defensive stop because they had lost all the momentum.
On this drive, wideout Sammy Watkins blows by Richard Sherman for a 38-yard gain, and suddenly Chiefs are right back in the red zone. A few plays later, the 49ers 10-point advantage vanished into thin air, and they’re staring down an ugly Super Bowl meltdown.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers didn’t execute in the fourth quarter after a one-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert — going punt, punt, turnover on downs, and interception on their four drives in the final frame.
Kyle Shanahan has now been a part of the two biggest Super Bowl collapses in recent memory — 28-3 against Atlanta and now 20-10 against Kansas City. While it doesn’t all rest on his shoulders, it’s a mark that he’ll have to live with until he wins a Super Bowl.
San Francisco overachieved this season — nobody expected them to get this far and compete for a Lombardi Trophy. But in the NFL, the chances to play in the sport’s biggest game don’t come often. Dynasties and contenders yearn for this opportunity every year, but a lot of things have to break your way to find yourself back in the Super Bowl.
Yet, there’s one thing I’ve seen with this team that I think will translate for the foreseeable future. The front office and coaching staff work in lock-step with each other and have assembled a contender in three seasons and will have the offseason to re-tool in some weak areas, like cornerbacks and wide receivers.
The cornerstones of the franchise are in place — from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to tight end George Kittle to linebacker Fred Warner to pass rusher Nick Bosa. They’re young, under contract, and will be hungry to return to a Super Bowl next season.
San Francisco is in a great place for the future, but squandering an opportunity like Sunday’s will likely haunt the players and coaches through the offseason. It’s bittersweet — looking ahead to a team that will likely contend for a Super Bowl in the coming years, but not being able to close the deal when they had the opportunity on Sunday.
As Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the players leave Miami disappointed after a Super Bowl loss, it will only motivate them to come back even stronger next season.