LAS VEGAS — Brock Purdy was as composed as ever as he stepped to the podium to assess the most difficult loss of his life.
There is no shame in getting beat by Patrick Mahomes. He’s a transcendent player headed for the Hall of Fame. That doesn’t make it any easier for Purdy and the 49ers to digest a 25-22 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.
What it came down to is this when the 49ers and Chiefs were tied 19-19 at the end of regulation play: Purdy led his team to a field goal. Mahomes used his own brand of special magic to produce a touchdown on a 3-yard pass to Mecole Hardman and give the Chiefs their second consecutive Super Bowl championship.
The drive encompassed 75 yards in 13 plays and there was an air of inevitability. As much as the 49ers might like to believe once Jake Moody had given them a 22-19 lead with a 27-yard field goal, once the Chiefs got the ball back with one chance to score, the game was all but over.
“When you have a good offense like the Chiefs do and what Mahomes can do, we have to score touchdowns,” Purdy said. “I’ve got to be better in terms of leading the guys and just how I handle things in the huddle and telling them what to expect. We have to score touchdowns, and I think I failed to put our team in position to do that.”
When the 49ers had a chance to win the game with the Chiefs facing a fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line, Mahomes gutted the 49ers with a read option for an 8-yard run and a first down. On third-and-6 three plays later, he hit Rashee Rice for 13 yards. He had another 19-yard scramble up the middle to the 13, hit Travis Kelce for seven yards to the 3 and then won the game with his pass to Hardman.
Mahomes completed 34 of 46 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. He was the Chiefs’ leading rusher with 66 yards on 19 carries. He was good enough that it was remarkable the 49ers kept him out of the end zone as often as they did, as Kansas City’s Harrison Butker kicked four field goals.
“We gave it all we had,” defensive tackle Arik Armstead said. “It’s a hard task to chase around Mahomes, so it puts a lot of pressure on you to keep from getting fatigued, but we gave it all.”
Purdy had no reason to hang his head. He was 23 of 38 for 255 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings. He extended some plays with his feet and got the 49ers to the Kansas City 9-yard line on their first overtime possession. But a field goal isn’t a touchdown, and Purdy, like every other quarterback in the NFL, isn’t Mahomes.
The 49ers have a very good quarterback who could have shed some labels such as “game manager” and “system quarterback.” Now they’ll continue in some quarters, when in reality he had competed against Mahomes pretty evenly as the end result suggests.
One of the reasons Purdy won’t be joining Joe Montana and Steve Young as a championship quarterback was the 49ers’ trouble on third down. They were just 3-for-12, largely because Purdy spent so much time in third-and-long. Drives were difficult to sustain with the Chiefs playing more man-to-man defense — sticky man-to-man — than the 49ers anticipated. They took a 10-0 lead and led 10-3 at the half but offensively they weren’t doing enough with their opportunities.
“I’m still trying to figure it out. First and second down have got to be better,” Purdy said. “You get in these third and longs and it’s tough to convert. There were a couple of times the defense got the stops and when they needed to and then our first couple of plays were either negative or we’re not moving the ball.”
There was little he could do but tip his hat to Mahomes.
Patrick Mahomes (15) of the Chiefs runs into the arms of Mecole Hardman (12) after the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium. Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group
“I think he’s one of the best to ever do it,” Purdy said. “Makes plays. Obviously he’s got a great arm and pocket movement and he can run the ball when the offense needed it and more than anything he’s a competitor. Like we said going into the game, you don’t want to let them have the ball because he can do a lot of damage with it.”
After a poor third quarter offensively, Purdy kept the 49ers in the game. Coach Kyle Shanahan had no issues with his quarterback and lauded his performance.
“From what just out there playing, I thought Brock played great,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “He took care of the ball, made some off-schedule plays, made some big throws down the field. I’m by no means putting this in Brock’s hands for the loss. I agree with him this offense scores touchdowns. You’ve got to score touchdowns to win Super Bowls.”
It was the second time Shanahan had been victimized by Mahomes, who won the first of his three Super Bowl MVPs against the 49ers 31-20 following the 2019 season. Add that to a 34-28 overtime loss as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season when the New England Patriots had a pretty fair quarterback who brought his team back from a 28-3 deficit.
“I think when you go against guys like Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, you never feel comfortable with a lead,” Shanahan said. “Those are two of the greatest players to ever play the game. That’s why whether you have a lead or are down points, those guys are always in it. You watch them do stuff like that all the time.”
Both Purdy and Nick Bosa talked about failing to put enough distance between themselves and Mahomes.
“I think what eats at me is I feel like we had our opportunities to sort of lap them and get up on them and we failed to do that,” Purdy said. “So moving forward with my career, if you get blessed enough to get in this position again, you have to understand that and not learn the hard way.”
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Purdy came out looking sharp, completing his first five passes. But the 49ers turned the ball over on their opening drive on a lost Christian McCaffrey fumble. Late in the first quarter, Purdy had his own moments reminiscent of Jimmy Garoppolo in Super Bowl LIV against the Chiefs when he overshot Brandon Aiyuk on a potential 33-yard touchdown, a throw that came after consecutive completions of 18 yards to Chris Conley and 19 yards to Ray-Ray McCloud.
That drive stalled, forcing a 55-yard field goal by Moody — who kicked three on the day. Young, the former 49er and Hall of Fame quarterback, is fond of saying field goals just bring you three points closer to losing, and that turned out to be the case against the Chiefs.
After Mahomes’ winning pass that followed Moody’s final field goal, the Chiefs had a party on the field that prevented Mahomes and Purdy meeting at midfield for the usual greeting of the quarterbacks.
“He was busy celebrating,” Purdy said.