Fine margins leave a lifetime of Super Bowl what ifs for San Francisco 49ers
Losing the Super Bowl always hurts. The San Francisco 49ers’ 25-22 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday will hurt more than most. It will result in a lifetime of ‘ifs’.
Most Super Bowls are decided by narrow margins. Lady luck always plays a part. But even by ordinary standards, Sunday’s game was unique. Squint hard enough, and the Niners are champions today, planning their parade route. Instead, they’re the NFL’s almost-team, a supporting role in the Chiefs’ historic narrative.
“There’s no right words right now,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said following the game. “It hurts.” This should have been their time, and that is what will hurt the most. The Chiefs were flawed contenders, with a shaky attack backed up by one of the league’s finest defenses. With an early lead, the game was yours to take.
And they jumped out. In the first quarter, a San Francisco defense that had weakened during the season was at its oppressive best. When the Chiefs needed huge plays to get the offense off the field, San Francisco’s pass rush delivered. They limited the Chiefs to three points before Usher had time to skate across the stage for the halftime show.
More importantly, Brock Purdy delivered the game that the 49ers had hoped for. Purdy appeared at ease on the largest platform of his sport, poised, accurate, and playing his role as a creator. For extended stretches, the second-year starter was the calmest player on the field. He was dynamite in the game’s first quarter.He completed eight of his ten passes to six different receivers. He also remained composed as the game became more intense in the fourth quarter and overtime. He delivered on critical downs, including a fourth-down completion to George Kittle and a touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings despite being pressured. If you had told the Niners before Sunday that Purdy would play a mistake-free game, they would have started sizing their fingers for rings.
It was not enough. Yes, the Chiefs had a lucky break; they recovered six of the game’s seven fumbles and remained healthy as Niners players came and went from the injury tent. Guess who else got lucky? Every team that has ever won the championship. But when the game was on the line, talent, strategy, and championship experience took precedence. Kansas City relied on its core four: Mahomes, Travis Kelce, head coach Andy Reid, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. All four contributed game-changing moments. The Niners froze on the other side of the field, right when they needed it the most.