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49ers fourth-quarter Super Bowl collapse will haunt Kyle Shanahan

Feb 2, 2020 at 8:49 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers held a 10-point lead over the Kansas City Chiefs with less than 10 minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV.

The Chiefs responded with 21 unanswered points, eventually pulling away with the 31-20 victory over the Niners, ensuring San Francisco would have to wait at least another year to secure the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Granted, the Chiefs have come from behind in each of their postseason wins this season. The Houston Texans got off to a red-hot start in the divisional round, only to see the Chiefs stage a crazed comeback. Then the Tennessee Titans held a lead in the AFC Championship game, too, yet Kansas City came back in that game.

But the narrative for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan might wind up being one of fourth-quarter collapses. It's not hard to find finger pointers blaming Shanahan for his offensive play calling when he was the coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons back in 2016, as that team ultimately squandered a 28-3 lead, only to lose to the New England Patriots 34-28 in Super Bowl LI.

Shanahan can't bear total responsibility for that loss, of course. Atlanta's defense, much like that of the 49ers on Sunday, wavered in the crucial moments, ultimately allowing New England to stage its epic comeback.

While the Chiefs' own comeback wasn't quite as epic, it does paint a rather ugly picture for Shanahan, as pointed out by ESPN's Stats and Information:

As noted, only three teams have gone on to lose a Super Bowl after holding a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Shanahan, for whatever the reasons, has been on the wrong side of two of those three instances.

And it will likely follow him until he pulls off a Super Bowl win of his own.

Again, few realistic 49ers fans would complain too much. After all, the Niners are miles away better and more prepared for a long-term run of success under Shanahan than they were at any point under former head coaches Jim Tomsula or Chip Kelly. And one could even make the argument Shanahan dialed up the perfect play for the 49ers to retake the lead late in the fourth quarter, only to see quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo overthrow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for what would have likely been a touchdown:

Still, there were mistakes from the play-calling vantage point. Shanahan will have to own those, and that's fine. And if those wind up being learning points in future seasons, ultimately ending with the Niners winning a Super Bowl in the near future, few will complain.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.

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