10 reasons why 49ers lost to Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

LAS VEGAS – So what cost the 49ers this time? A more fitting question might be: What didn’t?

A third straight Super Bowl appearance came and went Sunday night without a Lombardi Trophy, but not because they were blown out by the NFL’s reigning dynasty and No. 1 quarterback.

This 25-22 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs came down to football’s razor-thin margin of error. The 49ers made those errors, over and over again. The Chiefs made one less.

The 49ers won five straight Super Bowl trips from the 1981 to 1994 seasons, mostly via Ronnie Lott’s iron-chewing defense, and amazing offenses led by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice.

Everyone Sunday night seemed at a loss for words, outside of the boilerplate response how much losing hurt when winning was so close.

These were the 10 ways to lose a Super Bowl in 4 hours, 6 minutes:


Patrick Mahomes’ championship-winning 3-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Mecole Hardman came with three seconds left in overtime. And it came with a catchy name: “Tom and Jerry,” which sounds more fun than the “2-3 Jet Chip Wasp” on the Chiefs’ third-and-15 completion that triggered their Super Bowl comeback over the 49ers four years ago.

This scoring play is also what the Chiefs used in last season’s Super Bowl – the call sign then was “Corndog” — so 49ers coaches and players should have recognized this on film. Defensive back Logan Ryan opted to follow Fred Warner in pursuit of Mahomes rather than immediately slide left to cover Hardman before it was too late. Ryan, you’ll recall, was signed fresh off a Disney cruise with his family two months ago, after the 49ers lost Talanoa Hufanga to a knee injury. Now Ryan is in a Disneyland commercial, showing a replay of Sunday’s final play before the Mahomes family says they’re heading to the happiest place on Earth. The 49ers opted to deploy Ryan at nickel back rather than expose Ambry Thomas as their No. 3 cornerback. Mahomes likely would have fooled anyone, at this rate.


Earlier that drive, the 49ers were one play and mere inches from the winner’s stage. Instead, Mahomes took a shotgun snap on fourth-and-1, left defensive end Nick Bosa bit inside, and the Super Bowl MVP zoomed by for a morale-crushing 8-yard gain. The next five snaps were Mahomes completions, before he dashed 19 yards to the 49ers’ 13-yard line to assure at least a tie, with the Chiefs’ win appearing more inevitable.

“We could have been more prepared there,” Bosa said. “We have to know in crucial situations who’s going to get the ball, like his scramble down the middle on that last drive.” If that is a shot at the coaches, so be it, because Steve Wilks’ defense seemed amiss since Minnesota in October. This game, Bosa played incredibly well until Mahomes pounced at the most inopportune time.


On third-and-4 from the Chiefs’ 9, Brandon Aiyuk lined up left, cut toward the middle of the field and was wide open crossing the goal line. Brock Purdy had no time to spot him. Left unblocked by replacement right guard Spencer Burford was Chris Jones, only the Chiefs’ best defensive player and the 49ers’ Super Bowl LIV villain.

Jones rushed Purdy into throwing to the intended target, Jauan Jennings, who predictably got open but the uncatchable pass sailed past him to preserve the 3-point try.

“It looked like Jauan killed him and won pretty good, but Chris Jones got loose in the middle,” Shanahan said. “I think there was a mistake. Not sure. But he’s a hard guy to block.”

Flashback: The 2012 team sealed its Super Bowl loss once Colin Kaepernick’s three fade passes to Michael Crabtree failed to deliver a touchdown. Sunday, the 49ers settled for a field goal, hoping their defense could hold against a multiple-time champ in Mahomes.


The Chiefs came alive in the third quarter, and the 49ers’ lead was doomed once a punt bounced off rookie Darrell Luter Jr., with Ray-Ray McCloud failing to smother it. One play later, Mahomes threw a go-ahead 16-yard touchdown pass over strong-side linebacker Oren Burks. Boom. The Niners were behind, 13-10.

Shanahan said neither he nor perhaps Luter heard the warning sign to retreat from the bouncing punt. McCloud’s scoop attempt didn’t deliver, either.


Jake Moody set a Super Bowl record with a 55-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead, only to be topped by Harrison Butker’s 57-yarder in the third quarter. Moody also made 53- and 27-yard field goals. But when a fourth-quarter point-after attempt was blocked with 11:22 left in regulation, that left the door open for a tying field goal the Chiefs made to force overtime.


Obviously the 49ers did not maximize their offensive possessions, nor did they make the best use of a three-man band that may not have a shelf life beyond this season. Does Deebo Samuel return after catching 3-of-11 targets for 33 yards (plus 8 yards on three carries)? Does Brandon Aiyuk receive a top-dollar contract, when the top game saw him catch just 3-of-6 targets for 49 yards? Does George Kittle face offseason shoulder surgery, after he injured it and painfully watched overtime from the sideline?

When the Chiefs needed tight end Travis Kelce to come through after just a 1-yard catch before halftime, he delivered. When the 49ers needed his counterpart, Kittle, he was dealing with a shoulder injury (possibly on a first-series attempt at a fumble recovery). Kittle converted a fourth-down play in the fourth-quarter, but that didn’t end the title drought, either.


An easy debate ensued once the 49ers requested the ball first in overtime, produced a field goal for a 3-0 lead, then saw Mahomes deliver a touchdown drive. Wrong call? The Chiefs knew they had to score, so Mahomes converted on a fourth-down run en route to that touchdown. This decision will be the crux of the #FireKyle cult. Just remember that Shanahan made the right call on a fourth-down target for Kittle’s first catch, and remember that Shanahan enlisted Jennings to throw a 21-yard touchdown to McCaffrey for a 10-0 lead.

Look, each team is assured a possession in overtime, and in defending the call, Shanahan invoked his belief in the 49ers’ analytics department.


While U2 has wowed Las Vegas visitors over at The Sphere, Q3 – or, the third quarter – was a miserable experience for the 49ers.

It started with Ji’Ayir Brown intercepting Mahomes on the third snap after halftime. Then came a three-and-out that took just 1:01 by the 49ers’ offense, which was backed up by an Aaron Banks’ false start. Even after the 49ers’ defense forced a Chiefs’ three-and-out, Purdy’s three ensuing passes failed to yield a first down, so they breezed through another three-and-out, and Deebo Samuel suffered a hamstring strain. The quarter didn’t end until the 49ers completed a three-and-out hat trick, then, to top it off, muffed the Chiefs’ end-of-quarter punt that bounced off Luter and wasn’t corralled by McCloud.



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