‘Didn’t know the rules’: Coin toss call cost 49ers the Super Bowl

No one could make heads or tails of the San Francisco 49ers’ decision after winning the overtime coin toss in Super Bowl LVIII.

The NY Post reports 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made the controversial decision to begin overtime on offence despite the new NFL playoff rules that make sure both teams get at least one possession.

Sure enough, after the 49ers kicked a tiebreaking field goal, the Kansas City Chiefs answered with a walk-off touchdown to steal a 25-22 victory at Allegiant Stadium.

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Shanahan explained he was thinking several moves ahead after the winning coin toss, conscious of his team’s fatigue and looking toward a potential third overtime possession when the game becomes sudden death.

“None of us have a ton of experience with it,” Shanahan said.

“We went through all the analytics and talked to those guys. We decided it would be better getting the ball because if both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones to have a chance to go win it.”

NFL regular-season overtime rules only allow both teams a possession if the first team does not score a touchdown, so coin-toss winners almost always choose to receive the kick-off for the chance to end the game.

But the overtime rules are closer to the college football model, where the reward for playing defence first is knowing exactly how many points your team needs on the second possession to tie or win the game.

“We got that field goal. We knew we had to hold them to at least a field goal,” Shanahan said. “If we did, we thought it was in our hands after that.”

Andy Reid said that the Chiefs’ plan was to kick off if they won the coin toss.

“I’m not sure there’s a right answer,” Reid said. “I’m never going to question Kyle.”

Several 49ers admitted to not even being aware of the new overtime rules, which were put in place after an epic back-and-forth playoff game during the 2021 season, when the Bills’ Josh Allen threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and never touched the ball again.

Just like he broke the 49ers’ hearts Sunday, Mahomes broke the Bills’ hearts by driving for a field goal in regulation and a touchdown on the only possession of overtime.

CBS analyst Tony Romo and several others on social media theorised live that the 49ers’ defence must have been tired after defending the length of the field against Mahomes in the two-minute drill at the end of regulation.

“I didn’t even know about the new playoff overtime rules,” 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead said.

“It was a surprise to me. I didn’t even know what was going on with it. They put it on the scoreboard and everyone was like, ‘Even if we score, they get a chance.’ ”

49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said: “I assumed you just want the ball because you score a touchdown and win.

“I guess that’s not the case. I don’t really know the strategy.”

In stark contrast, Kansas City’s Drue Transquill said: “We had an OT rules presentation and strategy meeting every week of the playoffs and twice in our SB prep.”

Chiefs defensive linesman Chris Jones told The Ringer: “We talked through this for two weeks.

“How we was going to give the ball to the opponent; if they scored, we was going for two at the end of the game. We rehearsed it.”

The only other overtime game in Super Bowl history ended on the first possession, when Tom Brady engineered a 25-point second-half comeback for the Patriots against the Falcons to end the 2016 season.

Shanahan was the offensive co-ordinator for the Falcons in that game.

This article originally appeared in the NY Post and was reproduced with permission.

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