Super Bowl Postmortem; Lamar Hunt
Twenty points was never going to be enough.
The 49ers played brilliantly for three and a half quarters in yesterday's Super Bowl, led the Chiefs 20-10, and had possession of the ball after an end zone interception, but it wasn’t enough.
Super Bowl LIV came down to a couple of long completions by Kansas City (Missouri) quarterback Patrick Mahomes—44 yards to Tyreek Hill, 38 yards to Sammy Watkins—to set up fourth quarter touchdowns, as the Chiefs came from behind to win 31-20.
The main difference in the game was Mahomes' mobility. He was able to escape pressure, extend plays, and give his receivers time to get open. The 44-yarder to Hill came on a crucial third-and-15 with the Niners up 20-10. A stop in that situation might’ve sealed it for San Francisco. Instead, Mahomes did his Houdini act and then found a wide-open Hill for the big gain that broke the 49ers' hearts.
Blame Game: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is being crucified for another fourth quarter collapse (he's also blamed for the Falcons' blown 28-3 lead to New England a few years ago). But he didn’t lose this game; Mahomes and the Chiefs won it.
Shanahan had a great year and, for the most part, a great game. My only complaint was that he didn't get the ball more to Deebo Samuel in the second half. The kid is amazing and was clearly faster than the Chiefs defenders. He might've broken one in the late going.
Garoppolo Report Card: At one point 49ers' QB Jimmy Garoppolo was 17 for 20 and on his way to the MVP award. But he continues to have problems with pocket awareness and lacks the mobility to escape pressure. That can be the difference between the good ones and the great ones, and it was the difference in this game.
Sherman Beaten: 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman is 31 and has lost a step. It was glaringly apparent on the 38-yard completion when Watkins basically just ran by him. Now that Emmanuel Sanders and Samuel have solved the 49ers’ receiving problem, a first-round pick for a speedy corner might be in order.
Officiating: All in all, the officials did a good job and stayed out of the way. But the ticky-tack offensive pass interference call on George Kittle just before halftime was inexcusable and cost the 49ers three points.
More Mostert: I'd have liked to see Raheem Mostert get the ball more (12 carries). After a five-yard gain on first down late in the game, why not give him the ball twice more to try to get the first down and run some more clock?
Bottom Line: It was a great year for SF. There was much to be proud of, particularly after a
4-12 record last year. The 49ers are a young team and should be back. Most of their players are under contract for the foreseeable future and have their best years ahead of them.
Congrats are in order for John Lynch, Paraag Marathe, Shanahan, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and the rest of the front office and coaching staff.
Lamar Hunt Memories: It was hard to watch yesterday's game and not think about Lamar Hunt. In addition to being the founder and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs (originally the Dallas Texans), he was the founder of the American Football League (AFL), helped orchestrate the NFL-AFL merger, and is credited with coining the term “Super Bowl.”
His Chiefs were beaten by the Green Bay Packers in the first Super Bowl in 1967, then won three years later over the Joe Kapp-led Minnesota Vikings. Last night’s victory ended a 50-year drought.
I had one brief but memorable interaction with Hunt. In 1985, a couple of years after I had left the Stanford Athletic Department, the Super Bowl was to be played in Stanford Stadium, yet all the activities and events leading up to the game were to be held in San Francisco. I didn't think that was right and felt that Stanford and Palo Alto were being slighted.
So my PR/advertising agency, CJC, organized and sponsored a fund-raising dinner for Stanford athletics a week prior to the game. I recruited Al Michaels as the emcee and all the Stanford NFL players from around the league to be honored. We worked hard and sold out the event at the Hyatt Palo Alto Hotel...800 tickets at $100 apiece.
Then a week before the dinner, the 49ers won the NFC Championship. Suddenly, our event was a very hot ticket. We could've easily sold another 1000 tickets, but decided to keep our commitment to the Hyatt and went ahead as planned. However, we recruited a number of the 49ers—Randy Cross, Dwight Hicks and several others—to appear at the dinner. It was a rousing success, our friend Les Burger and his team at the Hyatt did a superlative job, and Leonard Koppett wrote an article about it for the New York Times.
We gave Stanford all the proceeds after expenses and didn't take a dime. All we asked of Stanford and the NFL was the opportunity to buy 20 good tickets to the game. They agreed. So we sold 16 of the tickets on the secondary ticket market and profited very handsomely, keeping 4 to go to the game.
When my wife, Christy, and I got to our seats, we discovered we were on the aisle on the 40-yard line. Amazingly, we had some of the best seats in the house. We looked down at our wooden bench (partially covered by an Apple seat cushion) and mused that this wasn't the typical NFL venue with comfortable chairs and huge suites for VIPS.
A few minutes after we sat down a tall, distinguished looking gentleman walked down the aisle and stopped two rows in front of us. It was Lamar Hunt.
He looked down at the wooden benches, shook his head, looked up to the heavens and sighed, looked at those of us sitting around him and smiled sadly. Then he turned slowly to his wife, Nora, and said "Never again. Never again."