The Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII thanks to a game-winning touchdown pass by Patrick Mahomes with seconds remaining in the first overtime. However, what led to that moment apparently goes back to training camp.
The NFL adopted new playoff overtime rules in 2022, ensuring that both teams got possession of the football and creating the opportunity for more exciting finishes. Under the new rule, overtime would be a 14-minute period instead of the previous 10-minute OT.
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Another difference is how the clock works, with overtime effectively serving as a new game. If the clock expires and the team that started on defense is now in possession of the football, they get to complete their drive. Most importantly, however, teams would want to start on defense because it gives them the knowledge of what they need to do on their offensive drive to tie or win the game. However, the 49ers and Chiefs had different understandings of the rules.
Chiefs, 49ers had vastly different understandings of playoff OT rules
As detailed by Lindsay Jones of The Ringer, the new playoff overtime rules in the Super Bowl were handled very differently by the Chiefs and 49ers. Kansas City went over the new OT rules for the postseason in training camp, reminding their players about how it works and why they should want the football on the second possession so they have more control over the outcome.
“We talked through this for two weeks. How we was going to give the ball to the opponent; if they scored, we was going for two at the end of the game. We rehearsed it.”Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones on wanting to defend to begin OT in the Super Bowl
That is a vastly different scenario compared to San Francisco. After the game, several 49ers players told reporters that they weren’t aware of the new overtime rules for the NFL playoffs. They assumed it was like any other OT with a touchdown winning the game.
“I guess that’s not the case. I don’t really know the strategy.”San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk on his assumption of OT rules, Kyle Shanahan’s decision
Shanahan defended his decision in the post-game press conference. The 49ers’ coach argued that San Francisco wanted the third possession of overtime, with that possession giving them a chance for a game-winning score.
The problem for Shanahan was that he made the exact decision the Chiefs wanted him to make. Kansas City knew if it held the 49ers’ offense to a third-down stop or even limited them to a field goal, Mahomes would have a shot to win the game on the Chiefs’ possession. That’s exactly what happened, creating another addition to the growing list of poor decision-making from Shanahan in the playoffs.