By Nick Brown
MIAMI (Reuters) – The San Francisco 49ers will spend the next few months wondering what might have been.
Up by 10 with just over six minutes left in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the 49ers suffered a collapse that saw them allow three late-game touchdowns en route to a 31-20 loss.
A win would have given San Francisco its sixth Super Bowl title and a share of the lead among NFL franchises. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have amassed six Lombardi trophies.
It might also have gone some way toward silencing doubters, particularly of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had thrown for just 77 yards in his team’s NFC championship victory against the Green Bay Packers.
But it was not to be.
“You have to give some credit to (the Chiefs),” said Garoppolo, who played well for three quarters before an abysmal fourth. “We just didn’t make some of the plays we normally make.”
Through three quarters, Garoppolo had completed 17 of 20 passes for 183 yards, earning him a 100.6 quarterback rating. But he went just 3-for-11 for 36 yards and a key interception in the final frame, finishing with a rating of 69.2.
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged that they had let the win slip through their grasp.
“It hurt everybody in that room,” he said. “We had opportunities to win that.”
Shanahan’s team were in no mood to give explanations of what went wrong.
“Nothing,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “We just made mistakes.”
Tackle Joe Staley also struggled to discuss the loss.
“This is, just, this is very hard being in this moment right now,” he said. “I’m trying to answer questions, and I’m sorry that I’m not. Put yourself in my shoes for a second. It’s tough.”
A key point in the game came early in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs down 10 but deep in San Francisco territory.
49ers defensive back Tarvarius Moore picked off a Patrick Mahomes pass, killing the rally and getting his offense back on the field with a chance to put the game out of reach.
But San Francisco could only cobble together 17 yards before being forced to punt, giving Mahomes a chance at redemption.
The momentum — and scoring — was all Kansas City’s after that.
“We got a turnover and then we didn’t execute on offense,” 49ers tight end George Kittle said. “We have to end the game right, and we didn’t … it’s pretty brutal. It just honestly sucks.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)