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49ers grades in crushing overtime Super Bowl LVIII loss to Chiefs

49ers grades in crushing overtime Super Bowl LVIII loss to Chiefs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

LAS VEGAS — The 49ers picked the wrong team to try to defeat with an imperfect playoff performance.

The Kansas City Chiefs proved once again they have what it takes to win Super Bowls.

Again, the 49ers were unable to get across the finish line.

The 49ers made some critical mistakes and failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities to take control.

They left Patrick Mahomes with enough of an opening for him to make the big plays when needed for a 25-22 overtime victory in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

“It was small things everywhere, I thought, all three phases,” 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “We did things that weren’t characteristic to what we usually do as a team and I think in the end that’s what hit us and it was too much to overcome.”

Here is the 49ers’ final report card of the season:

Rushing offense

The Chiefs stacked the box to take away Christian McCaffrey, and they largely succeeded. He had 22 rushing attempts for 80 yards, managing just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.

McCaffrey, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, was responsible for a costly miscue. He fumbled on the 49ers’ first possession after the offense moved the ball inside the Kansas City 30-yard line on just four plays.

That giveaway likely prevented the 49ers seizing momentum from the beginning of the game. The game remained scoreless through one quarter.

Grade: D-plus

Passing offense

The 49ers struggled in two areas in which they were among the best in the league during the regular season. They did not fare well against the blitz and they did not finish enough drives with touchdowns.

“I think we have the team, the offense, to score touchdowns,” quarterback Brock Purdy said. “And I think I failed to put our team in position to do that.”

Purdy completed 23 of 38 pass attempts for 255 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked just once, but he rarely threw from a clean pocket.

McCaffrey had 80 yards on eight receptions, including a 21-yard touchdown off a pass from receiver Jauan Jennings.

Jennings caught four passes for 42 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown that briefly gave the 49ers the lead.

The 49ers did not get much production from Deebo Samuel or George Kittle. Samuel had three catches for 33 yards, while Kittle caught just two passes for 4 yards.

The 49ers converted on just 3 of 12 (25 percent) third-down chances.

Grade: C

Rushing defense

Mahomes’ running ability crushed the 49ers late in the game. He gained big yards on some designed runs and some scrambles.

The 49ers had a chance to close out the game on a fourth-and-1 play in overtime, but Mahomes kept the ball for an 8-yard gain.

Mahomes’ 19-yard scramble led to the winning points just three plays later.

The 49ers did a good job against Kansas City running back Isaiah Pacheco, limiting him to just 59 yards on 18 carries for a 3.3-yard average.

The 49ers had a run stuff after Kansas City called a timeout with 11:46 left in the third quarter before a third-and-1 play. Javon Kinlaw stopped Pacheco for no gain to force a punt. It could have been a big play . . . if the 49ers’ offense gave it right back on a three-and-out.

Fred Warner led the 49ers with 13 tackles.

Grade: C-plus

Passing defense

Through 60 minutes of regulation, the 49ers’ defense allowed Kansas City to score only one touchdown. And that came on the play after a muffed punt gave them the ball at the 16-yard line.

The 49ers did a good job of limiting the damage against Mahomes, and rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown had an interception on the first series of the third quarter.

The 49ers’ pass rush got some pressure on Mahomes to make him uncomfortable, at times. Chase Young, Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave picked up sacks, and Young also forced Mahomes into an intentional grounding penalty.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw sustained a torn Achilles in the first half. After that, the 49ers had a difficult time containing tight end Travis Kelce. He had one catch for 1 yard in the first half. In the second half, Kelce had eight receptions for 92 yards.

The Chiefs brought the game to an end when Mahomes hit Mecole Hardman on an easy 3-yard touchdown pass in overtime.

Grade: B

Special teams

This game turned when the 49ers made a critical miscue on special teams. Late in the third quarter, a short punt hit the leg of 49ers rookie Darrell Luter as he was blocking for return man Ray-Ray McCloud.

McCloud tried to gather in the football, but he could not get a firm grip on it. The Chiefs recovered at the 49ers’ 16-yard line and immediately turned it into a touchdown.

The 49ers left one point on the table when rookie kicker Jake Moody’s extra point attempt was blocked early in the fourth quarter. Instead of taking a 17-13 lead, the 49ers were up 16-13. Kicker Harrison Butker tied the game on the Chiefs next possession.

Moody, however, made a couple of long field goals to become the first kicker in Super Bowl history to connect on two attempts of 50-plus yards. He made kicks of 55 and 53 yards.

Grade: D

Coaching

We’ll start off with Kyle Shanahan’s decision to receive the kickoff to open overtime. That was 100-percent the correct call.

The 49ers’ defense was on the field for 11 plays at the end of regulation, so they needed a breather. And with the new overtime rule, if the score is tied after both teams have one possession of overtime, the game becomes sudden death. The team that gets the ball first in OT has that advantage.

And, remember, the Chiefs had not scored a touchdown all game when they had a long field.

The 49ers’ offense started strong, gaining 46 yards on the first four plays of the game before McCaffrey’s fumble.

Later, Shanahan dialed up a trick play with Jennings throwing to McCaffrey to account for the first touchdown of the game.

And the defense through most of regulation seemed to have all the answers in going up against the Chiefs’ offense, too.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had the right coverages and combination of blitzes to lead to busted protections and some hesitation from Purdy. The 49ers had an opportunity to create some separation but three three-and-outs to open the third quarter proved costly.

Shanahan made a decision that worked out when he went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Kansas City 15 in the fourth quarter. Purdy hit Kittle, and the 49ers scored a touchdown three plays later to take the lead.

On defense, the 49ers repeatedly kept Kansas City out of the end zone. But when the Chiefs needed something big, it was often Mahomes’ legs and not his arm that did the job. The 49ers needed to be more aware of Mahomes’ running threat.

Grade: C

Overall

The Chiefs are once again the NFL's best team. The 49ers made the final four in all but one of the past five seasons. But they have only two Super Bowl appearances — both losses — to show for it.

Everyone knew it was going to take a cleaner game than what the 49ers showed in the NFC side of the playoff bracket to beat the Chiefs.

And that did not happen. There is a thin margin for error when it comes to facing Mahomes.

In their playoff victories over Green Bay and Detroit, the 49ers did enough good things in all phases to pull out victories.

In Super Bowl LVIII, they made too many negative plays in all areas to prevent them from winning it all.

Grade: C-minus

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