Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Super Bowl 2020: Seven unheralded plays that swung the outcome toward the Chiefs

Taking a deeper dive into Super Bowl LIV by examining the under-the-radar plays that swung the game toward Kansas City

·         by Sean Wagner-McGough
·         Feb 5, 2020 at 3:11 pm ET • 12 min read

At one point late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, as they tried to salt away the clock and runaway with a 10-point lead, the 49ers' win probability hovered above 95 percent. They wound up losing by 11 points after Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored touchdowns on three straight drives in a five-minute window late in the fourth quarter. Obviously, to squander a 10-point lead and fall behind by 11 points in a span of five minutes, mistakes had to have been made by the 49ers. This wasn't just a case of one or two plays changing the outcome of the game. A whole lot had to go wrong for the 49ers to lose.

We all know about the 44-yard completion from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill on third-and-15 that sparked the comeback. We know about Sammy Watkins burning Richard Sherman for 38 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown. We know about the game-winning touchdown itself, a real-life example of how football really is a game of inches. We know about Frank Clark's sack to end the 49ers' short-lived attempted game-winning drive. And we know about the Damien Williams touchdown run that officially sealed the result. 

But what about the plays that won't be remembered years down the line? What about everything that transpired in between those moments, the unheralded plays that swung the game in favor of the Chiefs and away from the 49ers? All of the aforementioned plays were game-changers, but those plays were only made possible due to a confluence of events. A few smaller plays also had to go in the Chiefs' favor.

Could Kansas City be starting a dynasty? What does the future look like for the 49ers? Brady Quinn and Jonathan Jones join host Will Brinson to answer those questions and much more on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.

With that in mind, let's run through seven under-the-radar plays that shifted Super Bowl LIV. But first, it's worth noting that the following plays were not considered because they were deemed to be plays that everyone will already remember for the rest of time. In other words, the plays listed below aren't unheralded:

·        All of the scoring plays
·        All of the interceptions
·        Both of the Chiefs' fourth-down conversions in the first half
·        Kyle Shanahan not using his timeouts at the end of the first half (you can read about that here
·        Third-and-forever: How Mahomes and Hill sparked the Chiefs' comeback (you can read an in-depth breakdown of that play, with commentary from players and coaches, by clicking here)
·        Mahomes' downfield completion to Watkins on the following drive
·        Clark's sack of Garoppolo on fourth down to end the 49ers' attempted game-winning drive

With that, we begin with the first play of the fourth quarter. From there, the list will unfold chronologically.

6. Pressure forces Garoppolo into a bad decision
Let's go back to that third down, though, because there was actually an opening for the 49ers to exploit. On the third-and-5, the Chiefs sent six rushers. The last of those six, Ben Niemann, came on a delayed blitz. He timed it perfectly, shot through the gap, and hit Garoppolo as he essentially threw the ball away.

There was an open man on the play. Once again, it was Kittle over the middle.

He was open before pressure arrived.

Garoppolo didn't see him. The pressure arrived. And the Chiefs got the stop they needed.

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