49ers' Kyle Shanahan, holding-prone Chiefs ideal fit in Super Bowl 54

49ers' Kyle Shanahan, holding-prone Chiefs ideal fit in Super Bowl 54

Moments before the snap of a fourth-quarter play in the NFC Championship Game, coach Kyle Shanahan gave the side judge near the 49ers’ bench a heads-up to get his flag ready.

Shanahan might have plenty of opportunities to do the same thing during Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.

After all, no team in the NFL was called for more penalties on pass plays during the regular season than the Kansas City Chiefs.

And the consistency with which referee Bill Vinovich’s crew calls those plays when the Chiefs are in man coverage against Kittle, as well as wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel, could be a factor in which team leaves Miami with the Lombardi Trophy.

Most of Kansas City’s pass-play infractions during the regular season were defensive holding infractions, on which the Chiefs topped the league with 21 penalties called against them with three being declined.

Meanwhile, the 49ers were called for defensive holding just eight times with two of those penalties being declined.

The Chiefs’ biggest culprits were starting cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward. Breeland was called for seven holding penalties, four for pass interference and one illegal use of hands, according to NFL statistics. Ward had eight flags thrown against him – seven holdings and one pass interference.

The 49ers faced an important third-and-3 play in the fourth quarter last week against the Green Bay Packers when Shanahan alerted side judge Eugene Hall that Kittle would run a 5-yard “out” route. On a segment on Inside the NFL, Shanahan can be heard telling the official that Kittle would make a move inside, and Green Bay defensive back Will Redmond would not let him break back to the outside.

That is exactly what happened, and official threw the flag. The 49ers picked up the first down and were able to drive into position for Robbie Gould’s field goal that gave them a commanding 17-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

Kittle said Shanahan told him the defensive back would play outside leverage. Shanahan told Kittle he would either make the reception or he would draw a penalty on the Packers defensive back.

“That's how he installed the play, too,” Kittle said. "So, yeah, that's what happened."

Shanahan said it is not uncommon for him to provide an official on his sideline with a pre-snap idea of what to expect.

“You just hope, when it's man-to-man coverage, you hope the play is on your sidelines so you can alert guys to stuff,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes it's tough for those guys, especially when you have switch releases and receivers moving in and out.

“So you just try to give them a heads-up where we're looking. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually it has to do with whether they (call) PI or not.”

[RELATEDHow Shanahan, Lynch make 49ers CEO York's job easier]

The Chiefs and 49ers were called for the same number of pass-interference penalties during the regular season. They tied for 17th in the league with 10 apiece. But the Chiefs gave up more yardage (227 yards) on those infractions than other team except the New York Jets (254).

Kansas City was called for two more pass-interference penalties in their first two playoff games – one apiece by Breeland and safety Tyrann Mathieu. The only 49ers’ penalty on a defensive back in the postseason came against cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for pass interference.

NFL rumors: League seeks to add seventh playoff team in each conference

NFL rumors: League seeks to add seventh playoff team in each conference

The NFL’s playoff structure is expected to change to reportedly include seven teams in both conferences to advance to the postseason.

The current proposal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, would add one playoff team in each conference and only the top seed in the AFC and NFC would be rewarded with byes in the first round of the playoffs.

The changes to the playoff format would take effect this season when the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. ESPN reports there is “mounting optimism” the new CBA will be agreed upon within the week.

Through last season, the top six teams in both conferences made the playoffs. If the playoff proposal had been in effect last season, the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers would have advanced to the playoffs as the Nos. 7 seeds.

As the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the 49ers would have still earned a first-round bye in the playoffs. But the Green Bay Packers, the No. 2 seed, would have played in the extra game against the Rams. If the Rams were to have upset the Packers in the wild-card round, the 49ers would have played Los Angeles in the NFC Divisional Playoff instead of the Minnesota Vikings.

But the new proposal would have had an even more major impact in the AFC, where the Kansas City Chiefs would have been forced to win three games in the playoffs just to advance to the Super Bowl.

"That's been agreed to for a long time," one source familiar with the CBA talks told ESPN about the NFL's new playoff structure. "There wasn't a lot of disagreement to that issue."

[RELATED49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel]

Players on the top team in each conference will receive postseason pay for the bye weekend, unlike years past, according to the report.

Also, ESPN reported that the sides are also trying to work through a proposal for a 17-game regular season, while the exhibition season is shortened to three games. The earliest that change could occur would be the 2021 season, according to the report.

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Deebo Samuel pleas for 49ers to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders in free agency

Before the 49ers officially had lost Super Bowl LIV to the Kansas City Chiefs, tight end George Kittle was already preaching they would be back next year.

But it didn't stop with him.

49ers players throughout the roster already are thinking of everything they can do to make another run at it, and that includes bringing back free-agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Fellow wideout Deebo Samuel made it clear Wednesday on Twitter that he wants to see the 49ers bring back the 32-year-old veteran.

Sanders showed his appreciation later Wednesday morning.

After coming over from the Denver Broncos via trade in October, Sanders excelled with the 49ers. He caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, and added five receptions for 71 yards in the postseason.

But Sanders could have been an even more critical part of 49ers lore, had it not been for Jimmy Garoppolo's overthrown pass with less than two minutes remaining in Super Bowl LIV. But it was not meant to be.

Sanders has been open about his love for the team that had just barely missed the championship and has spoken out about those second-guessing him due to his age. 

The receiver laughed at the fact that he has been "flying past 23-year-olds," and exhorted that he still has plenty of good years left in him.

[RELATED: Sanders offers advice to teammates playing in first Super Bowl]

He also embraced the youth the other wide receivers brought to the team, such as Samuel and Kendrick Bourne. Sanders loved the loose vibes of the 49ers' locker room and assisted the younger players in prepping for the big moments of the Super Bowl. 

Deebo surely noticed that and knows he wants his teammate back for the team's quest to make another Super Bowl run next season.