SANTA CLARA -- If 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has one regret about how he managed Super Bowl LIV, he wishes had used a timeout.
Shanahan on Thursday said he stood by his decision to let the clock run down at the end of the first half after the 49ers forced a Kansas City punt near midfield. But he said he wishes he had called a timeout to allow his wide receivers some additional rest before the fourth-down play late in the game.
Four days following the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Shanahan has been the subject of a lot of criticism for how his team let a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter slip away.
Shanahan said if faced with the same decisions, without knowing how things would turn out, he would make mostly the same coaching and game-management decisions.
General manager John Lynch was shown on TV from his suite signaling for a timeout with approximately 1:47 remaining in the first half after the 49ers forced a Kansas City punt in a 10-10 game.
“There’s not much I can do up there, but I got these guys’ backs,” Lynch said. “It’s not my role to do time management. I don’t focus a lot on it. I was proud of our guys getting a big stop and that was my initial reaction.
“That’s all it was. That was quickly erased when they almost pinned us at the half-yard line. Kyle knows that. I watched the game with emotion because I care. That’s all that was.”
Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt dropped 21 punts inside the 20-yard line this season with just three touchbacks. His punt deep into 49ers territory bounced inside the 5-yard line, but the Chiefs flubbed their opportunity to down the ball inside the 1-yard line.
“That was one of the reasons we were up by 10 points going into the fourth quarter,” Shanahan said. “Absolutely, I wouldn’t have called a timeout at that time because were expecting to be backed up inside the 10, just like we probably should’ve been at the 1. They messed that play up.”
The 49ers were going to get the ball to open the second half. Shanahan said his focus was on making sure his team, with at a field position disadvantage, did not give the ball back to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense before the end of the half.
“You’re not going to give the ball back to them, no matter what, in that situation,” Shanahan said. “The way he did that third and 15 at the end of the game is how he does a two-minute drive. I felt extremely good about how it went. Not using a timeout there was a no-brainer.”
The 49ers took over at their own 20-yard line with 59 seconds remaining in the half. On first down, Shanahan called a run play for Raheem Mostert to see if the 49ers could bring a long one.
“If we’d gotten an explosive run on the first one, it would’ve been a whole different deal,” Shanahan said. “But we got 2 ½ yards run. So the whole goal was to not let them call a timeout there. We hurried to the line to act like we were going, but then you don’t, so you can be sure Mahomes doesn’t have an opportunity.”
After another run play on second down set up a third-and-5 situation, Chiefs coach Andy Reid called a timeout with 20 seconds left. The 49ers picked up the first down on a 20-yard pass to Jeff Wilson out of the backfield, prompting the 49ers to call a timeout with 14 seconds left.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit George Kittle on a 42-yard pass to the Kansas City 13-yard line but the play was nullified when Kittle was flagged for offensive pass interference. Just like that, the 49ers scoring chance ended to keep the score at 10-10 entering the third quarter.
In handling the end-of-half situation, Shanahan maintained, “I was as confident in what we did in that situation as anything we’ve done all year.”
Shanahan was not as confident, in retrospect, with how he handled the situation after Garoppolo’s deep pass for Emmanuel Sanders sailed long to set up a fourth-and-10 play with 1:33 remaining.
Shanahan said he knew his receivers were tired, but he did not want to use a timeout because if the 49ers did not pick up the first down, he would be able to stop the clock three times and get the ball back for a desperation attempt in the final seconds.
But on the Chiefs’ second play after taking over, Damien Williams scored on a 38-yard touchdown run.
“In hindsight, I wish I’d call a timeout so they could recover a little bit more and have more energy to get away from what the DBs were doing,” Shanahan said.