By HCR Staff | Feb. 10, 2020
We were wrong in our Super Bowl prediction of San Francisco 26-24 over the Chiefs. At 20-10 and a 49er lead in the 4th quarter, we were on track, but it wasn’t to be.
It was an entertaining game, and the Chiefs are deserving champions. Head Coach Andy Reid and GM Brett Veach deserve much credit for assembling a team full of top tier talent; it’s a recognition that X and O skills can only take a team so far.
At the end of the day, it’s much easier for any coach when he’s got superior talent to work with.
Here’s what jumped out at us in Super Bowl 54.
We aren’t second guessing Kyle Shanahan’s play calling at all. Much of the post-game analysis by other outlets has focused on some of Shanahan’s play calling; most notably a 2nd and 5 pass play and ahead 20-17 in the 4th quarter with 5:27 left. Shanahan also got criticism for sitting on the ball on the 49ers’ final possession of the first half in a tie game at 10-10. On the former, KC DT Chris Jones just made a good play, and on the latter circumstance, the 49ers would have ended up with points at the end of the first half if not for an iffy OPI call. After all, Shanahan had guided the 49ers to a 20-10 lead with 7:13 left in the game and the Chiefs facing a 3rd & 15. We’ll take that kind of coaching every day. The bottom line is that the 49er defense needed to get off the field in the play of the year for them. Which leads us to…
49ers DC Robert Saleh is a rising star, but still has room to improve. When a defense is handed a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter and a 3rd & 15 in the biggest game of the year, that defense has to get off the field – especially when the officials are letting the players play, which they were in this game. One of our concerns coming into the Super Bowl was the inexperience of Saleh, and on this play, it showed. The 49ers secondary is prone to some miscommunication, and certainly it happened on this play. For the defense to allow a receiver to get behind it with that down and distance simply is inexcusable, and that falls on Saleh.
Andy Reid is a great leader, which makes him a great coach, but is he a great tactician? It’s clear Andy Reid is Hall of Fame worthy, but we think most of his genius lies in his leadership, organizational, and developmental skills. In those areas, he takes a backseat to no one. As an in-game tactician, he still has room to improve. Consider that in every playoff game this past season, his team started with a double digit deficit. There’s no way he wants the game to develop this way; the facts are that during the biggest games, his team started slow and tight in every game. The performance of his team during this playoff run was an outlier, and we submit possible only because of the truly superior amount of talent the Chiefs have collected on offense. QB Patrick Mahomes is a physical outlier, as is WR Tyreek Hill. No other NFL team has such a combination. TE Travis Kelce is among the top 2-3 TEs, RB Damien Williams is among the top 2-3 receiving backs, and as a group, the KC WRs are the fastest in the league. Without such a collection, 3 comebacks from double digit deficits would not be possible, and it’s that kind of talent that can cover up tactical shortcomings.
Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo delivers again. We mentioned in our Super Bowl preview that Spagnuolo had valuable Super Bowl experience, and we felt it would reveal itself. Well, it did as Spagnuolo found the matchups along the trenches that favored the Chiefs. The 49ers interior OL had been playing beyond its abilities, and backup C Ben Garland and OG Mike Person struggled. Starting RT Mike McGlinchey also had his own difficulties. There was simply too much push into 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s face on critical downs, and we believe much credit goes to Spagnuolo’s diagnosis and design.