MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- In his return trip to the Super Bowl, 49ers coach Kylle Shanahan experienced an all-too-familiar result.
The 49ers blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead Sunday night in the biggest game of the season, as Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes rallied his team to a 31-20 victory in Super Bowl LIV.
Shanahan was on the wrong end of another big Super Bowl comeback just three years earlier as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. He received a lot of criticism for his handling of the offense in a game in which the New England Patriots rallied from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to pull out an overtime victory.
The game brought a disappointing end to a remarkable season in which the 49ers won the NFC West and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The 49ers were just the third team to advance to a Super Bowl after winning four or fewer games the prior season. The 1999 St. Louis Rams are the only one of those teams that won a Super Bowl.
After winning their first five Super Bowl appearances in franchise history, the 49ers now have lost two consecutive league championship games. The 49ers lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens in February of 2013.
The 49ers remain with five Super Bowl titles, one behind both the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Chiefs’ Mahomes shows his magic
Patrick Mahomes is never out of it. And, now, coach Andy Reid is a Super Bowl champion.
He saved his best for last after earlier in the postseason rallying the Chiefs from 24- and 10-point deficits.
The 49ers held a 20-10 lead midway into the fourth quarter before Mahomes came up with a huge play on a third-and-15 situation when he flung a deep pass down the field for Tyreek Hill, who turned around 49ers deep safety Jimmie Ward.
The play picked up 44 yards and gave the Chiefs a first down at the San Francisco 21-yard line. Four plays later, Mahomes tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce to pull Kansas City within 20-17.
After a 49ers three-and-out, Mahomes went right back to work against a dragging defense.
Mahomes made another third-down play with a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Damien Williams to give the Chiefs a 24-20 lead with 2:44 left in regulation.
Mahomes finished the game completing 26 of 41 pass attempts for 286 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Garoppolo unable to lead comeback
Jimmy Garoppolo had a chance to lead his team down the field 85 yards for the win in the final minutes, but the 49ers’ offense could not get it done.
His best chance came on a third-and-10 play in which receiver Emmanuel Sanders had a step on a couple of Chiefs defenders, but Garoppolo badly overthrew him on a play that could have gone for a touchdown. Frank Clark dropped Garoppolo for a sack on fourth down.
Garoppolo completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 219 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Garoppolo threw a late interception. He also had one in the first half, but he rebounded from it.
With defensive tackle Mike Pennel bearing down on him, Garoppolo tried to get his pass out along the right sideline in the direction of Deebo Samuel. Perhaps, he tried to throw the ball out of bounds. But he could not get enough power behind the throw, and he left it out there for Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland to get the easy interception.
Garoppolo quickly has put such mistakes behind in the past. And he did it again on Sunday.
Garoppolo completed all three pass attempts on the 49ers’ next possession for 42 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
In drives after interceptions this season, Garoppolo completed 39 of 42 passes for 461 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 136.2 passer rating.
The drive was particularly important, as it pulled the 49ers into a 10-10 tie late in the second quarter and prevented Kansas City from taking control before the end of the first half.
Shanahan plays it cautiously
The 49ers knew they were getting the ball to start the second half, so they went to great measures to make sure they had the ball to end the first half.
After Fred Warner and Jaquiski Tartt made stops on second and third downs to force a Kansas City punt, Shanahan opted to not call a timeout with approximately 1:50 remaining in the first half. General manager John Lynch was shown in a booth signaling for Shanahan to call for a timeout.
Kansas City let the clock run down, and the 49ers took over at their own 20-yard line with 59 seconds remaining.
After run plays on first and second downs, Jeff Wilson caught a pass out of the backfield for a 20-yard gain. The 49ers’ chance to score points before the end of the first half ended when George Kittle was called for a questionable pass-interference penalty, which nullified a 42-yard pass play to the Kansas City 13.
The 49ers ended up taking a knee to run out the final seconds. Shanahan’s decision to play it safe could be seen as the coach lacking confidence in Garoppolo. Clearly, Shanahan did not want the Chiefs to have another opportunity to score before the end of the half.