The Kansas City Chiefs were stunned after their 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, but even more so, they were surprised at the how the referees called the game.
During the 49ers' matchup with the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, referees only called nine penalties throughout the game. Only four calls went against the Chiefs for 24 yards, while the 49ers were penalized five times for 45 yards.
On Sunday, the referees called 15 total penalties for 159 yards, which was a stark contrast to last year. The Chiefs were stung for 11 of those calls for 120 yards. After the game, defensive tackle Chris Jones noted the difference between the two games.
“I was very surprised,” Jones said. “This is the Super Bowl. Usually you let the guys play especially in the biggest game of the year. Penalties changed the game. We had penalties for 100 yards. That speaks volumes, especially in the biggest game of the year.
“Penalties affect the game one thousand percent. What can I say. We got a lot of penalties called on us today.”
In Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers headed into the locker room at the half after George Kittle was called for offensive pass interference. The penalty negated a 42-yard play that would have set Robbie Gould up for an easy field goal and a 13-10 lead.
Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson was covering Kittle on that play. While he was not called for a penalty in Super Bowl LV, many of his defensive teammates were, which kept drives alive for the Buccaneers.
“I don’t know if I can say I was surprised or not,” Sorenson said. “It is what it is, and there’s nothing you can do as a player other than just do your job. You play your techniques and sometimes the calls don’t go your way.
“The calls were called and there’s nothing we can control about that.”
In 2019, the Chiefs were called for defensive holding 18 times for 87 yards during the regular season, which was the highest in the league. They also were called 11 times for defensive pass interference, costing them 250 yards, the third-highest in the league.
Things did not change much in 2020 as the Chiefs racked up 17 defensive pass interference calls -- the third-most in the NFL -- for 244 yards, and 10 defensive holding calls for 49 yards, which also was the third-most in the league. This season, however, the calls were consistent in the final game of the season.
“It definitely affects it,” Mahomes said. “When you have penalties in football games, especially when you’re struggling and you’re a playing a really good defense, it’s hard to continue to keep drives going and get in the end zone.
“You don’t want to say it affects you but you go out there and you play your heart out. You just want to go out there and try to find a way to win and try to stay away from those penalties.”
Of course the penalty from the 49ers' loss in Super Bowl LIV that incensed 49ers fans the most was the lack of an offensive holding call on Nick Bosa late in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were facing 3rd-and-15. It kept the Chiefs' drive alive, leading to a touchdown to put Kansas City within three points of the 49ers.
The Chiefs getting a dose of their own medicine might ease the pain just slightly for the 49ers and their fans, but until a sixth Lombardi Trophy resides in Santa Clara, the bitter taste never will really disappear.