49ers 20, Chiefs 31: Super Bowl grades

MIAMI — The 49ers lost 31-20 to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. Here are the 49ers’ grades.

GAROPPOLO: D. He had an opportunity to prove he’s not a game manager, an opportunity to lead a game-winning fourth-quarter drive in the Super Bowl and put himself in the conversation with Joe Montana and Steve Young. But Garoppolo failed. With the game on the line, he overthrew a deep pass to Emmanuel Sanders, who was open. Overthrew him by a cool five yards. Garoppolo finished with two picks and a 69.2 quarterback rating. He may become an elite quarterback one day, but he has a long way to go.

RUNNING BACKS: A. Jeff Wilson Jr. made a 20-yard catch, Kyle Juszczyk caught a touchdown pass and Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman combined to rush 17 times for 86 yards — 5.1 yards per carry. Mostert also scored a touchdown. These three should have touched the ball much more than they did.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A. Deebo Samuel had 39 receiving yards and 53 rushing yards — a new record for a wide receiver in a Super Bowl. Kendrick Bourne also caught a 26-yard pass on third down, and Emmanuel Sanders might have caught a deep touchdown pass on third down to win the game, but Garoppolo overthrew him.

TIGHT ENDS: B. George Kittle made a beautiful deep catch at the end of the first half, but the officials flagged him for offensive pass interference. He finished with four catches for 36 yards.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A-MINUS. They blocked well in the run game and gave up only one sack, but Joe Staley committed a crucial false start in the second — an uncharacteristic mistake for a player of his experience and quality.

DEFENSIVE LINE: A-MINUS. They controlled the game for 54 minutes. The pass rush generated consistent pressure, flushed Patrick Mahomes out of the pocket and destroyed the continuity of the Chiefs’ passing game, until the defense got tired. Then the pass rush disappeared, and Nick Bosa gave up a 38-yard touchdown run to Damien Williams.

LINEBACKERS: A. Fred Warner intercepted Mahomes and recorded seven tackles. Warner rose to the occasion. Kwon Alexander did not — he recorded only one tackle. Will the 49ers bring Alexander back next season? He’s expensive, and Dre Greenlaw might be better than him.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: C. They played well until the final six minutes of the game. Then they gave up a long catch to Tyreek Hill. Backup safety Tarvarius Moore also committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone which led to a touchdown. And Richard Sherman got burned in man to man coverage by Sammy Watkins for a 38-yard catch. Two weeks ago, Packers wide receiver Davante Adams did the same thing to Sherman, but people overlooked that play because the 49ers won. The Chiefs didn’t overlook it. They attacked Sherman, whose legs are gone. The 49ers should draft a corner in the first round of the draft this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Richie James Jr. fumbled a punt and spent the rest of the game trying to make up his mistake. He kept running kickoffs out of the end zone for minimal gains. He did not rise to the occasion. Robbie Gould did, though. He made both of his field-goal attempts.

COACHES: D. Robert Saleh’s defense played historically well for the first three-and-a-half quarters until it got tired. That’s when it started giving up big plays. Saleh should not have asked Sherman to cover Watkins man to man, because Sherman is a pure zone corner who doesn’t run well enough to cover wide receivers man to man anymore. But this loss falls on the head coach, Kyle Shanahan. He evolved and improved this season, and yet he still can’t manage the clock in big games. Only three teams in NFL history ever have lost a Super Bowl when leading by 10 points in the fourth quarter, and Shanahan called the offensive plays for two of them. He’s beginning to seem like a high-level loser — someone who beats the competition all season until he finally beats himself. He is his own nemesis. These two Super Bowl collapses will define him until he wins a championship. Cruel, but that’s life.

This article has 51 Comments

  1. 6.4 yards per rush, but only 22 rush attempts?
    14 plays with lead in the second half, but 9 were passes?

    I’m proud of the 49ers. Fantastic season. Feel lucky Shanahan is the head coach. But this will feel sour for quite a while.

    1. The season was a complete failure. It doesn’t matter how many games they won and how well they played. It all ended up being for nothing. And I don’t seem the 49ers bouncing back from this. If anything, they’re going to suffer a horrible Super Bowl hangover and miss the playoffs entirely next year. They’ll probably actually go back to being one of the NFL’s worst teams for a long, long time.

  2. Appreciate your coverage and different content and points of view. I could be wrong KC did good job of kicking ball high and just short of goal line so had to come out.

    Should have been able to take advantage of KC LB and Sorensen more. Even after missed calls and play on had Sanders – for potential go ahead score.

    Wish that last 7 minutes was a bad dream

  3. Very disappointing. That’s two SB’s wasted away now. A far cry from when we didn’t used to lose them. Losing is not entertaining in the least, but I am grateful for the season the team was able to put together. Here’s to next year!

    1. Two Super Bowls where we were the better overall team!

      Those combined with ‘02 Giants and Warriors 73 win failure we have had some tough championship losses

  4. Not much to say, except this one hurts. I’ve seen five Super Bowl wins in my lifetime… really wanted this one, more so for my two boys that have followed in my 49er faithful footsteps.

  5. This game…makes me rethink the whole season. I looked back on the schedule and how many big time quality wins did we actually have. I think two, New Orleans and Seattle. The rest of the wins were against tomato cans. Instant reaction, I think we were fooled a bit by this team. Pyrite.

    1. Green Bay was good and Rams were good. We played Ravens very well.

      I think this was a great season and we have a decently young team with a championship window for the next 2-3 years. Grant is right though we need to draft another CB this year.

  6. I am okay with Shanahan’s play calling in the 4th quarter, they just didn’t execute. I would rather have him be aggressive than not get scared and just run clock.

    We have all been waiting for Garoppolo to prove he can make the big play and he didn’t. I am not the least surprised, he is just not there yet.

  7. Kwon Alexander had a horrific game. I was wondering if he had healed from his pectoral injury because his tackling was horrendous. At the moment he is the weakest of the three starting linebackers for having such a huge price tag. Warner is a stud while Greenlaw can hit and tackle. Jimmy G is disappointing. He’s a lot like Alex Smith in that he is a seat warmer til a more talented QB shows up. Jimmy is inaccurate and weak on the long ball, he’s slow against a pass rush. He seems to realize the pass rush a tad too late and is too slow to escape. He’s also good for a couple of picks on balls that aren’t even dynamic throws just unwise ones. Jimmy also disappears as a passer in the last plays when you need him. he only plays as good as the game plan. No unscheduled plays out of him. Shanahan had his problems as well. They needed to get the ball more to their playmakers ala Kittle, Sanders and Samuel. An added play for Richie James might’ve been a big play because they have rarely used him. Richie never gets past the 20 yard line as a kick returner so he isn’t doing much there.

    1. Garoppolo has a higher ceiling than Smith. It was his first year as a starter. Our offense down the stretch was running the ball and PA pass game down the middle of the field. Shanahan is no innovative I know he will continue to develop the offense and Garoppolo.

      I am excited to see how our offense evolves next year. I just watched Dante Pettis highlights from 2018 and am wondering what exactly happened with him last year. Also Taylor and Hurd will be healthy.

  8. Yes, agree this loss falls on Kyle. He went away from play action in the 4th quarter – too many straight drop back or shotgun plays. JG also didn’t get it done when it mattered – had the opportunity but flat out missed Sanders. Also had other opportunities in the second half he missed. First three quarters JG was good, but bad Jimmy showed up at the worst time.

    Have to also say though that Mahomes is one heck of a player. He was the opposite of JG – mostly played poorly through the first 3 quarters but when it mattered most he was excellent. He and the Chiefs could go to quite a few SBs over the next decade so long as he stays healthy.

  9. You could actually see the defensive collapse coming in the GB game. The second half they did next to nothing to stop GB. Rogers just kept marching them down the field time after time. Despite knowing that GB was going to pass the pass rush did nothing until very late in the 4th QB. These defensive collapses have come with alarming frequency in the second half of the season and we thought it was mostly about injuries, but I think it was more than that. The defense stopped playing the tomato cans of the first half the schedule, and it was never as dominant again.

  10. This one will sting for awhile. SF handed game to KC. Missed picks by SF…. Poor Return Team blocking, poor punting, missed containment on Mahomes, blown pass coverage. 3 straight possessions unable to move ball at end of game, blocked passes… Can’t forget poor officiating either. PI calls really hurt SF (against Kittle and missed vs Saunders). Missed off sides and delay of game made officials look foolish. Having to settle for FG’s vs TD’s at start of each half came back to haunt SF. JG needed to have A game, but could only muster up his B game. He missed leading his receivers several times limiting YAC. Of course, the Interception and multiple blocked passes didn’t help either. Oh well, great season SF, on to next year!

    1. Feel the same way on your points. This is a tough loss – feel for Joe Staley and the team. Thing about NFL is always changes, going to have to make hard roster decisions, will lose coaches, expectations change, injuries happen and really tough division. Was magical season and this team won’t get the chance to have the bond of SB victory, along with so many 1981 parallels and it came crashing down in an instant. Going to take some luck, and real perseverance to break through. Hard seeing scumbags like Hill and Clark get that victory

  11. Composure: F… I understand the need for enthusiasm, but the team is almost too willing to emote and clown. They’re all smiles and hand gestures and end zone poses when they’re up… but look stressed, lost and damn near panicked when they start to lose ground. Starts on the sidelines with the coaches. Need the kids to show up, shut up and listen up. Enough of the flexing and screaming and the “LET’S GO!” histrionics.

  12. The refs were looking for anything to throw a flag at the Niners while doing nothing while Chiefs players commit fouls in front of them. I saw Honey badger ram a player who was out of bounds and then talk trash. No calls on Chiefs for PI including a flagrant hold on Sanders. Jimmy G got hit by a hand to his face, and a late shot with no call. If they’re gonna throw flags throw them on both sides but no.

  13. This is a tough one to swallow as we were so close and played the better football for most of the game. The score did not reflect our dominance. Shoddy officiating in parts, shoddy OC and DC calls, where were our key FA acquisitions and shoddy player execution. They looked tired in the 4th quarter.
    Cant believe the PI call made and the one missed. Cant believe the missed offside. Cant believe the non calls for unsportsmanlike conduct against the Chiefs (we got bullied a bit by them and it showed up down the stretch).
    Then our playcalling on OC in the 4th. Sometimes the coaches try and prove they are the best coach and outsmart themselves. Stick to what you are good at. Even with that we had best part of 3 minutes to go in the superbowl and the ball in Jimmy’s hands for greatness. We had taken less than 3 minutes on a previous scoring drive with a mix of run and pass. We then move away from our DNA and just pretty much fluff our lines. As for DC again it felt like Salah was trying to prove what a great coach he was. For 3 quarters you could argue he had. But I think that was Reid just setting him up. Too many wrong coverages called and leaving our CBs on islands against the Zoom. Something we patently cant do.
    Did we get the value and experience we were after form our top FAs? Sherman, Alexander, Ford, Sanders, Jimmy G, Juice – only Juice turned up to play well. Thats tough on Sanders as he wasnt featured much. Tough on Sherm cos he was left without protection. Tough on Ford as he did generate some pressure and tough on Alexander as he proved incredible just to get back fit – ish. Too much bad Jimmy with his decision making. He seemed panicked. Thats possibly a reflection of not having played enough in the previous two games. He is better than he has played for over a month.
    As for player execution, I think the team looked slightly in awe of the event and were sapped by the adrenalin, and seemed to be here to make the numbers up. yes they went through the motions of playing a game.
    Why did we lose? We lost time of possession, we lost on Special teams, we did well to hold the Chiefs to 30. We lost our heads.
    I think the near future is bleak. We cant afford all the rookie contracts. So we wont be as good a team next year. We have holes in CB (not enough speed), LB (replacing Alexander) and the D-line will lose Armstead etc. Should we keep all the high priced FAs? Probably not. Will Joe S retire? Will Sanders be let go? So possible holes on OL, WR. We have few draft picks at low position and cant get creative if we wanted another QB and enough holes that need to be drafted for to afford the contracts of Kittle and Buckner. I do hope they take team friendly contracts but can appreciate why they should want to (and deserve to) be paid. So i think it will be a while before we return. Salah will go and we may retool our D before our next window. That said I think we massively over performed this year, okay a soft schedule to begin with but the team grew and proved they could give any team in football a great game. Its tough being a Niners fan but ever faithful – go niners!

    1. Just breathe my friend. We can keep a lot of these guys. We have an enough cap space to keep Armstead and Ward and to give Kittle an extension. Also we can totally afford to lose Dee Ford who is not worth what we are paying him. He was 4th best player between Bosa, Armstead, Buckner.

  14. Agree on all points by Grant,
    Sherman is not up to the task and should consider retirement.
    Garappolo not up to the task, yet. We saw this from Steve Young in his first few years (interceptions)
    Shanahan seems to have his worst game on the biggest stage, again.
    Kwon Alexander did have a bad game and had an easy pick go through his hands and missed tackles.
    Did anyone see Dee Ford out there?
    Jimmy Ward had a bad game as well.
    Officials missed at least 3 fouls. The offside one was pointed out by Aikman, the PI one was called out by Mike Perrea , missed fouls were in Chiefs favor each time.

    1. Got to give HUGE credit to the 49ers org. they made it to the big game in just their 3rd year of Shanny-Lynch. Think back to what they were before those two got here. They’re were obviously better than their NFC opponents in the playoffs. They have key pieces to build around. They likely won’t be as good next year but they WILL be good again if the players don’t give up on the coach.
      They have to learn to play the full 60 mins and not 53-1/2…

  15. Grades are appropriate but coaching grades should be an F. JG proved he isn’t a franchise QB. Saleh should NEVER call a Cover 1 defense bc KC’s receivers are too fast. Has Selah eliminated Cover 2? That 44 yard pass Hill caught on 3rd and 15 was a death wound but would not have been possible if Cover 2 was used. And what in the world made KS call 5 pass plays with a 10 point lead? Was he trying to prove to everyone that JG is a great passer (he’s not. Most of his passes were behind the receivers or too high). And why did he stop running a reverse with Deebo?

  16. I know we all wanted that Super Bowl victory, but this team fought hard through things that should of sank the season, period. Our guys played like warriors and as a collective group showed us key things are in place to go back and win. They are going to have to crunch the numbers and really reflect on key personnel decisions in regard to the salary cap. As a team, you now know what you have. As a collective group you’ve experienced both success/failure….. everything adversity visits on a team. As a fan….. I challenge you to go back and reflect, regroup, reload, refocus, and do what you were assembled to do, dominate! Thanks for the great season, the bar has been raised.

  17. Montana…Young…Rice…Taylor…Lott…ah, the good old days. Shanahan is no Walsh. The 49ers are very good, but obviously not good enough…now what?!

  18. A few observations:

    1. The 49ers’ defense was repeatedly gasses in the 4th Quarter in games all year and it seemed no different yesterday.

    2. Not using 1:40 to your advantage to try and score going into the half is cowardly and inexcusable. I still scratch my head wondering what he was thinking there.

    3. Point 2 above pretty much sums up that Shanny needs to place more trust in his quarterback. Everything about #2 above shows a lack of trust. Why did you pay him $130M if you don’t trust him to move a team down the field in 1:40?

    4. This season was great so not down too much. If this was the younger me I’d have to be talked out of jumping.

    5. The better team won the game. Don’t really care about the refs, calls, etc. When it mattered most we couldn’t stop them and we couldn’t move the ball. End of story.

    6. Jay-Z and Beyonce are $hitholes for not standing through the anthem when you have those true American centenarian heroes (including the Tuskeegee Airman) on the field. F#ck you JayZ!

    1. There comes a time when you’ve got to take a realistic look at what the most important position (QB) is capable of. Jimmy G is adequate, but any one who is honest (and not just a slobbering homer) can say that Jimmy is slow recognizing coverage and holds the ball too damn long. He is not decisive when he has to do something” unscheduled” and he locks in to a receiver and doesn’t see the potential bad play lurking around it. I like Jimmy. He’s been the best we’ve had since Garcia, but had Garcia been the QB he would have WON this game. Jimmy hasn’t been a starter for very long but if you consistently take the ball out of his hands, why the big bucks? I would like the 49ers to bring in upper level competition, Andy Dalton will likely be available in trade (CJ Beathard, 4-5 round pick) and Marcus Mariotta would die to join our team. Turn up the heat for QB improvement!

  19. Fellas, I am reeling here after the loss.
    Here are my thoughts for what they are worth.

    1- Why abandon the run? Shanny said he does not regret abandoning the run???? Really?? Why are we being super aggressive with throwing a bomb down the field that we cannot even connect on instead of scheming ways to run?

    2- Listening to sports 680 this morning, are we worried now that he has blown 2 Super Bowl leads with play calling? Are these “ghosts” going to be way too much to overcome and get us back in contention? Is he just over thinking these calls in big games? Is it something else?

    3- We are already losing Armstead in free agency. Who do we replace him with so our D line is still effective? I do not think Sherman is going to be effective at all next year unless it is from a coaching position to provide leadership.

    Lastly, I am just reeling here. One SB we lose because Roman calls for idiotic pass plays when we have the best O line with Gore and run plays do not get called. Now this game. This is rough.

    1. If they lose Armstead chances are they resign Blair who along with Thomas will fill the vacancy. Although I think they retain him on a somewhat team friendly deal, don’t forget he and Buckner are bro’s and the rest of our defense is solid.

      Sherman was an all pro this year, he’s not the player he once was, but we would be foolish to move on from him.

  20. We must draft a cornerback. Sherman is running on reputation! Mosley is fine as the starter on one side, Witherspoon should be a back-up. The 49ers have D-Line replacements.Armstead was just as if not more effective as Dee Ford at defensive end. Ford and Ward should not be brought back ,freeing up money to pay Armstead. DJ Jones will be back along with Blair, Street ,Thomas and Day. As far as free safety with the lost of Ward,Marcel Harris may fill that spot or maybe the answer will come in free agency/draft. Our defense is strong enough to absorbed a couple of subtractions and gain some overall speed in the back half. Finally I think Alexander deserves another year although he has missed numerous tackles. I like to blame the SB whiffs on this pec injury, he should healed up on the off season and not be shy about contact going forward. Good Season 49ers, do better next year!

    1. Alexander has a history of missing tackles…agree with needing a young CB to learn under Sherm. Ford has chronic knee issues and cannot be trusted…hopefully getting the injured guys back will help with the D-line. We missed the depth that we had earlier in the year. Next year will be the real test for the Niners. This year, they were playing with house money.

  21. “he’s beginning to seem like a high level loser”….at least he is not a low level loser like Grant! the dude is barely over 40 years old. How many years has Andy Reid been coaching? A few plays here and there decided the game. Then the narrative changes. Enough with the name calling…Shanahan took this team much further than anyone dreamed, and yet he is being called a loser? Those fans who are already turning their back on Shanahan are not real fans. Just like Grant who was rejoicing when the Niners lost…so he could go back on the offensive about the Niners…who he picked to have a losing season. Come on, we are better fans than that, aren’t we? Nothing worse than fair weathered fans. Life involves losing…even Belichik had his bad losses. Joe Gibbs too. Can we stop acting like rookie NFL fans?

  22. Three of the four losses this season can be directly attributed to blocked passes: Last drive in overtime in the first Seahawks game; fourth and one against the Ravens; and yesterday. Jimmie G needs to either pump every now and then or roll a bit out of the pocket to get a better lane for the pass.

  23. * Grant: “Richard Sherman got burned in man to man coverage by Sammy Watkins for a 38-yard catch. Two weeks ago, Packers wide receiver Davante Adams did the same thing to Sherman, but people overlooked that play because the 49ers won.”
    * Facts are facts and the 9er FO can’t overlook it!
    * 2020 draft prospect Ohio St. CB Damon Arnette is listed by CBSSports. com at #52! Height: 6′-0″ – Weight: 195. Projected 40 Time: 4.40s
    * Arnette totaled 35 tackles with eight passes broken up, an interception and a forced fumble in 2019. He has a good skill set and put it all together with a vastly improved senior year. Scouts say that Arnette is instinctive, tough and versatile. They like that he can play inside at nickel or line up outside with the ability to play man or zone. Arnette is very physical and has a feisty style of play that comes out with him being super competitive. Arnette challenges every throw and never makes it easy on receivers to get a reception. On top of having cover skills to stay with receivers, he is a very good tackler who doesn’t hesitate to hit. But he does come with some off field concerns! Some teams feel his mental makeup could be a problem. Other team sources say they’ve heard Arnette has improved in the character department and they think he could get first-round consideration.

    There’s another late round prospect, Notre Dame’s CB Tony Pride Jr. HT 6′ 0″ WT 190, 40 projected Time 4.40s
    Pride had 40 tackles with six passes broken up and an interception during 2019, but scouting reports say he was
    solid but not very impressive….In the Senior bowl he changed that! Notre Dame CB Tony Pride Jr. is ‘one of the more underrated corners’ in the 2020 NFL Draft, an NFL scout said following Pride’s performance during Senior Bowl week. ‘In my mind, he’s taken himself from a Day 3 prospect to potential second-rounder,’ the scout said. ESPN.com
    https://www.elitefantasy.com/nfl-tony-pride-jr-moving-up-boards….
    Razor: Little closer to home for you, what are you hearing about him?

  24. ninermd:
    So how do you really feel? lol
    BTW: I didn’t say the 9ers should cut Sherman, he could coach the CB(s) the 9ers draft. He’s a F/A in 2021, do
    you think the 9ers will sign him to a new contract?

    1. Geep….. I’m just saying booo for the finale of a great season I thought would end with 6 Super Bowl wins. Disappointed is an understatement for me.

  25. I will disagree with Grant on his grade for JG. He did well until the last half of the 4th quarter, so he should get a C-. The other grades seem fair, especially his coaching grade.
    .
    This game can be summed up by watching JL frantically calling for a time out, while KS wasted an opportunity to score. Reid out coached KS.
    .
    KS, as many before me have stated, needs to work on his clock and game management. It seems as though he has not learned from his mistakes, because the SB is a pressure cooker.
    .
    Kittle was open several times, but JG did not throw him the ball.
    .
    Deebo touched the ball 7 times in the first half, and once in the second half.
    .
    JG was not put in the best positions to succeed. While stuck in the pocket, he had too many passes knocked down. They should have rolled him out more. KS should have coached JG to throw the ball as high and down the field as he can, instead of taking a sack on 4th down. At least then, there is a chance of a catch or PI. JG was bludgeoned with a helmet to helmet hit, so I am wondering if his second half struggles were due to that concussive blow.
    .
    However, I am sad, but it will just make the next ring all the more special. This team has a good foundation, and JG just needs more experience and development. Those 5 rings gained during those Glory Years will sustain me. I am a die hard faithful fan, and the Niners are in my blood. Faithful forever.

  26. Good grades, Grant. I was on the Shanny idiot savant train until yesterday…now I’m wondering if he’s just an idiot. Sunday’s bungle was epic and history making. How do you blow a 10 point lead with under 9 minutes to go and everything on the line? Freaking epic.

    Andy Reid is a very happy man today.

  27. 49er fans and media need to quit with the criticism and second guessing of the SF Super Bowl performance. Their season was magical. Their Super Bowl game was 8 minutes, several big plays, and several poor calls/non calls by zebras from a Championship. No regrets. KC wasn’t a bunch of stiffs.
    Now the hard part begins – getting back in 2020-21. Salary/Cap issues, injury recovery issues, player psyche issues, all pose huge challenges to get back to Superbowl LV. The last thing 49er players need is fans/media ragging on them for 8 months. Praise. Support. Encouragement are what’s needed to help them climb that mountain again.

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