Ray-Ray McCloud

McCloud doesn't regret trying to pick up muffed punt in SB58 loss

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The 49ers' own self-inflicted wounds led to a heartbreaking Super Bowl LVIII loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium.

But 49ers return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud has no regrets about his part in a third-quarter catastrophe when the ball bounced off Darrell Luter's foot during a punt-return attempt. Thinking on his feet, McCloud tried to make a play and scoop the ball, but Kansas City recovered it and was set up for its go-ahead touchdown.

While McCloud acknowledged he could have played it safe and just fallen on the loose ball, the 27-year-old explained his decision to try to scoop up the ball.

“That’s possible,” McCloud told The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch after the 49ers' 25-22 loss, "but I don’t second-guess. I don’t regret nothing. I’m a playmaker. You’ve got to take risks. I was trying to make a play in the moment, I guess.”

During the play, McCloud pointed at Luter before the ball hit him, but Luter said he didn’t hear a “Peter” call, which is the 49ers' punt returner code for "get out of the way."

“I was just blocking my guy,” Luter told Branch. “I didn’t hear a ‘Peter’ call or anything like that. I can’t really look at the returner in a position like that, anyway, because we’re on punt return. At the end of the day, it’s just to block your man and not allow him to make the play and get to the returner.”

Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson recovered the loose ball at the 49ers' 16-yard line for the game-changing moment and, four seconds later, Kansas City took a 13-10 lead with 2:28 left in the third quarter.

Luter acknowledged he felt responsible for how the attempted punt return went downhill.

“It’s a sucky feeling,” Luter said. “It kind of makes you feel like it was all on you. … It’s still kind of getting to me. It’s probably something I’ll be thinking about for the [next] couple of days. I’ll eventually get over it.”

But that wasn't the only special teams miscue of the second half for San Francisco, as rookie kicker Jake Moody's extra-point attempt was blocked early in the fourth quarter. Instead of taking a 17-13 lead, the 49ers were up 16-13 before Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker tied the game on the next Chiefs possession, forcing overtime where Kansas City came out on top.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” Moody told Branch after the game. “Will have to look at the tape to see what happened. That one hurts a lot. I’m obviously expecting to make every [kick] that I go out there for. And whether it’s blocked or missed, it hurts just the same. That sucked.”

While there are several things to point to for yet another postseason heartbreak for San Francisco, the mishaps from special teams might haunt the unit for a little while.

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