Chiefs come back to hand 49ers crushing Super Bowl loss
MIAMI — The 49ers choked. No nice way to put it.
They had a 10-point lead with 6:23 left in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV and collapsed, lost 31-20 to the Chiefs. Controlled the game for 54 minutes and still lost by 11 points.
What a brutal way to end a magical season in which the 49ers never lost by more than three points until the Super Bowl.
“They were better than us today,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said of the Chiefs.
Except, the Chiefs weren’t better than the 49ers Sunday night. The 49ers beat themselves. They averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per carry, and still lost. Intercepted Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes twice, and still lost.
The shocking collapse began in the fourth quarter, but something strange happened at the end of the first half that foreshadowed the ending. With 1:53 remaining in the second quarter and the score tied at 10, the 49ers defense stopped the Chiefs on third and 14, but Shanahan didn’t use any of his three timeouts. He let the clock run down.
After a punt, the 49ers got the ball back, and Shanahan called a run on first down, but didn’t use a timeout after this play, either. He let the clock run down some more. Television cameras caught general manager John Lynch desperately signaling for a timeout from a luxury suite. Shanahan’s ultra-conservative play-calling led to no points for the 49ers on their final drive of the first half.
“We were good with that situation,” Shanahan said. “We would do that every single time.”
The 49ers got the ball to start the second half and drove for a field goal. They led 13-10. Then the Chiefs got the ball, and 49ers linebacker Fred Warner intercepted Patrick Mahomes. The 49ers got the ball back, and this time drove 55 yards for a touchdown — running back Raheem Mostert ran the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out, and the 49ers led 20-10.
Next series, the 49ers picked off Mahomes again — backup safety Tarvarius Moore intercepted him with 12:05 left. And the game seemed over. The 49ers defense had played well enough to win — it simply needed the offense to run the ball, take time off the clock and close out the game.
But it choked.
With the season on the line, Shanahan forgot about the running game, which carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the first place. On second and 9 with 9:52 left, he called a pass instead of a run that would have used up time. The pass fell incomplete, the clock stopped and the 49ers punted two plays later.
“We just do what we do,” Shanahan explained. “We tried to run the ball.”
At this point, the 49ers defense was getting exhausted. It had played well most of the game, but the 49ers offense couldn’t stay on the field, so the defense wore down. It gave up a 44-yard catch to wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who was wide open. No one covered him. The Chiefs scored a touchdown three plays later when Mahomes completed a 1-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce, and the score was 20-17 49ers.