3 quick takeaways from the 49ers 25-22 loss to the Chiefs
By Insidethe49|Published On: February 12th, 2024 at 5:22 PM|
The 49ers didn’t capitalize on enough opportunities, leading to another crushing defeat.
The San Francisco 49ers saw their hearts broken once again, as they fell short to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs 25-22 in an overtime loss.
In the loss, the 49ers had opportunities, both in regulation and overtime, but ultimately couldn’t capitalize enough, while the Chiefs made enough plays to get the job done.
Defensively, the 49ers held Patrick Mahomes and Co. to three first-half points, but appeared tired as the game went on, ultimately losing when the star quarterback hit Mecole Hardman for a touchdown in the red zone to win the game.
Here are three quick takeaways from the 49ers’ 25-22 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Of course, the memories etched into 49ers fans’ minds come with the disappointing finish, but the team’s start to the game was equally important.
The 49ers were rolling early on their first drive, nearing the red zone, but Kansas City’s Leo Chenal forced a fumble on Christian McCaffrey, leading to an early-game turnover.
After forcing a three-and-out, the 49ers offense seemed to generate traction again, as Brock Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk for an 18-yard gain on first down, leading San Francisco to their own 42-yard line. From there, however, Trent Williams had a holding penalty, as well as a false start, which served as drive-killers for the 49ers.
Fast-forward to the team’s next offensive possession and the 49ers had momentum once again, driving down to the Kansas City 33-yard line with a 1st & 10. Once again though, the Chiefs were able to hold down the fort, limiting San Francisco to a 55-yard field goal from Jake Moody.
The defense, which was fantastic early with two quick forced punts, was able to generate a turnover as Deommodore Lenoir forced an Isiah Pacheco fumble inside the red zone.
Once again, San Francisco had early momentum, as linebacker Nick Bolton was flagged for a horse-collar tackle on Brock Purdy, leading the 49ers to the 32-yard line on their first play of the drive. From there? A punt after three plays, leading to another early missed opportunity.
San Francisco did score a touchdown on their last drive of the half, while limiting the Chiefs to a field goal on their final chance, leading the halftime score to be 10-3.
But, while it was a solid start for the 49ers, it wasn’t good enough, as they had several opportunities that were killed by penalties, turnovers, or the failure to capitalize on opponent giveaways.
Starting fast was the key to the game for the 49ers, and they should’ve been up more than seven points at the half.
Turnovers were a key difference in the game.
Yes, both teams gave the ball away twice, but the difference in how each team capitalized off those turnovers was big swings in the game.
Both teams had a fumble in opposing territory that the other side couldn’t capitalize on, but the punt return fumble and the interception were the two key differences in the game.
On the first drive of the second half, Patrick Mahomes threw a third-down interception to Ji’Ayir Brown on a deep pass intended for Marquez Valdez-Scantling, providing the 49ers with a great chance, as they got the ball at the Kansas City 44-yard line up 10-3.
With a chance to go up two scores and change the entire outlook of the game, the 49ers went pass-pass-pass, as they were derailed by a second-down false start on Aaron Banks, ultimately punting at the Kansas City 45-yard line.
Now, I didn’t hate the pass-heavy formula, as the Chiefs were all over the 49ers’ run game on early downs and San Francisco had advantages throwing out of their 21-personnel packages.
However, they got zero traction on a drive where a pristine opportunity was given to them, and they couldn’t even get a field goal, which would’ve provided San Francisco with a two-score lead.
The 49ers did pin the Chiefs at their own two-yard line ahead of their next drive, with the defense forcing another three-and-out deep in Kansas City territory.
But, after getting the ball back at their 36-yard line, the 49ers, once again, went three-and-out, going pass-pass-pass again, this time getting derailed by a loss of eight yards on first down.
So, the 49ers couldn’t capitalize on the interception, keeping the game at a one-score lead.
The biggest turnaround, though, came when the 49ers had a fumble via their punt unit, as a ball bounced off Darrell Luter’s foot and returner Ray-Ray McCloud attempted to scoop the ball up, rather than fall on the ball, to no avail.
One play later, the Chiefs scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Marquez Valdez-Scantling, providing them their first lead of the game at 13-10.
One of the biggest discrepancies of the night was the third-down conversion rate.
The Chiefs were consistently able to move the chains, converting 9/19 of their third downs, while the 49ers only hit on 3/12 of their chances.
The discrepancy was clearly felt in the second half, as the 49ers defense, which had been spectacular in the first half, seemed tired over the final 30 minutes of regulation, especially as the game was nearing its end.
Not only could the defense not get off the field, but the offense couldn’t stay on the field, leading to more pressure on Steve Wilks’s unit.
The Chiefs were 5/7 on third downs over their last three drives, converting opportunities on 3rd & 10, 3rd & 7, and 3rd & 6 to keep the chains moving.
On their final two drives, the 49ers went 1/3 on third downs, with their two misses coming on well-timed Steve Spagnulo blitzes that changed the entire direction of the game.
During the first play after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Spagnulo sent a blitz on 3rd & 5, forcing Purdy to quickly get rid of the ball, taking him away from the top option, which was Brandon Aiyuk working 1-on-1 with space in the slot.
One of the biggest plays of the game and a hell of a disguise by Spags and McDuffie. Purdy thought they were bracketing Aiyuk in the slot, which is why he looked away from the quick slant.
However, the blitz was well disguised, as slot cornerback Trent McDuffie appeared to backpedal right before the snap, showing that he may look to help bracket Brandon Aiyuk in the slot before rushing after the quarterback.
With Purdy missing to a well-covered Jauan Jennings, the 49ers were forced to settle for a field goal early, rather than running out the clock, which the Chiefs matched on their final drive, sending the game to overtime.
Then, in overtime, facing a 3rd & 4 at the Kansas City 9-yard line, 49ers right guard Spencer Burford seemed to miss his assignment, allowing star Chris Jones to get into the backfield unblocked, disrupting Purdy’s timing.
While Purdy had Jauan Jennings coming open on a whip-return route that could’ve resulted in a touchdown, the immediate pressure forced an errant throw, causing the 49ers to settle for a field goal.
The Chiefs, of course, marched down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown, sending the 49ers home empty-handed once again.
The primary takeaway is that there isn’t just one area, person, or play that ultimately caused the 49ers to lose, but rather a collective of opportunities that San Francisco couldn’t capitalize on.
Now, it’s back to offseason mode, where the 49ers will need to figure out some key roster questions as they look to make and win the Super Bowl next season.