The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers faced off in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. Although the 49ers outplayed the Chiefs for the majority of the game, Patrick Mahomes led a ferocious fourth comeback as Kansas City scored 21 unanswered points to win 31-30. It is the first Super Bowl for the Chiefs since 1970.
After three and a half quarters of play, it seemed as if Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers were on their way to their sixth championship and first since 1995. The teams battled hard in the first half and the score remained tied at 10-10 entering halftime. Then, in the third, San Francisco took control.
Robbie Gould kicked it through the uprights to give the 49ers a 13-10 advantage, which was followed by an interception by Mahomes to Fred Warner. The offense methodically drove down the field on the ensuing drive with Garoppolo finding Kyle Juszczyk for a 10-yard touchdown.
To everyone’s surprise, Garoppolo was outplaying Mahomes and was silencing all of his doubters that said he was just a “system quarterback.” Mahomes on the other hand was flustered by the terrific San Francisco defense and was making uncharacteristically bad decisions.
Kansas City had the ball to start the final quarter and was driving down the field before Mahomes threw another interception with the Chiefs on the edge of the red zone. This time it was picked off by Tarvarius Moore.
Even after San Francisco was forced to punt after just five plays, the outlook still looked bleak for the Chiefs. They were down ten with under nine minutes to play and their offense had looked anemic since the beginning of the second half.
After the Chiefs got the ball back, they picked up a couple first downs before being forced to a 3rd and 15 on their own 35-yard line. It was at this time that Michigan Journal staff writer and resident Chiefs fan Chris Cheetam pronounced, “This game is over.” Fortunately for Kansas City, he was so very wrong.
On 3rd and 15, Mahomes threw a missile to a wide-open Tyreek Hill for 44 yards. It was the first blown coverage all game for San Francisco and completely swung the momentum in Kansas City’s favor. Four plays later, Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the endzone to cut the Niner lead to 20-17 with 6:13 left to play.
Although Mahomes and Hill had given the Chiefs some life, San Francisco still had one of the NFL’s top rushing units and was more than capable of scoring and draining some clock against the weak Kansas City rush defense. Unfortunately, it seemed as if head coach Kyle Shanahan forgot about this.
After Raheem Mostert had a solid five-yard run on first down, Shanahan elected to throw the ball not once, but twice, with both attempts resulting in incompletions. San Francisco was then forced to punt the ball back to the Chiefs after having possession for just 1:03.
Predictably, Kansas City drove down the field on the subsequent drive and took a 24-21 lead with 2:44 remaining. The drive was highlighted by a 38-yard catch by Sammy Watkins and a five-yard touchdown reception by Damien Williams.
The 49ers still had a chance to redeem themselves, but Shanahan still appeared to have forgotten about his run game. He kept having Garoppolo throw the ball even though the quarterback had looked terrible for the entire fourth quarter.
Garoppolo surprisingly was able to make some completions and got the Niners to midfield. After the Chiefs forced consecutive incompletions on first and second down, Garoppolo threw a bomb to a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders that would have certainly resulted in a game-sealing touchdown. Unfortunately, Garoppolo overthrew his receiver and San Francisco faced fourth and long. Frank Clark earned a sack on the fourth down play to give Kansas City the ball back.
The Chiefs officially put the 49ers away with a 38-yard rushing touchdown by Williams that extended their lead to 31-21. Garoppolo then threw his second interception of the game and, 57 seconds later, the Chiefs were Super Bowl champions.
It was a special moment for head coach Andy Reid, who finally won a Super Bowl after a long, illustrious career in the NFL. After the game, Reid said, “That was great man, absolutely great” in reference to the miraculous comeback the Chiefs pulled off. He was even more fired up at the trophy presentation, yelling, “How ‘bout them Chiefs!”
Mahomes earned Super Bowl MVP honors by going 26 of 42 for 286 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed nine times for 29 yards and a touchdown. Mahomes was also in great spirits after the game, saying, “Something I’ve wanted to say my whole life, I’m going to Disney World.”
Although Mahomes was instrumental in Kansas City’s comeback, many argued that there were two other Chiefs more deserving of the MVP: Damien Williams and Tyreek Hill. Williams finished with 17 rushes for 104 yards and four catches for 29 yards. He also had one receiving and one rushing touchdown. Hill hauled in nine catches for 105 yards, including his game-changing 44-yard reception in the fourth.
For the 49ers, it is one of the worst collapses in Super Bowl history and much of it was self-inflicted. Garoppolo was 2 of 10 with an interception in the final ten minutes of play and had a quarterback rating of 2.8, the lowest in Super Bowl history. The defense, which had been stout the entire postseason, allowed Mahomes to walk all over them and was consistently blowing coverages late in the game.
The majority of the blame, however, falls at the feet of Shanahan. The head coach got extremely conservative after taking the ten-point lead, although Kansas City proved in their previous two playoff matchups that they were capable of coming back from any deficit.
He also kept putting the game in the hands of a shaky Garoppolo despite having the second-best rushing game in the NFL. Kansas City acknowledged how hard it would have been to stop San Francisco if they ran the ball more as star safety Tyrann Mathieu said after the game, “We were grateful they got out of the run and started to throw the ball.”
Shanahan is now responsible for two of the biggest collapses in Super Bowl history as he was also the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons when they blew a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Although the loss will be difficult to overcome, the 49ers have a strong, young core that will compete for Super Bowls for years to come and hopefully Shanahan will be able to get rid of the “choker” label that has now been bestowed upon him.
This also may be the beginning of a Kansas City dynasty. Andy Reid remains one of the top three coaches in the NFL and Patrick Mahomes is unquestionably the best quarterback in the league. The Chiefs could easily win another three championships this decade and will be a force for years to come.