49ers and Brock Purdy won’t soon forget missed opportunities in Super Bowl loss

LAS VEGAS – Patrick Mahomes was on the minds of the San Francisco 49ers even when they had the ball on 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 counterattack with the kind of game-winning goal. . driving for which he has become famous.

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

That’s exactly what happened.

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The 49ers’ third down play was good. It required Jauan Jennings, a strong contender for the game’s MVP award at the time, to start on the inside and then quickly backtrack to the nearby pylon. He did so, shaking his defender in the process.

“It looked like Jauan killed it, he won pretty good,” 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 game against the Chiefs. Right tackle Colton McKivitz put a hand on Jones, but he moved outside to block defensive end George Karlaftis.

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

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 have and what Mahomes can do, for us it’s like, ‘Okay, we have to score touchdowns,’” ​​Purdy said. “And I think we had opportunities to do that. “We shoot ourselves in the foot just with penalties and surgeries and stuff.”

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

Both defenses dominated from the start, taking the opponent’s best players out of the game. Defensive effort may have been an issue in the 49ers’ early playoff games, but not on Sunday when players like Chase Young, Randy Gregory and Javon Kinlaw stepped up with big plays that frustrated the Chiefs and kept them in it. 6 points for almost three quarters.

Mahomes’ favorite target, tight end Travis Kelce, had one reception for 1 yard at halftime. And Mahomes and Purdy had exactly the same modest passing total (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 receptions each on Sunday despite Samuel being targeted a game-high 11 times. Tight end George Kittle had a key fourth-down catch in the fourth quarter, but was limited to 4 yards total. That fourth-and-3 throw in the fourth quarter was also influenced by Mahomes.

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

The only true offensive weapons for the 49ers were Jennings, who had one passing and receiving touchdown, and Christian McCaffrey, who had a combined 160 yards of offense.


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

What’s more, the 49ers’ offense was never able to fully take advantage of Mahomes and Kelce’s modest starts.

Early in the third quarter, Mahomes came out of the pocket but discovered that linebacker Fred Warner was covering Kelce. Instead, he threw a pass to receiver Márquez Valdés-Scantling, who was intercepted 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 take advantage of their 10-3 lead. Instead, Purdy threw an incomplete pass on first down, guard Aaron Banks committed a false start on second down and the 49ers had to punt the ball.

“It was little things everywhere, in all three phases,” defenseman Kyle Juszczyk said. “We did things that were uncharacteristic of what we normally do as a team and I think in the end that’s what hit us, and it was too much to overcome.”

The 49ers also suffered more attrition than the Chiefs.

They lost linebacker Dre Greenlaw in the second quarter when, while running down the field after 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 moments. During a critical sequence 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 to overtime, and Kelce finished with a 93-yarder. To go. guide all receivers.

“That’s probably the most disappointing thing about the loss,” Warner said. “Because we went into this saying he wasn’t going to be the reason they beat us. And at the end we made a couple of plays where he ran wide down the middle of the field. That’s dissappointing.”

Shanahan cited analytics as the reason he had the 49ers get the ball to start overtime. He thought the team that took the opening kickoff of the session might get a second possession.

“We wanted the ball third,” he said. “If both teams tied and scored, we wanted to be the ones who had the opportunity to win (the match).”

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

After Mahomes’ big run into the red zone, running back Isiah Pacheco ran for 3 yards and Mahomes hit Kelce for another 7 yards. That put the ball at the San Francisco 3-yard line as the clock expired in the first overtime.

The final blow came with a shotgun blast in which no one covered Hardman, who advanced toward the formation but retreated to the outside. Both Warner and safety Logan Ryan were running toward Mahomes on the play.

“I’m not sure,” Warner said of what went wrong with the coverage. “I have to see it. “I’m not sure who was supposed to be in (Hardman).”

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

The consequences of this, however, seemed worse. Afterwards, a silence similar to that of a funeral reigned in the locker room. Shanahan only gave a brief postgame talk to his team, McCaffrey gave a brief postgame interview, and even Kittle’s normally detailed session lasted just four minutes.

“Not much has been said,” Purdy said. “It just hurts. Obviously we have the team to do it, to win it all and then come up short like that. … The way things have been here the last few years, everyone wanted it badly. So, I think we’re still trying to gather our thoughts and everything right now. But everyone in that locker room loves each other, I assure you.”

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