49ers players say they didn't know OT rules for Super Bowl
Some San Francisco 49ers players said following the team’s Super Bowl LVIII loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that they were unaware of the overtime rules that allowed for both teams to possess the ball.
It was the second Super Bowl to go into overtime — the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI in 2017 — but it was the first with the revised postseason overtime rules that ensured both teams would get the ball even if the first team to possess the ball scored a touchdown.
The Chiefs went on to beat the 49ers in a 25-22 thriller to win their third Super Bowl in five years.
“I didn’t even know about the new playoff overtime rule. It was a surprise to me,” 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead said after the game. “I didn’t know what was going on, in terms of that. They put it on the scoreboard and everyone was thinking, even if you score, they get a chance still.”
After the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker kicked a field goal with three seconds left in regulation to knot the score at 19, the game went to overtime. The first test run for the NFL’s overtime rule change would come under the brightest of spotlights. The 49ers won the overtime coin toss and coach Kyle Shanahan elected to receive the ball first.
“You know what? I didn’t even realize the playoff rules were different in overtime. I assume you just want the ball to score a touchdown and win,” Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk said, according to ESPN. “I guess that’s not the case. I don’t totally know the strategy there. We hadn’t talked about it, no.”
Shanahan prioritized setting the 49ers up with the ball on a potential all-important third possession of overtime if the game remained tied after each team’s opening drive. But it never got that far.
On their opening possession of overtime, the 49ers drove down the field but stalled inside the red zone. A Jake Moody field goal put San Francisco up 22-19 but left the door open for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Mahomes methodically led the Kansas City offense down the field before hitting Mecole Hardman for the game-winning, 3-yard touchdown.
“We went through all of the analytics,” Shanahan said after the game. “We wanted the ball third. If both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones who had a chance to go win.”
THE CHIEFS ARE BACK-TO-BACK SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/ZzfhTyUXg9
— NFL (@NFL) February 12, 2024
Since the 49ers lost, Shanahan has been subject to plenty of scrutiny from those on the outside looking in.
“He’s a pretty smart guy, so there’s got to be a reason why he did that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Shanahan’s decision to take the ball first. “Everybody’s got their own philosophy on it, and I get it. I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong way, but we felt you kick off first.”
It seemed apparent that Kansas City’s players were in lockstep with Reid’s strategy if the situation arose.
Mahomes said on ESPN after the game that the Chiefs would have deferred or kicked off if they won the toss in overtime. So they’d know what they needed. “We changed the rules, we can execute them both ways,” Mahomes said. “I don’t know how they’re going to change it this time.”
The counterargument is that if Shanahan had put his defense on the field first, the 49ers would’ve known whether they needed a field goal or touchdown to tie or win the game before their offense took the field. In theory, that would better position them to formulate an offensive approach.
Additionally, if the 49ers had kicked off and forced a Chiefs punt, they could have given their offense a shorter field to operate with. But that’s not how it worked out.
“We got that field goal,” Shanahan said. “So we knew we had to hold them to at least a field goal. If we did, we felt it was in our hands after that.”
(Photo: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)