With seven minutes to play in Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers appeared to be on their way to a night spent bathing in confetti and champagne in Miami.
They led the Kansas City Chiefs 20-10 and had flustered star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for much of the night. Then, everything unraveled as the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points to give head coach Andy Reid his first Super Bowl title.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan drew the brunt of the criticism for his fourth-quarter play-calling that saw him put the ball in the hands of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo rather than rely on San Francisco’s powerful run game. But it was another gaffe, one near the end of the first half that Hall-of-Famer and 49ers legend Steve Young questions the most.
«I think [Garoppolo] and Kyle have to work on their dance step,» Young said at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week, via the San Francisco Chronicle. «The thing before halftime doesn’t make sense to me. If I was the quarterback, and you just let the clock drain away, what are you saying to me? That’s just me.»
With just under two minutes remaining in the half and the game tied at 10, the 49ers were set to get the ball back with a chance to drive to secure the halftime lead. Rather than calling a timeout to preserve time, Shanahan elected to let the Chiefs run the clock down near one minute and pin the 49ers deep, giving Garoppolo and the offense little time to drive the length of the field.
The 49ers ran the ball on first and second down, taking the clock down to 19 seconds before the Chiefs called a timeout to try and get the ball back. The 49ers got a first down on a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo to Jeff Wilson Jr., but Garoppolo ended up kneeling out the clock after tight end George Kittle was called for offensive pass interference on the next play from scrimmage.
Garoppolo looked shaky early on in Miami, throwing a horrid first-quarter interception that led to a Chiefs field goal. He was much more efficient in the second quarter, but it appeared Shanahan didn’t trust his highly-paid quarterback enough to take care of the ball in the two-minute drill.
After the game, Shanahan explained the decision to let the clock tick down as a way to keep Mahomes from getting the football again.
«They had three timeouts, and it was 10 to 10. The last thing we’re going to do there is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts left, especially with their quarterback and the offensive speed, and go down and score before half, Shanahan said «Felt good at 10-10, especially with us starting with the ball [in the second half].
«I thought it played out all right,» Shanahan said. «I thought we should have got points, but they ended up calling that PI on [George] Kittle.»
Despite the iffy clock-management decision, the 49ers still were in a position to win the game, but the defense fell apart in the final seven minutes and Garoppolo overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on the would-be, go-ahead touchdown pass with1:40 left, effectively sealing the 49ers’ fate.
Shanahan. who was the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator when they blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, now will have all offseason to replay another Super Bowl meltdown in his head.
Steve Young questions one Kyle Shanahan decision in 49ers’ Super Bowl loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area