The San Francisco 49ers came up short against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 58 for several reasons.
They lost too key fumbles. They failed to score after a Patrick Mahomes interception in the third quarter. And they could not run out the clock to try a game-winning field goal attempt as time expired.
But perhaps the biggest mistake of all came at the start of overtime when, as it turns out, they somehow did not know the actual rules.
San Francisco 49ers Players Admit To Not Knowing Super Bowl Overtime Rules
The NFL introduced a major change to its overtime rules prior to the 2023 postseason.
In the regular season, the game ends if the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown. But under the new overtime rules, both teams are guaranteed a possession, regardless of whether that team finds the end zone.
This seemingly gives an advantage to the team that kicks off. That team is now aware of what it needs to do to tie or win the game when it gets the ball.
The Kansas City Chiefs were well aware of this.
“We talked through this for two weeks,” Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones told Lindsay Jones of The Ringer. “How we was going to give the ball to the opponent; if they scored, we was going for two at the end of the game. We rehearsed it.”
Somehow, the San Francisco 49ers were not.
“Multiple San Francisco players said after the game that they were not aware that the overtime rules are different in the playoffs than they are in the regular season, and strategy discussions over how to handle the overtime period did not occur as a team,” Jones wrote.
“Defensive lineman Arik Armstead said he learned the details of the postseason rule when it was shown on the Allegiant Stadium jumbotron during a TV timeout after regulation,” she continued. “Fullback Kyle Juszczyk said he assumed the 49ers asked to receive when they won the toss because that’s what you do in the regular season, when a touchdown wins the game.”
That is inexcusable.
San Francisco won the overtime coin toss and opted to take the ball.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan claimed this was in anticipation of needing multiple possessions.
Kyle Shanahan detailed why the 49ers took the ball after winning the coin toss in overtime.
“We wanted the ball third. If both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones who had the chance to go win.” pic.twitter.com/MyuRRpGvTA
— KNBR (@KNBR) February 12, 2024
But it’s clear his players were on the same page.
Instead, San Francisco kicked a 27-yard field goal on its first possession in overtime to take a 22-19 lead.
Patrick Mahomes, as he’s wont to do, then led the Chiefs down the field for a game-winning touchdown.
Even if Shanahan and company had scored, he would have been put in the awkward spot of determining whether to go for 2. And he’d have to do so without knowing what Kansas City would do.
Had they kicked an extra point, the Chiefs could have won the game on a 2-point conversion.
It’s an unenviable spot. But it’s one Shanahan put him own team in. And it may have cost them a Super Bowl 58 victory.