Kyle Shanahan once blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl as offensive coordinator of the Falcons because of a series of bad calls.
This time, as head coach of the 49ers, it was one decision, or indecision, that cost him against the Chiefs. Not calling a timeout at the end of the first half absolutely cost the 49ers a chance to a win.
Had Shanahan made the decision to call timeout when the Chiefs were preparing to punt with about 1:45 left in the half, which 49ers GM John Lynch was seen urging him to do, they would have gotten the ball back with over 95 seconds left in the half, tied 10-10, with the 49ers receiving the ball in the second half. They could have scored twice and put the Chiefs fully on the defensive. Because Shanahan didn't call timeout, they got the ball back with under 60 seconds remaining and were unable to muster any points.
Even worse, the ensuing drive featured a 20-yard pass that put the 49ers on their own 45-yard line, and the following play was a 42-yard bomb to George Kittle that put the ball on the Chiefs' 13-yard line. While that second play was called back on a questionable PI penalty, the fact that is took the 49ers so little time to get in scoring position illustrates how important every possession is in the NFL.
Any play can result in points. Any moment can turn a game around. Shanahan learned that the hard way and will, once again, be kicking himself for costing his team in the biggest game of the year.
While I'll admit it's impossible to say one decision cost his team the game (the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter), the 49ers could have gone into halftime with all the momentum and a chance to put their foot on Kansas City's throat. Losing that opportunity is something that can come back and cost you. In this case it did.
Worst of all, Shanahan called a masterful offensive game for the first three quarters. He kept the Chiefs' defense off-balance. He put Jimmy Garoppolo in positions to be successful. His team was up 10 with 8:53 left in the game. But why start throwing it late when you have such a prolific running attack?
That's when the Chiefs took over. They attacked, relentlessly, on offense and defense. The 49ers didn't have an answer. Their chance to make a statement of relentless attack came earlier in the game. Shanahan chose the safe route, and as we learned, it turned out to be a big reason they lost.