Tyreek Hill

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. 

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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.”

49ers credit Chiefs for calling 'great' play on crucial third-and-15

49ers credit Chiefs for calling 'great' play on crucial third-and-15

SANTA CLARA -- San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward has watched the Super Bowl a lot. From the time the game ended on Sunday night through late Wednesday morning, he said he had already viewed the game film 10 times.

“I just like watching it,” Ward said, three days after the 49ers’ 30-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

He likes watching it?

“I’m a film type of guy,” Ward explained, “so I just watch the film and then I try to put myself in the opposing quarterback’s head: 'What is he thinking on this play?' ”

The play that everyone on the 49ers’ defense will remember was third-and-15. The Chiefs were down, 20-10, with 7:13 remaining, when Patrick Mahomes dropped back and looked deep for Tyreek Hill.

“It was the right call, a perfect throw and a great catch,” Ward said. “Me, being in the middle of the field, I really couldn’t get over.”

Ward said his main responsibility was to take away the deep throw to the middle of the field. Hill ran a post, then turned it into a corner route. Mahomes got rid of the ball a split-second before DeForest Buckner hit him.

Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley was apparently responsible for deep ball on that side of the field. But he followed Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins toward the middle on an underneath route. Mahomes left his pass for Hill short, but Moseley was not in position to get back in time to defend the play. And Ward did not have time to reverse direction to range toward the sideline to break it up.

Moseley, who has yet to re-watch the video of the game, did not delve into the specifics of the third-and-15 play.

“Eventually, I’ll watch it,” Moseley told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Right now, it’s kind of hard. I’ll watch it in about a week and get the things corrected that need to be corrected.

“I don’t really replay it in my head. Things happen. You just got to learn from it and move on from it. They got us on a play. It was a great play call by them. Things have to be better executed and once we do that, we’ll be fine.”

The 49ers surrendered only one pass play of more than 20 yards through 3 ½ quarters, but the Chiefs’ team speed had its first real impact on that play in which Hill hauled in a 44-yard pass on the game’s most critical play.

Ward said he had to respect the speed of the Chiefs wide receivers to turn and run any time they broke into the deep middle.

“The only (way) I was going to play that better is if I would’ve guessed,” Ward said. “I didn’t have any choice. I had to open my hips because, 17 (Mecole Hardman) or 10 (Hill), even 14 (Watkins), you can’t let them run up on you. You have to flip your hips. If you don’t flip your hips, they’ll run past you.”

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It was a difficult end to the season for Moseley, who proved he is more than capable of being a starting cornerback on a Super Bowl team. He replaced Ahkello Witherspoon after an injury early in the season. Then, Moseley was back in the starting lineup in the postseason when Witherspoon struggled.

Now, Moseley heads into the offseason as the presumptive starting right cornerback for 2020. And he said he knows he room to be an improved player next season.

“I want to be a better me on the field,” Moseley said. “I just want to be a better teammate and do everything I can to make sure everything on the field is executed right, everything on the field goes right.

“It definitely gives me motivation. I’m ready to attack this offseason, and I’m ready to provide a lot more next year.”

Chiefs' speedsters will keep 49ers' K'Waun Williams busy in Super Bowl

Chiefs' speedsters will keep 49ers' K'Waun Williams busy in Super Bowl

MIAMI, Fla. -- Nickel back K’Waun Williams figures to be a busy man on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV for the 49ers.

The Kansas City Chiefs primarily feature three-wide receiver offensive personnel groupings, which will require the 49ers to be in their nickel defense for most of the game. Williams’ main responsibility consists of covering the opponent’s slot receiver.

“They put everyone in the slot,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of variety. I’ll probably be matched up against everybody.

“They’re all speedy. They all got great routes. They’re all dynamic with the ball in their hands.”

The Chiefs' top slot receivers during the regular season were Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. Hill is Kansas City’s top deep threat. He caught 26 passes from the slot for 347 yards and three touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Watkins had 25 receptions from the slot for 297 yards.

Williams has distinguished himself in the three seasons he has been with the 49ers. Coach Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believe he is the best nickel back in the league, due mainly to his ability to tackle.

The 28-year-old describes nickel back as a “niche position” because of the unique demands of covering shifty receivers who specialize in getting open quickly.

“It’s just finding a way, taking great angles and just being able to get your hands on somebody and wrap them and take them down to the ground from their legs or an up-high tackle,” Williams said. “You just got to be able to find your spots and tackle guys.”

Williams played 328 snaps in coverage during the regular season, and he allowed just 323 yards receiving with no touchdowns and two interceptions, according to PFF. When he was targeted, his passer rating against was an outstanding 69.3.

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The 49ers’ pass defense faces a major challenge against the Chiefs wideouts and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Williams’ play will be a key in slowing down Kansas City’s explosive passing game.

“For us as a whole unit, it’s important for us to just go out and do what we’ve been doing since we got here,” Williams said. “Playing hard, eyes on our keys and be disciplined and making plays that got to be made. And guys are executing at a very high level right now.”

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.