Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

It was a theme during the playoffs

During the 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl, they dug themselves a whole offensively after struggling on first down.

That didn’t necessarily change in the Super Bowl, as they still lacked consistency. Take the first two drives, for example. Christian McCaffrey ran for six yards, then caught a pass and had a carry for 11 yards. But, on the fourth first down, he fumbled.

Then, Brock Purdy found Brandon Aiyuk for a gain of 18 yards, but Deebo Samuel lost two yards on the ensuing first down.

Fast forward to the third quarter, when the 49ers had every opportunity in the world to put the Chiefs away, they only mustered one yard of offense on first downs.

That’s right. Four possessions, five plays, one yard. And we’re not talking about some run-of-the-mill offense here. This year’s version of the 49ers put up eye-popping numbers all season.

After the game, Brock Purdy was asked what attributed to the slow second-half start:

“I’m still trying to figure it out, I’m not going to lie. I think first and second down, we just got to be better. You get into these third and longs and it’s tough to convert in those kind of situations. So, just got to be better, I think first and second down. There’s just a couple plays where I feel like defense got stops like they needed to and then our first couple plays were just either negative or we’re not moving the ball. So, it’s as simple as that.”

In the Super Bowl, the 49ers generated -0.31 EPA per rush but had a 48 percent success rate. Conversely, a 45 percent success rate — slightly below average — through the air, but a positive 0.30 EPA.

The main culprit here can be pointed to the offensive line, which we’ll touch on later.

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