Super Bowl 2024: 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan explains decision to take ball first to start overtime

After the overtime coin toss in Super Bowl LVIII, the San Francisco 49ers had an option: postpone the opening kickoff and hand the ball over to the Chiefs, giving their opponent the first chance to score but gaining the information advantage on their first possession. additional period; Or take the ball first, do your best to score a touchdown, and — if the game is tied after each team has possession of the ball — get the first shot in a potential sudden-death situation.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan decided to go with the latter strategy. His team then drove off the field with the first possession of overtime, but stalled and ended up kicking a field goal. They never got a chance to take possession of the ball in sudden death, as the Chiefs took possession down the field and scored a touchdown, with McCall Hardman winning the game for Kansas City on a 3-yard reception from Patrick Mahomes.

After the game, Shanahan explained his thought process.

“It’s just something we talked about,” Shanahan said in his postgame news conference. “None of us have a ton of experience [the new overtime rules]. But we went through all the analysis and talked to those people. We just thought it would be better. We wanted the third ball. If both teams match and score, we want to be the ones who have a chance to win. So he got that field goal, so knew we had to hold them to at least one field goal and if we did, we thought we had it in our hands after that.”

This was the first time an NFL game went to overtime with the new playoff overtime rules, which were changed after the Chiefs’ victory over the Buffalo Bills in the famous “13 seconds” AFC title game. Under the new rules, both teams have a chance to keep the ball in overtime, regardless of what happens on the first possession, unless it ends in a defensive score.

It can be argued that taking the ball first provides Shanahan with a detailed opportunity: the first chance to win in the event that both teams come away with the same number of points from their opening possession, setting up sudden death. Of course, it can also be argued that it is better to have information about what your opponent did in the initial possession, so that you can calibrate exactly how aggressive you want to be once you have possession of the ball.

This isn’t Shanahan’s first time making a Super Bowl decision.

As the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator in Super Bowl LI, Shanahan’s decision to continue throwing the ball with his team leading the Patriots in the second half was instrumental in New England’s comeback from a 28-3 deficit. In Super Bowl LIV, Shanahan chose not to attempt a last-minute drive in the first half, instead being content to go into halftime with the Chiefs. Kansas City eventually came back from down two points to win the game.

And on Sunday night, Shanahan chose not to use his timeout toward the end of the first half when the Chiefs had the ball in the red zone, robbing his team of a potential last-minute drive and a chance to extend their lead. Again, the Chiefs came back from two points down to win, this time in overtime, and after another Shanahan decision. We will have to see how his choice to take the ball affects the decisions teams make in the future. Having such a high-profile game end the way it did will surely have a big impact on other coaches.

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