Kyle Shanahan has stated several times that there are plenty of plays that he’d like back during the Super Bowl loss with the Falcons. Ice cream Cohn asked the San Francisco 49ers head coach if he could say the same for Super Bowl LIV, to which Shanahan responded, “I’ve been over it a thousand times, and there actually isn’t any.” I didn’t agree with Shanahan’s decision at the time to not call a timeout at the end of the half, something Shanahan stood by on Thursday. I have a hard time agreeing with the stance that not trying to score against the scariest offense in the league is a good thing. His comments, to me, further illustrate that the 49ers should have been more aggressive. If you knew the Chiefs could score in a blink of an eye, maximize every opportunity you have when you have the ball. To make matters worse, Shanahan referenced how successful the offense had been up to that point.
I’m with him here, though. He made the correct calls; the play didn’t work. Because there is an execution problem, that doesn’t mean it was a bad play-call. Here is Shanahan’s answer in full:
“No, I’ve been through it all. Probably a thousand times in the last three days. There actually isn’t. I’m very excited with how that game went up to that point. I know what we didn’t get done and what happened, but a lot of credit I give to Kansas City. Making that third-and-15 isn’t a high-percentage deal. It has been with Mahomes this year. Throwing to the fast receiver in [Kansas City Chiefs WR] Tyreek [Hill] got behind our defense. Really thought we had the game won right there. Then you look at how you get back into it. To look at the calls and everything, you always want them to work so any time a play doesn’t work, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ll think of something different, so hopefully they can execute that play.’ I was very happy with how the game went from a management spot, calling the game. The one thing I was contemplating that was hard on me is after we missed the post to [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders], I knew how tired our guys were. That was my hardest thing, that I really wanted to call a timeout there to give them the energy to beat the corners again because it was very hard how they were going. The reason I didn’t is because if we didn’t get that first down, we’d still have three. They couldn’t run the clock out that way. They ended up busting that long run which made it so it didn’t matter anyway. In hindsight with that, I wish I had called a timeout just so they could have recovered a little bit more and had more energy to get away from what the DBs were doing.”
After the game, Mahomes mentioned the Chiefs ran the same play on 3rd & 15 that they ran against the Patriots in the AFC Championship a season ago. The 49ers had run “6 buzz,” which is Cover-3, and Jaquiski Tartt goes to takeaway routes over the middle of the field. The defense had already called this play twice earlier in the game on 3rd & 10 and sniffed out what the Chiefs were doing. So if you’re upset with the result and feel like the Niners should have been in a different coverage, it had already worked before, so there was no sense in changing what was working. Andy Reid knew what type of look he was going to get, so he stretched the field with the fastest receiver in the NFL, and the Chiefs blocked just long enough for Mahomes to make a throw that only—and there hasn’t been enough emphasis on this—he could make.
Here is Shanahan explaining the 3rd & 15 play:
“Yeah, I mean, I think they might have a little bit after that. I wouldn’t say just because of the up-tempo. We did a good job with the rotations up front. I don’t think the reason we missed that play is because we were gassed. Patrick has a huge arm and they’ve got a lot of speed at receiver, that’s a very long-developing play. It’s tough not to take the bait on a 20-yard in route because you rarely think they are going to have the time to get a 60-yard throw over the top of that. That was a tough play for [CB Emmanuel] Moseley just not to take that bait because usually it can’t hold up. That’s why [DL DeForest] Buckner was one inch away from him, too. He held onto it as long as he could, which wasn’t long, then threw it up. They’ve got the right two guys for that play and it was a hell of a play by them. That’s why they got back into the game. That is why they were able to score there, which made it a three-point game with six minutes to go, which isn’t a time that you’re all thinking about clock. You’re up three points with six minutes to go. It’s time to attack and move the chains. We did what we thought was right. But, we didn’t convert those first downs. When we didn’t, we gave him the ball back. He was hot by then, went right down and scored.”
I think that’s another thing we leave out often when rehashing these plays. In Moseley’s case, he had every right to run with the receiver crossing the field at about 16 yards because, as a defensive backs guy, you tell your players to “play the sticks” 12 times a day. He saw the No. 2 receiver go away, so he went with the “dig” route. Eric Crocker did a nice job of talking through the play:
Busted coverage by the cornerback in the SuperBowl... or good play design by a play caller knowing cover 3 rules? I say the latter. I heard Simms say it was match... I don’t think so because the nickel spot dropped instead of carry 2 vertical to out.. just my opinion though pic.twitter.com/0GgIv7nGjL— Press Coverage With CrockTime (@PressCovFilm) February 6, 2020
There are so many plays during the game that are referenced, but others that are left out. Why? How are we not talking about Tarvarius Moore committing a pass interference on 3rd & 10 to spot the Chiefs the ball on the one-yard line? Instead of 4th & 10 from the 20, the Chiefs are back in business. Instead, we’re talking about the same plays. Also, it’s okay to give the Chiefs credit. They’re good.