After their Super Bowl LVIII loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, several San Francisco 49ers players admitted that they didn’t know the rules for OT in the NFL playoffs until the big game.
The NFL changed its playoff overtime rules in 2022; previously, playoff overtime rules were the same as the regular season. According to those rules, if the first team to possess the ball scores a touchdown, they win the game. But as of 2022, each team gets at least one possession, even if the first possession results in an offensive touchdown, in the playoffs.
The 49ers elected to receive the ball first in overtime, going on to kick a field goal. The Chiefs then won the game by scoring a touchdown on the next possession. Had the 49ers elected to receive, and even if the Chiefs scored, they may have gone for a fourth-down conversion and extended the contest, or win the game.
Meeting with reporters outside Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said the 49ers didn’t review the rules before the session, telling reporters: “You know what? I didn’t even realize the playoff rules were different in overtime. I assumed you just want the ball to score a touchdown and win. But I guess that’s not the case. I don’t totally know the strategy there.” Defensive lineman Arik Armstead also said he wasn’t aware of the rules until the NFL posted them on a scoreboard, and added that his teammates were surprised to read the rules when they were posted at Allegiant Stadium. Said Armstead: “I didn’t even know about the new playoff overtime rule. It was a surprise to me. I didn’t know what was going on, in terms of that. They put it on the scoreboard and everyone was thinking, even if you score, they get a chance still.”
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said coaches discussed the analytic strategy of taking the ball first and “thought it would be better.” He also said they made the decision hoping to get the ball a second time in overtime. Shanahan added he was proud of the 49ers performances during the 2023-24 campaign: “Obviously, we’re hurting, our team’s hurting, but that’s how it goes when you put yourself out there. I’m real proud of our guys, no regrets with our team. I thought our guys played so hard. Not everything was perfect by any means, but if I’m going to lose with a group of guys, I’d do it with those guys any time and we’ll get over this and come back next year ready to go.”
On the flip side, Chiefs players said they were recently coached on the current overtime rules, with safety Justin Reid saying that the Chiefs constantly reviewed the overtime rules: “We talked about it all year. We talked about it in training camp. about how the rules were different in the regular season versus the playoffs. Every week in the playoffs, we talked about the overtime rules. We knew what our game plan was, had we won the coin toss, or whether he’d wanted to defer or not, and what our plan was from there.”
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