By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If you really understand how Super Bowl moments are remembered, then you know that you can basically start from the end and work backward. The first quarter? Borderline irrelevant. The first half? Meh. What you’ve done through three quarters often matters little, too.
Really, what makes a champion a Champion is what takes place in the fourth quarter, with the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, where the difference between eternal glory and unimaginable agony can lie in the way a player performs on merely one play.
And so, we know this: Jimmy Garoppolo is no Tom Brady.
That much should have been obvious, because there simply is no “Next Tom Brady” and there likely won’t be the “Next Tom Brady” for another 50 years. But some football fans who have borne witness to the greatest quarterbacking career in history have somehow believed for several years now that the New England Patriots allowed the next Tom Brady to walk out the door.
We now know, without a doubt, that this is not the case.
Sure, Garoppolo was deadly accurate through the first three quarters of Super Bowl LIV, but the 49ers clearly did not want him to make any throws down the field. The one time he did, he completed it, but it got negated by an iffy offensive pass interference penalty. (Retired defensive players seemed to love the call; everyone else seemed to think it was ticky-tack at best and outrageous at worst.)
He was 9-for-12 for 89 yards with a touchdown and a bad interception at halftime. In the third quarter, he went 8-for-9 for 94 yards, as the Niners built a 20-10 lead. In the absence of any other standout performance, The Golden Boy From Illinois was in line to earn himself a Super Bowl MVP.
Alas, the fourth quarter happened, and it was grisly.
Taking over at his own 20-yard line while leading 20-10 with just under 12 minutes to go, Garoppolo went 1-for-2 for 12 yards. He scrambled fruitlessly on a third-and-12, leading to a San Francisco punt.
Taking over again at his 20-yard line with just over five minutes left and the lead shrunken to just three points, Garoopolo went 0-for-2. The Niners went three-and-out.
Getting the ball at his own 15, now trailing by four points with 2:39 left in the game, the stage was set for Garoppolo to have A Moment™. It did not go how he would have liked it to go.
After a short completion to George Kittle and a 16-yard catch-and-run by Kendrick Bourne, Garoppolo threw three straight incompletions before taking a sack on fourth down. The Chiefs scored a putaway touchdown moments later, before Garoppolo threw one more pick to end his and the 49ers’ Super Bowl dreams.
Those four plays with the game on the line? They weren’t great.
On first down, Garoppolo attempted a pass to Deebo Samuel over the middle, but Chris Jones got his giant mitt on the ball to knock it down at the line.
On second down, with the safety having absolutely zero concern with a deep ball getting thrown over his head, Garoppolo threw what could have (and probably should have) been not just a pick but a pick-six:
And then, worst of all, third down. The Niners could have taken the lead with a dramatic bomb to Emmanuel Sanders. It would have been legendary. Instead … it was overthrown by a full five yards:
On fourth down, Garoppolo didn’t get a good read on the blitz and then opted to panic and step up into a pocket that didn’t exist, promptly getting wrapped up by Frank Clark before trying to make a desperation two-handed throw to someone — anyone. No dice.
Any time you end up throwing a pass like this, you know you’ve screwed up.
Now granted, the Niners should have been bailed out by a very obvious case of roughing the passer on that play …
… but this conversation isn’t about that. It’s about a quarterback getting four cracks at leading his team on a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl and coming up very short on each attempt.
And though it was a long shot, the Niners were technically still alive when they got the ball back with 1:12 left with an 11-point deficit. Garoppolo hung on to the ball and barely got it out on first down, and then he threw the game-ending pick on second down.
Contrast that with how Patrick Mahomes seized his moment on a third-and-15 …
— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) February 3, 2020
… and well, that’s the difference between a Super Bowl MVP and a Super Bowl loser.
In the fourth quarter, Garoppolo completed just three of his 11 passes for 36 yards, with no touchdowns, one interception, and a fourth-down sack. Now what you’re looking for, really.
The Garoppolo takeaway is merely one of many from the Chiefs’ 31-20 victory in Super Bowl LIV. Let’s explore some leftover thoughts, before entering the darkness that is seven months without NFL football on our TVs.
–For as bad as the fourth quarter sequence by Garoppolo was, the decision-making by Kyle Shanahan before halftime was shameful.
To quote the great Paul Allen, “This is not Detroit, man. THIS IS THE SUPER BOWL!!” And sometimes in order to actually win a Super Bowl, you have to try to win the Super Bowl during the Super Bowl. Shanahan decided not to do that.
After swarming Mecole Hardman for a six-yard loss on second-and-8 near midfield, the Niners’ defense stopped Damien Williams on third down after a gain of just one yard. In a 10-10 game, with 1:47 left in the half, the call for any head coach looking to win the football game is simple. Call timeout. Try to score before halftime to take a lead. You’re going to need those points.
Instead, Shanahan didn’t call timeout (despite the urging from GM John Lynch) let the Chiefs run the clock all the way down to 1:07 before punting. The ball bounced into the end zone, and the Niners took over at their own 20-yard line with 59 seconds left.
With three timeouts, though, they still could have mounted a drive. They still could have tried to at least get into field goal range.
Instead, inside handoff, gain of three, no timeout.
The second down snap came 27 ticks on the clock. Inside handoff. Gain of two.
Worst of all, Garoppolo showed that maybe Shanahan should have put some faith in his quarterback, when he threw two passes that ate up more than half the field in a matter of seconds. The first was a catch-and-run to Jeff Wilson (who?) that went for 20 yards, followed by an absolute dime to George Kittle for 42 yards:
That didn’t count, which was bogus, but it served to show that yes, if you try to actually score points, sometimes you can do it. Shanahan’s disinterest in even attempting to make that a competitive drive will lead to a label that he’s not the best at managing big games. It’s a label that is now well-earned.
–Shanahan’s explanation made it somehow even worse.
Here’s what he said for his timidity on the sideline in the SUPER BOWL.
“The last thing we were going to do is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts, especially with their quarterback and offensive speed to go in there and score before the half,” Shanahan said. “[Felt] real good 10-10 especially with us starting with the ball. Kind of played out all right, thought we should have got points but they ended up calling that PI on Kittle. So took it away.”
No. No! NO!
It didn’t “turn out all right” because Kittle came down with that ball with just six seconds left on the clock. That would’ve given the Niners just one shot at the end zone before settling for a field goal. Had such a play been successful, with, oh, I don’t know, sayyyyyy, 75 seconds left in the half, then the Niners really would have been cooking with gas.
And the idea that you don’t want to give the ball back to the Chiefs before halftime? Well, did Kyle think the Chiefs wouldn’t get the ball at all in the second half? Did he anticipate a 30-minute drive from his offense to seal the 10-10 tie?
Again, you’ve got to try to win in order to win. That was a disheartening scene to witness.
–James G. didn’t really improve the situation when, on third-and-5 on the opening possession of the second half, he didn’t recognize that Kittle would be coming wide open in the middle of the Chiefs’ zone D.
Instead of anticipating that and an easy first-down pickup, Garoppolo locked in on a short crosser. It gained three yards. They settled for a field goal.
That’s a winning opportunity thrown away right there.
–On the lamenting of New Englanders for losing the handsome man named James: Do remember that Garoppolo is 28 years old. Brady had three Super Bowls in his back pocket when he was 28. It may be safe to not fret about the loss of the next great, franchise quarterback — especially considering the old guy has won a Super Bowl and thrown for seven million yards in a Super Bowl loss since the youngin’ was shipped to San Francisco.
–That OPI call really was bogus. It has no place in the SUPER BOWL.
When it happened in the divisional round of the playoffs, the resounding sentiment was that it shouldn’t have been called.
— Tony Clements (@TonyClementsTC) February 3, 2020
The Kyle Rudolph pushoff wasn’t even reviewed, in a situation where a replay official was tasked with initiating a replay review for any potential instances of pass interference. That is to say, if what Rudolph did to the defender might have been considered to possibly be pass interference, then the replay official would have initiated a review process. Instead, the no-call on the field stood, and the game ended.
A few weeks later in the Super Bowl, a lesser offense negated a potential game-changing pay.
The mere extension does not equal a push. Kittle didn’t “significantly hinder” the defender’s “opportunity to catch the ball.” Football players were playing football. Bad call.
–That being said, it only cost the Niners a field goal, because Shanahan threw 90 seconds into the trash can for some reason.
–I have a very important take to share.
That very important take is this take:
The world did not need cartoons in Super Bowl LIV.
That’s just my politics, folks!
–For Patrick Mahomes, his night was kind of the exact opposite of Garoppolo’s. Through three quarters, Mahomes was … kind of bad? He surely wasn’t great.
The first interception? Befuddling.
Fred Warner INT from the sky cam pic.twitter.com/xspKGh0ok7
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) February 3, 2020
Some incompletions were real head-scratchers:
It wasn’t all that good. But after the Tyreek Hill drop that was picked off, here’s what Mahomes did to finish the game: 8-for-12, 114 yards, 2 TDs. And that is all that matters.
–There are some people in this world who delight at the sight of Richard Sherman being humbled. Now, I’m not personally one of those people. I don’t mind his whole Richard Sherman thing, and I understand his motivation to promote himself as much as possible. I’m all for earning power.
Yet I’m also here to serve the people, so with that, here are two separate items for you to peruse.
First, Richard Sherman’s comments after the 49ers’ divisional round playoff win over the Vikings:
It was man coverage. I get tired of hearing, ‘Oh man, he’s a zone corner.’ I get tired of hearing the excuses for why I’m great. It was man coverage, I covered the man, I picked the ball off. In the playoffs, in big games, I show up. I show up year in, year out, whether it’s 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 — unless I tear my Achilles, I’m out there doing my job at a high level. And I get tired of the excuses for why I’m good. ‘Oh my God, they’re playing zone, oh my God it was this guy, or the receiver slipped. Oh my God … ” It’s like, why don’t other people get those [opportunities] then? You know what I mean? There are a lot of other corners out there who have the same opps I have, you know?
It’s odd. It’s like people got frustrated that I was so confident early on in my career. I was so confident early on, so that people wanted me to fail. And when I didn’t fail, it’s like how do we tear him down in other ways? How do we find a way to rip his game apart? Because I’m too consistent on a year-in, year-out basis.
Since I got in the league, every category that matters to a corner, I’m number one in. Completion percentages, interceptions, touchdowns against, yards, completion percentage, passer rating. If that was any other corner, it wouldn’t even be a conversation. But I just get tired of it. In the playoffs, I played in 13 games now, zero touchdowns given up, three interceptions. Like, show me somebody else doing it like that. Then I’ll enjoy the argument. But there isn’t one.
That was item No. 1.
Here’s item No. 2:
So those are your two items to ponder.
Again, not judging. Judgment free zone. But in my role as a dutiful reporter, I’d be remiss to omit such important matters.
–This is the Super Bowl. I’m pretty sure Damien Williams scored the touchdown that was ruled a touchdown. Seemed like a touchdown anyway. But we didn’t have the camera angle to know for sure.
Where was this camera angle?
Remember that one from the Week 17 thriller between Seattle and San Francisco?
You’d think they would’ve been able to concoct something similar in Miami. Alas.
–Normally when a perennial loser gets a championship, I get bummed out. The world needs losers! So when Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl, that was a bummer. When A-Rod won a World Series, that was a bummer. When LeBron James starting winning titles, that ruined a lot of good fun for a lot of good people.
Yet for Andy Reid, those feelings just don’t apply.
Sure, it’s been fun to have a wealth of data and footage and memories to point out all of Reid’s big game collapses, his 1-5 record in conference championship games and 0-1 record in Super Bowls and his sub-.500 playoff record prior to this season. His clock mismangement and bumbling of timeouts was the stuff of legend.
Everybody enjoyed a good chuckle!
But, well, watching him on the sideline during this postseason run, it was impossible to not root for ol’ Andy. And thankfully, thanks to the brilliance of his explosive offense, he didn’t have to make too many tough calls in the fourth quarters of any games. Granted, his team enjoyed falling behind by double digits in all three playoff wins, but they were able to come back thanks to Patrick Mahomes — yes, of course — but also to that dynamite offense that Reid has designed to perfection in Kansas City.
So, while the end of the football season is always sad, at least we can all feel good for Andy Reid, a guy who’s dedicated his entire life to the sport of football and has finally earned its ultimate reward.