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SB LVI Thoughts (Some Cards Related)

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Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  • SB LIV played on a date that is a rare palindrome: 02-02-2020. Last one was 11-11-1111. Next one: 03-03-3030. Let’s just hope the Arizona Cardinals win one in the interim!
  • Kyle Shanahan—-man, two 4th quarter meltdowns in the past 4 years—-first up 28-3 over Patriots (when he was OC with the Falcons) in 2016 and here up 20-10 versus Chiefs.

Turning points:

3rd & 15 at KC 35

  • (7:13 - 4th) (Shotgun) P.Mahomes pass deep left to T.Hill to SF 21 for 44 yards (J.Ward) [D.Buckner].

3rd & 10 at SF 21

  • (6:23 - 4th) (Shotgun) P.Mahomes pass incomplete deep left to T.Kelce (T.Moore). PENALTY on SF-T.Moore, Defensive Pass Interference, 20 yards, enforced at SF 21 - No Play.
  • Ball placed at the 1 yard line—-1st and goal.
  • In the next five minutes the Chiefs would score 21 points.

49ers’ Changes in Schemes:

  • Switching from their highly effective zone defense to press man to man. They had the Legion of Zoom in check until they switched into the press. Anyone at this point knows that if you are going to ask CB Richard Sherman to play press man coverage, you’d better have a safety over the top. Sherman had been doing very well in this game, when playing his natural cushion and keeping the zoomers in front of him.
  • Yes, the Chiefs were loading the box to try to slow down the 49ers’ running game, so sure, there were passing opportunities—-but with the lead and with running so well (22/141/6.2 ave.), even versus stacked boxes, why change?

Interesting Tactic by Chiefs’ DC Steve Spagnuolo?

  • I was watching DT Chris Jones on every snap—-and, as I have learned over the years, it’s very hard to evaluate a DT because on most plays they don’t do anything special—-but the good ones flash several times a game. In this game, I can only recall seeing Jones get good, quick penetration once in the game—-which surprised me for a player of his caliber. In fact, i thought DT Mike Pennell was putting the most consistent pressure up the middle on Jimmy G. Now at times, Jones was getting double teamed, but not on every play.
  • However, in the 4th quarter, Jones appeared to be simply conceding the pass rush by sliding his feet to position himself to try to deflect Jimmy G’s passes—-and brilliantly he got to 3 of them—-all big plays. This is where his size 6-6, 310 and athleticism are real assets.
  • I would be curious to know whether Jones just did this on his own or whether he was coached to do it by Steve Spagnuolo.

Steve Spagnuolo:

  • Before becoming the Super Bowl XLII winning DC of the Giants, Spagnuolo spent 7 years as a defensive assistant for Andy Reid in Philadelphia. His success as DC with the Giants helped get him his first HC gig with the St. Louis Rams. His 2nd was as NYG interim HC for 4 games. His career HC record is 11-41.
  • However, as we know, some coaches are far better coordinators than head coaches. Like Wade Phillips, for example.
  • One has to hand it to Andy Reid, because last year after another quick exit in the playoffs, Reid made the tough decision to move on from his long-time DC and friend, Bob Sutton, in favor of bringing in Spagnuolo.
  • These are the kinds of tough decisions that can help win Super Bowls.Thus, it is a painful reminder as Cardinals’ fans watching croneyism become the undoing of the best three year regular season stretch in the history of the Arizona Cardinals.
  • While the Cardinals’ defense under Vance Jospeh showed improvement during the last three weeks of the season—-look at what Spagnuolo dialed up in key 3rd down situations in the 4th quarter versus the 49ers—-rushing 5-6 players at Jimmy G. In highly similar situations while behind versus the 49ers in close 4th quarters, Vance Jospeh elected to rush 3—- and then when he had the lead late, he called that delayed safety middle blitz while leaving Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones in coverage with the middle wide open. Did you notice that the 49ers used that same circle pass route to little used RB Jeff Wilson on a couple of blitz checks last night—-the first one Wilson dropped but KC was off-sides on the play and the 2nd one Wilson caught for 20 yards.
  • I get the whole continuity argument regarding Vance Jospeh—-but cannot possibly fathom ignoring the fact that Wade Phillips is out there looking for a job.

Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray:

  • What’s fascinating to me—-and I am so delighted that the Cardinals were able to have the #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft—-but, I mentioned this before the draft and I want to string it up the flagpole again (now that Kyler Murray has a season under his belt)—-I believe that if the 49ers had owned the #1 pick, they would have taken Kyler Murray. In my opinion, every team in the NFL would have taken Kyler Murray at #1 except the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.
  • Think about it—-is there a QB in the NFL you would want on your roster for the next 4 years other than Kyler Murray? Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson—-and that’s about it. But, in the long run i believe it is quite possible that Kyler Murray can rise to the very top because he’s got faster, quicker feet than Mahomes and a more accurate arm than Jackson.
  • For three and a half quarters, Patrick Mahomes was trying to steer his passes instead of just letting them rip, which is why so many of his passes were low. Credit the 49ers for keeping him off-balance, but Mahomes was having a hard time setting his feet and putting his normal zip on the ball. I’ve rarely seen him throw so many flat passes.
  • To his credit, he bounced back in the 4th quarter from his two interceptions (and nearly a 3rd) by loosening up his delivery. And today, in two years of being a starting QB in the NFL he has an MVP award (2018), a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP award (2019). *
  • Amazing. Mahomes, like his head coach Andy Reid, is doing it through hard work and class.
  • Oh the irony—-BA said this past week that Mahomes is one of the “4 smartest QBs” he’s ever seen. Did any of you catch that? The irony is that back when Mahomes was at the 2017 NFL Combine, BA was expressing his disdain for what he called “college system QBs” and how they have never taken snaps from center or commanded a huddle in their lives, which is why, in his opinion, so many of them are doomed to fail in the NFL. *
  • BA also recently reveled that the Cardinals had their sights on Desean Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft, not Patrick Mahomes. Well, that would point back to the “system QB” remarks, wouldn’t it?
  • To credit BA’s waggish sense of humor—-he wouldn’t name his 4th smartest QB because he wanted each of his past QBs not mentioned (in the first 3) to think it was he.

Andy Reid and Kliff Kingsbury:

  • Andy Reid has been a superb coach for a long, long time and Kliff Kingsbury is just getting started—-but what Kingsbury has in common with Reid is the passion, the indefatigable work ethic, the innovation to stay ahead of the offensive trends and the classy ability to support the players they coach, as competitors and as men. In today’s NFL, coaches like Andy Reid are becoming more and more valuable.

49ers and Chiefs 2020 Free Agents:

  • Both teams are very limited in cap space: 49ers ($13.9M) and Chiefs ($16.2M)—-and the Chiefs are still profiting from having Patrick Mahomes on his rookie contract.
  • For the 49ers, the top free agents are DE Arik Armstead, WR Emmanuel Sanders, DT Sheldon Day and FS Jimmy Ward. Armstead is coming off his best season by far, but he is a tweener in the 34 defense (I would bet he doesn’t want to play 34 DE) and PFF is predicting he is going to command $17M a year.
  • For the Chiefs the top free agents are DE Chris Jones, DT Mike Pennell, CB Breshaud Breeland and CB/FS Kendall Fuller. It should be interesting to see what the Chiefs do with Jones—-it doesn’t look at all like they can afford to pay him $18-20M a year—-and at that salary it may be difficult to get a team to trade for him if they f-tag him.
  • Chris Jones next to Chandler Jones would be a treat. if there is one top dollar free agent the Cardinals can afford to sign, Chris Jones looks like that guy, because he could upgrade the run and pass defense enormously.
  • DT Mike Pennell is 29 and has bounced around—-but many of us here have liked the thought of the Cardinals adding him. He could be a bargain.
  • The two CBs, Breshaud Breeland (28) and Kendall Fuller(25) are very attractive. Breeland had arguably his best game as a pro on the brightest stage last night (team-leading 7 tackles, 1 pass breakup and 1 interception) in a league where tall, aggressive CBs are in high demand. Fuller, who had the game sealing interception at FS (and nearly jumped a route for another interception earlier) is the young CB I and many others here wanted the Cardinals to acquire in a potential Patrick Peterson trade which of course, didn’t happen. Fuller’s versatility is particularly appealing.

Fullback:

  • I wonder if Kliff Kingsbury is considering adding a FB to his offense.
  • The fact is, FBs have made a huge impact on the last two Super Bowls, last year with the Patriots’ Mike Develin making key blocks in critical situations (on the game winning drive in particular) and this year with 49ers’ Kyle Juszczyk’s noteworthy performance in the running and passing game (3/39/1 TD) and with the Chiefs’ Anthony Sherman’s blocks which paved the way for RB Damien Williams’ impressive 104 yards rushing on 17 carries and game sealing TD.
  • On a personal note—-I am very happy for Anthony Sherman because he played high school ball at North Attleboro H.S. one of Foxboro’s top rivals in the Hockomock League. Jack Johnson, the OC at North Attleboro, and I were offensive assistants at Avon Old Farms School back in the 1980s—-and I was talking with him on the phone from school one day in March of 2013 when Jack informed me (a day before it was announced) that he had just spoken with the Shermans and that Andy had been traded by the Cardinals to the Chiefs for CB Javier Arenas. I had been so proud of the Cardinals for drafting Sherman and turning him into one of the top FBs and STs players in the NFL.
  • Anthony Sherman is a 2020 UFA. And the 49ers, according to Sportrac, are likely to void the last year of Kyle Juszczyk’s contract in order to save $5M on the cap.
  • That’s the thing about FBs—-they not only make key blocks and timely receptions out of the backfield—-they typically are stalwarts on the ST units.

Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson:

  • Now that Tyrann Mathieu has regained his iconic, all-star status around the NFL, and now that he has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, one might be wondering what Patrick Peterson is thinking. Question of the day: do you think watching Mathieu win the Super Bowl has fanned the flames of Peterson’s desire to play elsewhere?
  • Mathieu said when he left Arizona that he wanted to go play for a team that “is serious about winning.” There are valid reasons why he said this at the time of his release, vis-a-vis the growing country club culture in the organization and some of the obvious and acrimonious coaching issues.
  • But—-as Bob Dylan sings, “times they are a-changin’.” Because...

Game Changers:

  • QB Kyler Murray was no doubt watching this Super Bowl and thinking ahead to one day having his opportunity to play for the championship. Murray is acutely well aware that Mahomes got to the Super Bowl in his 2nd year as a starter and 3rd year as a pro. As Murray has said, he plays the game to compete for championships—-and thus he is already planning ways in which he can help to lead the Cardinals into the playoffs next season. *
  • The Cardinals’ players like and respect Kliff Kingsbury and it is quite possible that a number of free agents are now looking at the Cardinals as the team they want to play for the most. Here’s what game changing WR Larry Fitzgerald had to say about his coach while playing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open: “Anybody would love playing for Kliff,” Fitz said. “He’s such a cool cat, man.”