Multiple San Francisco 49ers didn’t realize at the start of overtime that both teams would have the opportunity to possess the football to win the 2024 Super Bowl.
49ers defensive end Arik Armstead called the new rules “a surprise” in his postgame interview. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk told reporters he “didn’t realize” the rules were different and “assumed” the overtime strategy would be to possess the ball first, score a touchdown and win.
The new rules wouldn’t have affected the outcome of this game, though. The 49ers scored only a field goal on their first overtime possession before the Kansas City Chiefs scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to secure the Super Bowl title. That series of events would have won the Chiefs the game even if the rules hadn’t changed.
But, the knowledge appeared to affect the coin toss strategy.
Chiefs players told The Ringer’s Lindsay Jones that they always wanted to possess the ball second because then they’d know what they needed to win or tie the game. The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive, apparently because they believed a touchdown would end the game.
Juszczyk added that the team hadn’t talked about what they would do in the event of overtime, either. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan more or less concurred with that sentiment when asked about his overtime strategy after the game.
“None of us have a ton of experience with it,” Shanahan said after the game, “but we went through all the analytics and talked to those guys, and we just decided we wanted the ball third.”
In the end, the 49ers had possession just once. The Chiefs stormed down the field, going 75 yards in 13 plays, culminating in a 3-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to a wide-open Mecole Hardman in the end zone for the walk-off score.
When Did the NFL’s Overtime Rules Change?
Oddly enough, Mahomes and the Chiefs are to blame for the new rules, which were implemented after Kansas City beat the Buffalo Bills in overtime during the 2022 AFC divisional round.
In that game, the Chiefs won the coin toss in overtime, took the ball first and scored a touchdown. The NFL received complaints after that game that it wasn’t fair for one team to not even have a shot to tie the game in overtime.
The league concurred and changed the rules that offseason. However, there hadn’t been an overtime playoff game since then — until the 2024 Super Bowl. It was quite the time for the NFL to see how its new playoff rules work in real time.
Mahomes joked after the game about the new rules and rhetorically asked how the NFL could change them again to hurt Kansas City.
“We changed the rule, so we can execute it both ways,” he said. “I don’t know how they’re going to change it this time.”
Social Media Reaction to 49ers’ Admissions
It should come as no surprise to hear that people were shocked the 49ers admitted they weren’t aware of the new rules. ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth – a former player – said on “Get Up” that the 49ers should just “lie” about not knowing the rules.
But they didn’t, and those on social media went to work criticizing the team for not understanding what to do in the most important game of the season.
One fan added that the 49ers coaching staff should have alerted the team of the rules beforehand as well.
Another fan joked that now the 49ers will petition to change the overtime rules as the Bills did two years ago.