The 49ers were a running team that passed at the wrong time in the Super Bowl

Rick Gosselin

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.—The Super Bowl gameplan was an easy one for the San Francisco 49ers – run the ball, control the clock, keep Kansas City’s resident Superman Patrick Mahomes off the field and take home a Lombardi Trophy.

Simply, stay in character.

The 49ers had the NFC’s best rushing attack, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 144 yards per game on the way to a 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC. The 49ers controlled the clock for more than 31 minutes per game this season and were even better in the post-season, averaging 230 rushing yards and controlling the clock for almost 35 minutes per game in blowing through Minnesota and Green Bay.

But 49ers' coach Kyle Shanahan repeated the mistake he made in the 2017 Super Bowl when he was the offensive coordinator of the Falcons – he picked the wrong game and particularly the wrong time in that game to become pass happy.

And the Kansas City Chiefs took home their first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years with a come-from-behind 31-20 victory over the 49ers as a result.

San Francisco did run the ball – but the 49ers didn’t run it enough against a Kansas City defense that ranked 26th in the NFL against the rush. The 49ers threw the ball more than they ran it in the Super Bowl with 31 passes and 22 rushes.

You’ll recall the Falcons led the Patriots by 25 points with 24 minutes remaining in that 2017 Super Bowl. But with a 28-12 lead and 8:31 remaining in regulation, the Falcons found themselves in a third-and-1 at the Atlanta 36. But instead of handing off again to Tevin Coleman, who had rushed for nine yards on the previous two plays, Shanahan called a pass. Matt Ryan was sacked and fumbled the ball away to the Patriots.

New England converted the turnover into a touchdown that gave the Patriots the momentum to steam roll the Falcons in the fourth quarter on the way to a 34-28 overtime victory.

Coleman was again in the backfield on this night for the 49ers, splitting the carries with Raheem Mostert. And the 49ers were gashing the Chiefs on the ground, rushing 22 times for 141 yards with an average of 6.4 yards per carry.

After the Chiefs cut the 49ers' lead to 20-17 with 6:06 remaining, the 49ers needed to burn clock and keep a suddenly-hot Mahomes off the field. Mostert swept left end for five yards on first down to the San Francisco 25 but, inexplicably, Shanahan called passes on the next two downs.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s second-down pass was batted down by defensive tackle Chris Jones, then his third-down pass was high to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. Both incomplete passes stopped the clock. So on their key possession of the game, the 49ers were able to wind just 56 seconds off the clock.

A punt gave the ball back to the Chiefs with 5:10 remaining -- and it took Mahomes just seven plays to cover 65 yards against the NFL’s second-best defense for the game-winning touchdown.

The Chiefs wound up running the ball more than the 49ers (29 times) in controlling the clock for more than 33 minutes. The Chiefs also had the only 100-yard rusher in the game, Damien Williams. Kansas City executed San Francisco’s gameplan better than the 49ers did – and the Chiefs also had the best quarterback on the field. The game’s MVP, in fact.

In the final game of the season, the 49ers forgot who they were and how they got there.

Comments (4)
No. 1-3
brian wolf
brian wolf

They just had so much momentum and Mahomes, throwing a slick football, was off for KC. That long, heave to Hill got the comeback started, but youre right Goose; SF picked the wrong time to call play passes. Their running game was gashing them.

Rick Gosselin
Rick Gosselin


Most play-callers in today's NFL do not want to run the ball. They want to throw it.

Frank Cooney
Frank Cooney


Rick, good job nailing the obvious flaw(s) in KS coaching Sunday. It is possible he just out-thunk himself by passing at wrong time(S) and playing not to lose with clock mismanagement at end of half. That lack of aggressiveness created subconscious mindset on the teams -- who was superior and who was inferior. The better coach, quarterback and receivers won, but the Niners play-calling was too curious, too often. Thanks for your take, good job as usual.

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