Shanahan eyes 'Redemption Bowl' after Houston horror

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Miami (AFP)

Three years after playing a part in the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history, Kyle Shanahan stands on the brink of redemption.

The San Francisco 49ers head coach can exorcise the ghost of Atlanta's 2017 defeat to the New England Patriots if his team beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Shanahan was the Falcons' offensive coordinator in that loss, and faced post-game criticism for his play-calling at a pivotal moment in the fourth quarter.

Leading by eight points with 4:40 to play, the Falcons were in field goal range and had the chance to take an unassailable lead.

But Shanahan's decision to opt for a passing play on second down rather than a safer running move, led to a sack and loss of yardage, followed by a holding penalty on third down, taking the Falcons out of range for a three-point kick.

Tom Brady and the Patriots took over possession, leveled the scores and went on to win in overtime.

Shanahan, who took over as 49ers head coach later in 2017, insists he has moved on from that Houston horror show.

But the San Francisco coach has been reminded of it at every turn in Miami this week, with questions about 2017 at every press conference.

The 40-year-old 49ers coach, regarded as one of the most innovative minds in the NFL, says he is trying to turn 2017 into a positive for his players.

"I'm like 'Guys, don't worry I've been there, and guess what? I was still alive the next day, and my life did move on, and things are still all right,'" Shanahan said.

- 'Nothing to run from' -

"But whether you win or lose, the key is that you don't hesitate on anything, so no matter what, the rest of your life, you can look in the mirror, and you don't have regrets."

Shanahan says other than that one fatal play call in the fourth quarter, he wouldn't have done anything differently.

"There's nothing to run away from," he said. "I'm very proud of that year, and I'm very proud of that team. We played a pretty darn good game. We all know we were up 28-3. We know we didn't play well in the fourth.

"But I'm not going to run from that. I'm very disappointed about losing a 28-3 lead. It was very hard on all of us, and our whole team. I understand perception-wise how much I had to take from that.

"But I think I can deal with that. I think I've been able to. And knowing that has made me stronger," added Shanahan, whose father Mike Shanahan coached the Denver Broncos to Super Bowl wins in 1999 and 2000.

Although Shanahan says he has come to terms with the Houston defeat, one legacy of that collapse is that he is rarely lured into complacency.

Against the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs, he says he "freaked out" when defensive coordinator Robert Saleh began resting his starters with the 49ers leading 27-10 with two minutes to go.

He was similarly aware of the scoreboard in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, when a late rally by Aaron Rodgers closed the gap to 14 points.

"I know a 25-point lead in the isn't enough," Shanahan said.

"We only had a 14-point lead with eight minutes to go versus Green Bay. I think that's the stuff that helps you because sometimes I think people can tend to relax."