Miami, FL: Howard Marks, the famous investor, spoke in his recent letter about not judging the quality of a decision by the outcome. Crazy right? It’s all about results. Did you win or lose? Did you take her home or wind up with Harry Palmer? But Marks is not wrong. If you have trip aces on the flop and go all in, but some idiot who should have folded pre-flop pulls an inside straight on the river, does that mean it was a bad bet? If you have Patrick Mahomes and Sam Darnold as your fantasy football QBs, are you kicking yourself for starting Mahomes in a week where Darnold outplayed him? No and hell no, you make the most logical decision you can after careful consideration of the information you had available at the time. And even when it doesn’t work out, you can live with the results. Which brings me to Super Bowl LIV.
A popular narrative of the arm chair, Monday morning, fair weather QBs is that Kyle Shanahan blew the game with his overly aggressive play calling, just like he did in Atlanta’s 28-3 collapse against the Patriots. The 49ers were a running team that passed at the wrong time in the Super Bowl, proclaimed Sports Illustrated. I always get a kick at how a few random occurrences that easily could have gone the other way totally flip a post-game narrative.
The Niners had the ball up by three with about six minutes left. The Chiefs had just scored a TD and had the momentum. The Chiefs defense needed another stop to get the ball back for a potential game winning drive. Had San Fran been able to get some first downs, kill some clock and maybe get into the end zone, they are the champs.
The drive started with a five yard run by Mostert. We know what’s coming next, right? Some kind of misdirection, probably, but it’s going to be a running play. Their bread and butter. Nope, the Niners went play action and had Kittle open but the pass got batted down. The Niners were forced to pass again and after Garrapolo threw one to an empty spot on the field, the Chiefs were back in business.
The funny thing was Chris Jones knocked down the pass mainly because he got so little push on his pass rush that he was lucky if he made it across the line of scrimmage. Only because he did so poorly on his main job of rushing the QB was in good position to throw up his arm and knock down the pass.
Remember how we always knew what football coaches should have done? – Homer Simpson
Sure, a run would have been safer. How many coaches run it, punt, and cross their fingers in spots like that. But he was going for the kill shot and he missed. The play action pass had been working and it was there. Had Jones come up with a better push or if he didn’t get his hands up in time, we might be talking about how Mahomes didn’t get it done with two bad interceptions or the genius of Shanahan’s aggressive play calling.
It’s easy to marvel at Bill Belichick and his go-for-the-jugular late game mentality. But this is why so few coaches have the stones for doing it. If it doesn’t work out, the second guessers come hard. Most of them are the same guys who would have been criticizing him for conservative play calling had they given it to Mostert two more times in that sequence and gotten stuffed. But still, it’s easier to play it safe.
I don’t fault Shanahan for this one. Once the Mahomes train starts rolling, it’s hard to stop it. And the Niners still moved into KC territory on their final drive with a chance to win it. Had Jimmy G put a little bit more air on the bomb to Sanders, the narrative would have been been flipped again. Jimmy G outplays Mahomes! Though Mahomes probably would have had enough time in that scenario to get his team in FG range.
Shanahan couldn’t find the magic play to keep the drive moving. I will say to Shanahan, where was Deebo Samuel late in the game? The guy was looking like the MVP for a few quarters there but they seemed to forget about him late.
Andy Reid also deserves credit for the key play call on the 44-yard completion to Tyreek Hill on third and 15. Reid knew the Niners secondary would be looking for the quick one move, mid-range route. Teams don’t have time for much else against that furious pass rush. He also knew Saleh was unlikely to blitz. If his O-line could hold up, Hill would have time to make a second move and turn his skinny post to the sideline. He was wide open.
So kudos to Reid. But why was his wife pushing her way into all of his post-game interviews? That was weird.
The 49ers lost the game. Their secondary isn’t the best and Jimmy G is not Patty M. Live with it, but don’t blame the play calling.
Anyway, it was a great Super Bowl. I almost wish it were a best of three series. Come back tomorrow for my man Angry Ward, who won’t shut up about the half time show. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.