The San Francisco 49ers have been touted as the NFC’s top seed and Super Bowl contenders. However, they faced disappointment once again in their quest for a Lombardi Trophy. The 49ers boast formidable weapons on their roster, but their hopes were dashed as they stumbled on their third consecutive trip to the NFL’s pinnacle event.
The 49ers loss was compounded by the injuries of several key players. The team’s players also raised eyebrows by saying that they didn’t know about the new NFL Super Bowl overtime possession rules, which cost them the Super Bowl LVIII title.
What were the new Super Bowl overtime possession rules?
Super Bowl LVIII marked the debut of the NFL’s updated overtime possession rules. With these changes, both teams are granted a chance to possess the ball during overtime, regardless of the outcome of the initial possession. This adjustment aims to ensure fairness by giving each team an opportunity to impact the game’s outcome. The rule change seeks to prevent scenarios where a team wins without its opponent having a chance to respond.
If the score remains tied after each team has had possession, the sudden death principle applies. It means that the next score determines the winner. However, if the team receiving the initial possession scores a safety, the game concludes immediately, giving them the victory.
The NFL operated under a different overtime format prior to the introduction of these new rules. Back in the Super Bowl LI matchup between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, the game ended abruptly when the Pats scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It left the Falcons without an opportunity to counter.
The catalyst for change came in January 2022, following a controversial playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills fell to the Chiefs without their high-powered offense ever getting a chance to possess the ball in overtime.
According to the previous overtime format, a team scoring a field goal on its opening possession did not immediately end the game. However, if a touchdown was scored or if the defense registered a safety, the game concluded. This system often sparked debates about fairness and prompted the league to enact the current rules.
49ers players reportedly unfamiliar of Super Bowl overtime rules
The aftermath of Super Bowl LVIII saw more than just confetti flying in the air, as it also revealed a surprising lack of awareness among the 49ers players regarding the overtime rules. Several Niners players admitted they were unfamiliar with the nuances of the game’s overtime format, despite the rules being in place for two years.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk voiced his words, saying he thought scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime would secure victory.
“I guess that’s not the case. i don’t really know the strategy,” he said.
Defensive lineman Arik Armstead echoed this sentiment. Even the scoreboard’s revelation failed to enlighten him on the revised regulations.
“I didn’t even know about the new playoff overtime rule, so it was a surprise to me. I didn’t even really know what was going on in terms of that. They put it on the scoreboard, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, even if you score, they get a chance still’.”
The 49ers embarked on a crucial drive after winning the overtime coin toss and opting to take the ball first. However, their lack of understanding became apparent when their drive stalled. They settled for a field goal by putting them ahead 22-19 and handing possession to the Chiefs.
Even if the 49ers scored a touchdown on their possession, they would have faced a crucial decision regarding the extra point or a two-point conversion. Ultimately, they lost the match 25-22.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged discussing overtime scenarios with his analytics team before the game. However, the evident lack of comprehension among the players proved costly. But the fans didn’t shy away from urging the 49ers to fire Shanahan following the loss.