Shanahan’s Super Bowl Woes: A Tale of Fourth Quarter Collapses
Once again, the San Francisco 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan, finds himself facing criticism for questionable play-calling that has resulted in yet another Super Bowl loss. In both the 2017 and 2020 championship games, Shanahan’s offenses failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter, ultimately leading to their defeat.
A Tale of Two Halves
Shanahan’s reputation as one of the best coaches in recent Super Bowl memory, at least for the first three quarters, is hard to dispute. However, something inexplicable happens when the game reaches its final 15 minutes. It’s as if Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde, and Shanahan’s fourth-quarter play-calling transforms into a disaster.
Take the most recent Super Bowl meltdown as an example. The 49ers held a comfortable 20-10 lead, thanks in large part to their spectacular defense that managed to contain the NFL’s best offense for three-quarters of the game. It seemed like victory was within grasp, and the Lombardi Trophy was practically on its way to San Francisco.
But then, hauntingly reminiscent of the past, Shanahan’s decision-making crumbled under pressure. The team’s performance collapsed, and the 49ers were left bewildered and defeated as they walked off the field, searching for answers to what went wrong in those final crucial minutes.
A Familiar Story: Super Bowl LI
Unfortunately, this choke job by Shanahan is not an isolated incident. We’ve seen this narrative play out before in another Super Bowl: Super Bowl LI on February 5, 2017. Back then, Shanahan served as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. His team held an impressive 28-3 lead over the mighty New England Patriots late in the third quarter.
While it’s important to acknowledge that the defeat wasn’t entirely Shanahan’s fault, his questionable play-calling during the crucial late stages of the game became the tipping point that turned victory into defeat. With a seemingly insurmountable 11-point lead and just three minutes left on the clock, all the Falcons had to do was run the ball up the middle three times to secure either a touchdown or a first down and run out the clock.
Yet, inexplicably, Shanahan opted for a pass play, inviting unnecessary risks. The consequences were dire – a sack pushed the Falcons out of field goal range and halted their momentum. As a result, the Patriots made a stunning comeback, ultimately winning in overtime.
A Case of DÃ©jÃ Vu: Super Bowl LIV
Fast forward to Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020. Shanahan, now coaching the San Francisco 49ers, found himself facing a familiar circumstance. Leading the game and on the brink of victory, the 49ers once again experienced a fourth-quarter collapse that echoed the catastrophic mistakes of Super Bowl LI.
Before analyzing the 49ers’ play-calling during the final quarter, it’s worth mentioning that their prior success had been built upon a strong defense and an effective power running attack. In the playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl, they had run the ball a staggering number of times, resulting in dominant victories over their opponents.
Surprisingly, in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers deviated from their winning formula and significantly reduced their rushing attempts. This strategic shift was perplexing given that the 49ers had been having success on the ground throughout the game and faced a Chiefs defense that struggled against the run.
The head-scratching decision didn’t stop there. Shanahan’s offensive strategy became even more puzzling as he failed to capitalize on crucial opportunities to run the ball and maintain possession. A prime example was a pivotal drive in the fourth quarter when the 49ers had a slim lead of 20-17.
On second down and 5, instead of relying on their successful rushing attack and potentially sealing the game, Shanahan called a pass play that resulted in an incomplete pass. The subsequent third-down attempt also fell short, leading to a punt and handing the ball back to the Chiefs. The momentum shifted, and the 49ers eventually found themselves trailing by 11 points.
Second Guessing and Monday Morning Quarterbacking
It’s not uncommon for coaches and players to face criticism after a game, especially when their decisions may have contributed to a loss. However, in Shanahan’s case, the scrutiny he receives is undoubtedly warranted. Having been outscored 46-0 in the fourth quarter and overtime of his two Super Bowl appearances, Shanahan’s coaching and play-calling deserve serious evaluation.
Football is a game that relies on percentages, risk analysis, and taking advantage of team strengths. It’s also a game of closing the deal. Shanahan has failed both the strategic and execution aspects of the game on the biggest stage, costing his teams two potential Super Bowl victories.
While credit should be given to Shanahan and his teams for making it to the Super Bowl, it’s crucial to acknowledge his role in their devastating defeats. Shanahan’s questionable decisions in critical moments have raised perplexing questions and deprived him of the coveted Super Bowl rings he should rightfully possess.
Kyle Shanahan’s Super Bowl misfortunes have become all too familiar. In both his appearances on the grandest stage, he has struggled to maintain his team’s performance into the crucial final quarter, resulting in devastating losses. From the ill-fated play-calling in Super Bowl LI to the perplexing decisions in Super Bowl LIV, Shanahan’s coaching and play-calling have come under intense scrutiny.
While Shanahan’s teams have shown tremendous potential and have built substantial leads, his inability to navigate the fourth quarter with the same level of success has proven costly. The Super Bowl is a game of inches, and Shanahan’s lapses in judgment have allowed victory to slip away.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is Kyle Shanahan criticized for his play-calling in Super Bowls?
Shanahan is criticized for his play-calling in Super Bowls due to his teams’ significant collapses in the fourth quarter, resulting in their losses. The decisions he made during crucial moments, such as opting for pass plays instead of relying on the running game, have been heavily scrutinized.
2. Did Kyle Shanahan learn from his previous Super Bowl mistakes?
Despite the recurrence of fourth-quarter collapses in Super Bowls, it’s unclear if Shanahan has truly learned from his previous mistakes. While he has reached the pinnacle of the sport, his inability to maintain his team’s