Thursday, February 29, 2024
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49ers, Brock Purdy won’t soon forget their missed opportunities in Super Bowl loss


LAS VEGAS — Patrick Mahomes was on the San Francisco 49ers’ minds even when they had the ball Sunday.

Facing third-and-4 from the Kansas City Chiefs 9-yard line in overtime, Brock Purdy said he knew the 49ers couldn’t settle for a field goal because it would give Mahomes a chance to counter with the type of winning match. conduct for which he became famous.

“You just don’t want to give him an opportunity to go down and win the game with a touchdown,” Purdy said.

This is exactly what happened.

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The 49ers’ third play was good. He asked Jauan Jennings, a serious contender for the game’s MVP at that point, to start inside and then quickly return to the nearest pylon. He did so, thus shaking his defender.

“It looked like Jauan killed it and won pretty well,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said afterward.

The problem is that no one blocked Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones, who is both Kansas City’s best defensive player and someone who tormented the 49ers in their last Super Bowl meeting with the Chiefs. Right tackle Colton McKivitz got a hand on Jones, but moved to the outside to block defensive end George Karlaftis.

That gave Jones a free throw to Purdy, who had to rush his pass and ended up throwing too far for Jennings. The 49ers settled for a 27-yard field goal from Jake Moody and a 3-point lead. And it set the stage for what Purdy and the 49ers feared: a vintage Mahomes drive that lasted 13 plays, including a 19-yard Mahomes scrimmage and ended with a game-winning coin toss against a tall Mecole Hardman open.

The score and resulting 25-22 victory left Mahomes with the MVP award and the 49ers exhausted, devastated and, for the second time in four years, ruining what could have been a Super Bowl against the Chiefs.

“When you have a good offense like the Chiefs do and what Mahomes can do, for us it’s like, ‘All right, we need to score touchdowns,'” Purdy said. “And we had opportunities to do that, I think. We shot ourselves in the foot just with the penalties and the operations and all that.

For most of the game, the 49ers and Chiefs were virtual twins.

Both defenses were dominant from the start, eliminating the best opposing players in the game. Defensive effort may have been an issue in the 49ers’ early playoff games, but not on Sunday, as players like Chase Young, Randy Gregory and Javon Kinlaw stepped forward with big plays that frustrated the Chiefs and held them to 6 points for almost three quarters.

Mahomes’ favorite target, tight end Travis Kelce, had a 1-yard catch at halftime. And Mahomes and Purdy had the exact same modest passing totals — 123 yards — at halftime.

The Chiefs defense, however, was even better at crushing their opponent’s star players. Receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were limited to three catches each on Sunday, although Samuel was targeted a game-high 11 times. Tight end George Kittle made a key catch on fourth down in the fourth quarter, but was held to 4 total yards. That fourth-and-3 throw in the fourth quarter was also influenced by Mahomes.

“It’s probably not something we would normally do, but we thought it was the right thing in this situation,” Shanahan said.

The 49ers’ only real offensive weapons were Jennings, who had a passing and receiving touchdown, and Christian McCaffrey, who had 160 yards of offense.


Jauan Jennings, celebrating his fourth-quarter touchdown, might have been in contention to win Super Bowl MVP had the 49ers held on. (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

Additionally, the 49ers offense was never able to take full advantage of the modest starts of Mahomes and Kelce.

Early in the third quarter, Mahomes was forced out of the pocket but found that Kelce was covered by linebacker Fred Warner. Instead, he threw a pass to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling that was caught by safety Ji’Ayir Brown at the Kansas City 44-yard line.

The 49ers had momentum, they had the crowd behind them and they had a perfect opportunity to consolidate their 10-3 lead. Instead, Purdy threw an incompletion on first down, guard Aaron Banks committed a false start on second down and the 49ers had to punt the ball away.

“There were little things everywhere – in all three phases,” guard Kyle Juszczyk said. “We did some things that were uncharacteristic of what we usually do as a team and I think ultimately that’s what got us, and it was too much to overcome.”

The 49ers also faced more attrition than the Chiefs.

They lost linebacker Dre Greenlaw in the second quarter when, while running down the field following a punt, he tore his Achilles tendon. Right guard Jon Feliciano was injured late in the third quarter while Samuel (hamstring) and Kittle (shoulder) had to leave the game for a few periods. During a critical stretch late in the fourth quarter, the 49ers were without defensive starters Greenlaw, Brown and Deommodore Lenoir.

As the 49ers weakened, the Mahomes-Kelce connection grew stronger. The tight end’s 22-yard catch and run late in the fourth quarter – he beat Warner, who had been strong against him up to that point – set up the field goal that sent the game into overtime, and Kelce finished with 93 yards to gain. direct all receivers.

“That’s probably the most disappointing thing about this loss,” Warner said. “Because we started out saying he wasn’t the one who would beat us. And we made some plays at the end where he was running big in the middle of the field. It’s disappointing.

Shanahan cited the analysis as the reason he called for the 49ers to receive the ball to start the overtime. He thought the team that got the opening kickoff might get a second possession.

“We wanted the ball on third down,” he said. “If both teams tied and scored, we wanted to be the ones with the chance to win (the match).”

The 49ers never had that chance. Their first overtime drive was the longest of the game – 7:38. This was followed by the Chiefs’ longest game – 7:19. The difference was that one ended in a field goal and the other ended in a touchdown.

After Mahomes’ big rush into the red zone, defender Isiah Pacheco ran for 3 yards and Mahomes hit Kelce for another 7 yards. This put the ball on the San Francisco 3-yard line, with the clock winding down in the first overtime.

The final blow came on a shotgun blast on which no one covered Hardman, who moved toward the formation but retreated to the outside. Warner and safety Logan Ryan were rushing toward Mahomes during the play.

“I’m not sure,” Warner said of what went wrong with the cover. “I have to see him. I don’t know who was supposed to be on (Hardman).

The loss had many of the same themes as the one four years ago in Miami, including a blown lead and the inability to stop Jones and Mahomes in key moments.

The consequences of this, however, seemed worse. The locker room then experienced a funeral calm. Shanahan only gave a brief postgame speech to his team, McCaffrey gave a clipped postgame interview and even Kittle’s normally wordy session lasted just four minutes.

“Not much was said,” Purdy said. “It just hurts. We obviously have the team to do it, to win it all, and then fail like that. …The way things have been going here the last few years, everyone wanted it so bad. So, I think we’re still trying to collect our thoughts and everything right now. But everyone in this locker room loves each other, I’ll tell you that.

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(Top photo of Brock Purdy being pressured by Chris Jones in overtime: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)





Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from theathletic.com

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