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For some reason, it has become more common to assign blame for blowing big big games than credit to the team that came from behind for an improbable win.
We marvel at Joe Montana’s Super Bowl drive many years ago, and don’t dwell on the Cincinnati Bengals giving it up. That’s not the case anymore. We crush the Seattle Seahawks’ play-calling rather than celebrate Malcolm Butler’s great play, blame the Atlanta Falcons for blowing a 28-3 lead more than focusing on the New England Patriots’ comeback, and now we’re ripping the San Francisco 49ers for blowing Super Bowl LIV.
It’s not always that easy. Other teams raise their level of play and do the seemingly impossible sometimes. Even against other great teams.
Kyle Shanahan’s explanation of two such games — he was offensive coordinator when the Falcons lost that 28-3 lead and head coach when the 49ers couldn’t hold onto a 10-point lead in last season’s Super Bowl — might not sit well with everyone. But it’s a fair perspective.
Kyle Shanahan on Patriots’ comeback: ‘They just went off’
Appearing on “The TK Show” with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, Shanahan discussed both Super Bowl disappointments.
Regarding the 28-3 game, Shanahan gave credit to the Patriots. And he’s right. New England played out of its mind to come back and win.
“[The Falcons] went on an 85-yard drive on offense in the third quarter to go up 28-3 with five minutes to go in [the quarter],” Shanahan told Kawakami, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “From that point on, New England had  yards of offense and [eight incompletions]. So, like, whatever. And we didn't convert our [three] third downs. Who gets  yards of offense in a quarter? They just went off, and it is what it is.”
Sometimes, you have to tip your cap.
Blaming the 49ers for blowing Super Bowl LIV is tough. They had a 10-point lead against a phenomenal Kansas City Chiefs offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has put together the greatest three-season start to a career in NFL history.
Some might not like Shanahan’s look back at that game, but again, he’s not wrong.
Loss to Chiefs was ‘different’ to Shanahan
A 10-point lead is not insurmountable, especially against the Chiefs. It stinks to lose it and the 49ers will be disappointed forever by the result, but the Chiefs earned it.
"This one was different to me,” Shanahan said on Kawakami’s show, comparing the two Super Bowls. “We were up 10. It's not like we blew a huge lead — it was two possessions, and on those two possessions they scored and on our two possessions we didn't convert a third down.
“It flipped like that, and it was just over really quick. But it wasn't like we blew anything. They converted a third-and-long, and we didn't."
It’s a realistic view of the NFL. Teams are not separated by much, especially in a Super Bowl. Sometimes the result of a single play changes the result. The Chiefs made those plays down the stretch. They were a very good team and a worthy champion. The 49ers would have been too. Deserving teams lose all the time in a competitive league.
It doesn’t sound like Shanahan is dwelling too much on those losses, though he might in private moments. There are things that could have been done differently, especially in the Patriots game. But he understands the big picture. The other guys get paid too.
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