49ers players admit they did not know overtime rules in Super Bowl loss to Chiefs

San Francisco’s decision to get the ball first in overtime during their Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs will be up for debate all offseason. That investigation will become even stricter after some 49ers players admitted they were unaware of the new rules regarding extensions.

For years, overtime ended as soon as one team scored. The rule was then changed so that either team could possess the ball unless the first team to offend scored a touchdown. In that case, the game would end on that TD, which is what happened when New England beat Atlanta 34-28 in Super Bowl 51.

But the latest rule change dictates that both teams can possess the ball in the postseason, even if the first attacking team scores a touchdown. Now, the NFL playoffs overtime resembles the college OT format even more, with teams alternating possessions. And in college, teams often like to have the ball second because they have a better idea of ​​what they need on their drive.

On Sunday, the 49ers took the ball in overtime and drove for a field goal, only to lose 25-22 when Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City 75 yards the other way for the winning touchdown on Sunday night. If they had known three points wouldn’t be good enough, they could have gone for a touchdown in that spot.

This time, Kansas City had that advantage, meaning the Chiefs had no choice but to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 34, trailing by three. They converted and finally reached the end zone on a three-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman.

“That’s something we talked about,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “None of us have much experience with it.”

However, some 49ers players said they were unaware of the rule. “I didn’t even know about the new overtime rule in the playoffs, so it was a surprise to me,” San Francisco defensive lineman Arik Armstead said. “I didn’t even know what exactly was going on.”

Shanahan said he talked to his analytics team about overtime scenarios before Sunday’s game. That discussion does not seem to have reached at least some of his players.

“You know what? I didn’t even know the playoff rules were different during overtime,” said Harvard graduate Kyle Juszczyk. “I guess you just want the ball to score a touchdown and win. I guess that’s not is the case. I don’t really know the strategy there. We hadn’t discussed it yet, no.”

Kansas City’s players, on the other hand, said they were aware of the new regulations.

“We’ve been talking about new overtime rules for two weeks,” defensive tackle Chris Jones said. “Give the ball to the opponent. If we score, we go for (a two-point conversion).”

Safety Justin Reid said the Chiefs had conversations about the rule change dating back to training camp. “We’ve been talking about it all year,” Reid said. “We talked during training camp about how the rules were different in the regular season versus the playoffs. We talked about the overtime rule every week during the playoffs.”

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid admitted that even with planning and knowledge of the rules, it is not clear what the right tactic is.

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“There are two ways: you initiate it or you receive it,” Reid said. “I’m not sure there’s necessarily a right answer. Ours turned out to be the right one in the end. We thought that was the right thing to do.”

One defense of San Francisco’s decision to take the ball concerns what happens if the game is still tied after both teams have had possession of the ball. Then the game becomes sudden death – so there is a clear potential advantage in having the ball third. If the game was still tied after the first two possessions, the 49ers would have had the ball and any score would have won the championship.

“We went through all the analytics and talked to those guys,” Shanahan said. “We wanted the ball third. If both teams were evenly matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones with a chance to win.”

As for Armstead, he said he first became aware of the rules while watching the stadium’s video screens.

“They put it on the scoreboard and everyone said, ‘Oh, even if you score, they still get a chance,’” Armstead said.