For most of Super Bowl 54, we saw a conservative game plan drawn up by Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers that should have been enough to secure the win. So, what went wrong and ultimately cost the 49ers a chance to join the ranks of six-time Super Bowl champions? Last week, I wrote a preview of Super Bowl 54 using PFN’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) alongside NFL Next Gen Stats. This week, we’ll recap Super Bowl 54 and review those numbers to see what exactly happened – or didn’t happen – for the 49ers and ultimately secured the win for Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes, and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s expected OSM going into the game was 20.2 while his actual OSM ended up at 18.2. Why as it so much lower than expected? One factor was his air yard differential. Garoppolo’s average intended air yards (7.8) were higher than expected while his completed air yards (4.7) were below expectations.
It was also noted, that the Chiefs have only lost once when quarterbacks complete less than 68% of their passes. The key for the 49ers and Garoppolo was to keep his completion rate high while limiting his attempts. It worked until the final few minutes of the game where they were forced to rely on the passing game to attempt a comeback. In the end, Garoppolo had 31 attempts with less than a 65% completion rate.
Mahomes was not expected to have an above-average OSM against this 49ers defense. They had been very stingy against quarterbacks all season. That held true, as Mahomes finished with an OSM of 19.3. However, he did perform better than the expected OSM of 18.4.
It was expected that he’d have to throw into tighter coverage than he had all season, but it wasn’t a factor in this game. Only twice in 2019 have opposing quarterbacks been less aggressive than Mahomes was in the Super Bowl. As a result, he minimized the air yard differential to virtually zero. Only Drew Brees had a smaller differential, in Week 14, and Mahomes 7.2 average completed air yards were the highest of any opposing quarterback for the 49ers in 2019.
Raheem Mostert played very well per OSM. He ended the game with an OSM of 19.3, which is a little lower than the 49ers rushing attack in general but higher than the team’s expected OSM of 16.8. He wasn’t expected to play as good as he did against a Chiefs run defense that allowed an average OSM of 12.6 to running backs.
He was less efficient than he normally is at 3.9 yards run per one yard gained from scrimmage. However, despite having almost identical statistics as he did in the divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings, he faced eight men in the box nearly 10% more often in Super Bowl 54. In other words, more responsibility laid on Mostert in this game.
In my last article, I noted that for Damien Williams to be successful on the ground he would need to take advantage of a 49ers defense that rarely stacks the box; i.e. he would need to run more efficiently than he had during the regular season.
With the 49ers only placing eight men in the box 6% of the time, Williams had his 3rd most efficient game of the season. His efficiency allowed him to gain 104 yards on 17 carriers, a 6.1 average. His OSM for the game was also his 3rd best at 12.8, more than three points higher than his regular-season average and in line with the Chiefs’ expected OSM of 13.0 for running backs.
Kansas City Wide Receivers
The ability to get separation is key to the success of the Chiefs wide receivers. If they get over 3.7 yards of separation, their catch rate is more than 72% on average with a minimum OSM of 35.2. However, when OSM is below 35.2, they are averaging just 2.7 yards of separation with a catch rate of 54%.
In Super Bowl 54, we saw just that. Tyreek Hill had an OSM of 31.9. His separation was just 3.6 and his catch rate was 56%. Sammy Watkins, on the other hand, finished with an OSM of 45.2. His catch rate was 83% while he gained nearly 4.5 yards of separation on average.
It’s not surprising to see Hill have a low catch rate. In each game this season in which he’s been targeted at least ten times, his catch rate has been between 50% and 60%. However, Watkins put in a stellar performance, especially considering the defense he was up against.
Typically, wide receivers targeted more than 11.5 yards downfield against the 49ers fail to catch two-thirds of balls thrown to them. In Super Bowl 54, Watkins was targeted an average of 14.3 yards downfield yet still managed to catch 83% of his targets.
To recap, the Chiefs receivers ended Super Bowl 54 with an average OSM of 38.5, just 1.5 above their expected OSM of 37.0.
San Francisco Wide Receivers
It was noted before Super Bowl 54 that 2.5 yards of separation would be the key to success against the Chiefs defense. The catch rate and yards after catch are impacted greatly when a receiver gets less than 2.5 yards. With that said, Emmanuel Sanders played as expected in this game. His 60% catch rate came off of just 2.1 yards of separation with 0.8 yards after the catch, resulting in an OSM of 25.8. This ranks as his 3rd lowest grade of the season, including his time with the Denver Broncos.
Deebo Samuel didn’t quite play as expected. During the regular season, he was targeted, on average, 7.8 yards downfield with a catch rate of 70%. In Super Bowl 54, he was targeted 7.5 yards downfield yet only managed to catch 5 of 9 targets (56%). He was also averaging 8.5 yards after catch during the regular season, 1.6 yards more than expected. However, he was only able to maintain 6.4 yards after catch, 0.8 less than expected, on average. This resulted in a 30.9 OSM compared to his regular-season OSM of 38.6.
To recap, the 49ers receivers ended the game with an average OSM of 28.3 in Super Bowl 54, which fell 3.1 short of their expected OSM of 31.4.
Travis Kelce managed to have his 3rd best game of the season on Sunday per OSM, coming in at 44.6. As noted previously, Kelce’s increased his catch rate by 12% on average since Mahomes came back from injury in Week 10, primarily due to him being targeted closer to the line of scrimmage at 7.9 yards, versus 10.8 prior to. In Super Bowl 54, he was targeted on average 5.8 yards downfield and caught all 6 of his targets.
This was despite the 49ers only allowing 5.1 yards of cushion, the least amount of cushion allowed to a tight end this season. Typically, tight ends receiving less than 7.5 yards against the 49ers defense do poorly, which is why his expected OSM was just 36.1. Using Kelce primarily in the short-passing game allowed the Chiefs to make the most of what little space they had.
Although George Kittle’s Super Bowl 54 OSM was dead-on with expectations at 38.9 per our recap, he had a rough outing. The only bright side was his average 6.5 yards after catch.
He was given 8.3 yards of cushion on average (highest of the season), obtained 4.8 yards of separation on average (highest of the season), and was targeted just 3.6 yards downfield on average (3rd lowest for the season). Yet, his catch rate was just 57%, his lowest for the entire season and in stark comparison to his regular-season average of 79%.