The Mercury News
The 49ers had a chance, but were unable to repeat Super Bowl history
Blown 10-point lead in 4th quarter leaves 49ers ‘hurting’ as MVP Mahomes leads Chiefs to title
MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. » This is where Steve Young led the 49ers to victory 25 years earlier, but history did not repeat in the 49ers’ favor Sunday night.
Instead, they lost in a second straight Super Bowl appearance, and coach Kyle Shanahan again must wrestle with blowing a lead when the Lombardi Trophy was in sight.
The 49ers blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20 at Hard Rock Stadium.
So much for winning a Lombardi Trophy on the same field where the 49ers won their last one a quarter century ago with Young, and where Joe Montana did so in thrilling fashion for the 1988 49ers.
“We just didn’t get it done when we had the ball,” Shanahan said.
Thus, the 49ers’ quest for six championships will carry on into Year 4 under Shanahan, who arrived in 2017 fresh off a Super Bowl loss in which the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead with him as their offensive coordinator.
This time, the 49ers failed to protect a 20-10 lead over the final 6 ½ minutes by falling victim to Patrick Mahomes’ majestic arm.
After Mahomes delivered a 44-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill, next came touchdown strikes to Travis Kelce (1 yard) and Sammy Watkins (5 yards). That left only 2 minutes, 44 seconds for the 49ers to attempt their fifth fourth-quarter comeback win this season behind Jimmy Garoppolo.
Starting at their own 15 after Richie James’ feeble kickoff return, Garoppolo got the 49ers to midfield with completions to George Kittle (8 yards) and Kendrick Bourne (16 yards). But three incompletions followed, and then came a fourth-down sack by Frank Clark.
The outcome was decided at that point. The Chiefs then rubbed it in, first with a 38-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams and a last-minute interception of a Garoppolo bomb.
The 49ers had won their first five Super Bowl appearances (in the 1981, ‘84, ‘88, ‘89 and ‘94 seasons) before falling 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens seven years ago in Super Bowl XLVII.
Unlike that last Super Bowl run, this one came as a surprise, at least nationally, as the 49ers came off a 4-12 seasons, started 8-0 this season and clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a 13-3 record.
“I just told them I’m proud of them,” Shanahan said. “Those guys are hurting, just like I am. We all are. That’s as special a group as I’ve been around.
“That team will have a special place in my heart forever.”
Mahomes finished 26 of 41 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Garoppolo was 20 of 31 for 219 yards with one interception and two touchdowns.
Both interceptions of Mahomes came in the third quarter, by Fred Warner and Tarvarius Moore. They appeared perfect road blocks to thwart the Chiefs QB and last season’s NFL MVP. Instead, they were only harmless highlights.
They were part of a bangbang sequence out of halftime had given the Niners’ gang a 10-point lead they would need to milk. A goahead field-goal drive was followed by Warner’s interception, then came a Garoppolo-fueled drive that culminated in a Raheem Mostert 1-yard touchdown run for a 20-10 lead.
The Chiefs responded by driving into 49ers territory, but then Mahomes did something he hadn’t done all season: throw a second interception, this one nabbed by Tarvarius Moore out of the 49ers’ dime package they’ve rarely shown this season.
One snap after Nick Bosa forced a strip-sack fumble that the Chiefs recovered, Arik Armstead pressured Mahomes into a thirddown interception Warner nabbed about 20 yards down field. The 49ers immediately had their swagger back, and defensive players raced 60 yards to the end zone for a celebratory photo.
Earlier, the 49ers reclaimed the lead (13-10) on the first series after halftime, using Robbie Gould’s 42-yard field goal to cash in a drive including 5-of-5 passing from Garoppolo. Also on that drive was a 14yard run by Deebo Samuel, raising his game total to 53 rushing yards, the most by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history.
Kyle Juszczyk pulled the 49ers into a 10-10 tie when his 16-yard touchdown catch capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive 5:05 before halftime. Juszczyk, a Pro Bowl fullback and underrated receiver, caught the pass near his knees, spun and raced 12 yards after the catch to score, then Gould’s point-after kick squared things. The last 49ers fullback to score in a Super Bowl: William Floyd on this same field 25 years ago.
That game-tying drive started with five consecutive runs following an interception on the previous drive. Garoppolo improved to 39 of 42 for 461 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions in drives immediately following an interception this season. Bolsterting that drive were runs by Mostert (9, 11 yards), Samuel (16 yards) and Tevin Coleman (17 yards).
Just as fans clamored over a conservative ending to the first half, Garoppolo found Jeff Wilson for a 20-yard gain on thirdand-5, then came a 42-yard dime to George Kittle at the Chiefs’ 13, only to see officials nullify that bomb with a questionable offensive pass-interference penalty six seconds before halftime.
Garoppolo threw away the 49ers’ second possession. Bashaud Breeland intercepted a desperation pass from Garoppolo, who tried to avoid pocket pressure by Chris Jones and Mike Pennel. The Chiefs converted that turnover into a field goal and 10-3 lead.
Moore, in his first heroic act of the night, made a huge third-down pass breakup to force the Chiefs to settle for that field goal rather than a second straight touchdown drive. Hence, Kansas City led just 10-3 with 9:32 until the Jennifer Lopez and Shakira halftime show.
The Chiefs were just 1 of 6 on third-down plays before halftime, but 2 of 2 on fourth-and-1 situations (Damien Williams runs) that led to their first-half points.
The 49ers fell behind 7-3 on a Mahomes’ option keeper from 1 yard out with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Two snaps earlier, the Chiefs pulled their field-goal unit off the field and went for it on fourthand-1, with Williams converting to the 4. And prior to that, Jimmie Ward made a touchdown-saving tackle of a scrambling Mahomes at the 3, and even though Ward needed medical attention after the fumble-forcing hit, he was back on the field for the next snap.
Gould’s 38-yard field goal on the 49ers’ opening possession had given them a Super Bowl lead for the first time since their 1994 team won 49-26 on this same field 25 years ago against the then-San Diego Chargers.
Samuel provided the 49ers’ first offensive highlight, running 32 yards to the Chiefs’ 40-yard line on the 49ers’ third snap. Interestingly, on the 49ers’ third snap of their last Super Bowl win here 25 years ago, Jerry Rice caught a 44yard touchdown pass from Steve Young to spark a rout.
Mahomes’ first pass got deflected by Bosa as the young star was 12 of 18 for 104 yards in the first half. Earl Mitchell and DeForest Buckner shared the only first-half sack of Mahomes.