49ers

Patrick Mahomes reveals how 49ers' coverage allowed Super Bowl-changing play

Patrick Mahomes reveals how 49ers' coverage allowed Super Bowl-changing play

It was the defining play of Super Bowl LIV. 

With Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs down 10 and looking helpless against the 49ers' defense, the 24-year-old wunderkind evaded pressure on third-and-15 midway through the fourth quarter, stepped up and threw a high-arching dime to receiver Tyreek Hill. The 44-yard pass set the Chiefs up at the 49ers' 22-yard line. They would score four plays later, cutting San Francisco's lead to 20-17. Three-and-a-half minutes later, they found pay dirt again, had the lead and all the momentum en route to a 31-20 win at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

It was the deep connection to Hill that got the Chiefs' high-octane offense ramped up. But how did a 49ers' defense that had been nearly impenetrable all game allow the explosive play? 

As Mahomes explained to NBC Sports' Peter King, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley's coverage dictated that Hill would have a favorable matchup, allowing the Chiefs to turn the tide.

The play, "Gun trey right, 3 Jets Chip Wasp Y Funnel," had Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce bunched to the left. Hill ran a deep-post corner, Watkins a 16-yard in and Kelce a deep slant. The Chiefs had seen the 49ers' coverage before and Mahomes knew that if Moseley went with Watkins across the formation then he would have Hill matched up with safety Jimmie Ward.

"We had talked about that play kinda throughout the game," Mahomes told King. "We thought it was good versus the defense that they were playing. I just kinda asked. I asked [offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy], do you think we have enough time in the pocket to run this long-developing play? He asked me if I wanted it on first down, or with down and distance. I just told him, I don’t care about the D&D, I wanna run this play."

With the officials reviewing a completed pass on second down, the Chiefs were able to run through what they wanted to do on third-and-15 and fourth down, should they not convert on third down.

“With that little bit of a break we had, when they were reviewing the catch, we were able to talk through all scenarios," Mahomes said. "I had already talked with coach [Andy] Reid and coach [Mike] Kafka and EB. They had told me, if we [don’t] get after this right now, we’re going for it [on fourth down] ... If I don’t have Tyreek or Sammy on these two routes, let’s get it straight to that check down and give ourselves a chance at fourth down. I think that having that little bit of time and being able to discuss with the coaches what our plan was, it gave us a good game plan to go out there and execute at a high level on a crucial down in the game.”

Moseley, of course, followed Watkins across the formation, and Hill beat Ward out of his break, allowing Mahomes to hit him for the biggest play of the game and spark a Chiefs' offense that had been dormant all game. 

[RELATED: 49ers' INT celly sparked Chiefs' SB comeback, Butker says]

The 49ers might have been in a lose-lose situation on the play. Had Moseley stayed with Hill, Mahomes likely has Watkins on the in-cut for a first down, albeit for a much shorter gain.

“If [Moseley] doesn’t stay there,” Mahomes said, “I throw that for the first down ... Once I saw Tyreek get 1-on-1 with the safety, I mean, that’s a matchup that I’m gonna take every time.”

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks is not shy about reaching out to his former NFL team to provide tips on college prospects he knows well.

Hanks, who played eight seasons with the 49ers (1991-98) and won a Super Bowl, is the Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA, which consists of 14 football-playing universities.

“We want to make sure and give our young men every opportunity to be viewed by NFL clubs,” Hanks said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “So I tend to call my peer group around the NFL to make sure they’re paying attention to our players.

“Oh, I bug everybody, (including) the 49ers with John Lynch and Martin Mayhew, that whole staff. They do a great job of sourcing talent from Division III all the way up to the (power five). They go to where the good players are, and we have some good players in the conference.”

The 49ers have six players from Conference USA on their roster, including such draft picks as safety Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), and receivers Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) and Richie James (Middle Tennessee State).

The 49ers signed quarterback Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi) as an undrafted rookie in 2017, and he started eight games for the club in 2018.

One of the top prospects from Conference USA this year is Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, who undoubtedly is on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers will be looking to add a tight end in the draft to pair with George Kittle. Bryant was the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football.

“He reminds me of Brent Jones,” Hanks said, “a good pass-catching tight end and a willing blocker.”

Hanks also mentioned defensive back Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech. Hanks envisions Robertson overcoming his less-than-ideal size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) to carve out a 10-year NFL career with a playing style that reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu.

With the restrictions on private workouts and pro days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanks said he believes the college athletes from Conference USA or from any college program who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are at an inherent disadvantage this year.

“Those players are in a bit of a tough spot, in the sense that teams won’t be able to circle back and get on campus and really take a look at them,” Hanks said.

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One Conference USA prospect who might not suffer from not being invited to the combine is Middle Tennessee defensive end Tyshun Render.

New England coach Bill Belichick went to campus in late-February to pace Render through a workout while most of his NFL peers were in Indianapolis for the combine.

“Conference USA has been fortunate,” Hanks said. “We’re a football-playing conference in every sense. We put a lot of resources toward football and NFL clubs understand that they can come get good players.”

49ERS FROM CONFERENCE USA
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
RB Jeff Wilson Jr., North Texas

Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?

riceap.jpg
AP

Jerry Rice still holds three major NFL records, but will they ever be broken?

When Jerry Rice retired before the 2005 season, he was the unquestioned greatest receiver in NFL history. Many even viewed him as the greatest player of all time. 

Rice certainly still holds that title for receivers and is in the debate among all players. The question now is, will anyone break Rice's three major receiving records?

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio and NBC Sports' Peter King recently asked that exact question, so it's time for us to do the same.

The former 49ers star -- yes, he also played for the Raiders -- finished his career with the most receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197) in NFL history. If you include his rushing touchdowns, Rice actually had 207 total TDs. 

Let's start with career receptions, which has a real chance of being broken. It all depends on how long Larry Fitzgerald continues to play. 

Fitzgerald is No. 2 on the all-time list with 1,378, putting him 171 receptions behind Rice. The 36-year-old signed a one-year contract in January to come back for his 17th season with the Arizona Cardinals. He had 75 receptions last season in quarterback Kyler Murray's rookie year last season. 

Fitzgerald actually might be in line for a bigger season this year -- if the NFL even has a season. Murray will be in his second season under coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins could free up Fitzgerald.

If Fitzgerald continues to sign one-year deals with Arizona, there's a real chance he could surpass Rice's record. But that's a big if. Rice should hold onto the record for years to come if Fitzgerald only has another year or two in his tank.

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To no surprise, Fitzgerald is second in career receiving yards but is 5,812 yards behind Rice. Yeah, that's not going to happen. 

Julio Jones, 31, already has 12,125 receiving yards and has averaged 1,347 through his first nine years. Hopkins, 27, has 8,602 yards through seven seasons and has averaged 1,229 receiving yards per year.

For comparison, Rice averaged 1,090 receiving yards but that was over 20 years. If anyone has a chance, however small it might be, it's Julio. Good luck on maintaining that pace for another 10 years.

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And finally, there are the touchdowns. That record isn't going anywhere. Jones has 57 career receiving TDs and Hopkins has 54. Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans have 48. From 1986 to '96, Rice averaged 13.7 receiving touchdowns. He scored nine at 39 years old with the Raiders. 

Rice simply was a machine. A 17-game schedule could help players like Fitzgerald, Jones and Hopkins get within range of Rice, but don't expect the greatest receiver of all time see his records fall.