This was one of the most anticipated Superbowl’s in recent years, featuring two of the most exciting teams in football: the NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers facing off against the AFC Champions Kansas City Chiefs. The game did not disappoint, with momentum shifting back and forth before the unstoppable force Patrick Mahomes turned the game on its head in the 4th quarter to deliver the Chiefs their second SuperBowl.
This Superbowl featured plenty of storylines, as the 49ers had an opportunity to equal the Steelers and Patriots on a record 6 titles, whilst the Chiefs had a chance to end a 50-year drought and reward the long-suffering Chiefs nation.
Both quarterbacks had a point to prove, a Superbowl win for Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes would cement his place as the star of the league, whilst Jimmy Garoppolo was looking to prove he was a franchise quarterback, in the face of criticism of being a weak-link of the 49ers.
Both teams head coaches had a monkey to get off their backs, seen as masterminds but ‘nearly men’. Chiefs’ Andy Reid had won the most NFL games without winning a Superbowl, and 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator overseeing the infamous Atlanta Falcons team that threw away a historical 28-3 lead in Superbowl 51.
After all the razzmatazz of the Superbowl pre-game entertainment, the game was underway and the 49ers struck first, with a 38-yard Field Goal. However, the Chiefs were not fazed, responding with 75 yard, 15 play drive, including a gutsy 4th down call by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, capped off with a Mahomes touchdown run to put the Chiefs 7-3 up.
As the second quarter began the 49ers tried to respond, but Garoppolo threw an interception, setting up the Chiefs for a field goal to stretch their lead to 10-3. Garoppolo had an instant response to any doubters, driving the 49ers downfield, finishing with a 15-yard pass to fullback Juszczyk for a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10.
With momentum shifting, the Chiefs were forced to punt on their next drive, but 49ers’ head coach Shanahan decided not to call a time-out to preserve the remaining minutes of the half. Despite almost pulling off a big play (cancelled out due to a penalty flag), it was a conservative decision to not attempt a full drive. Did Shanahan not trust Garoppolo?
After a stunning halftime show by Shakira and J.Lo, the teams were back out, and the 49ers began the second half as they began the first, with a field goal to put themselves 13-10 up. On the following drive, Mahomes threw an uncharacteristically sloppy pass for an interception. The 49ers offense capitalized, finishing a long drive with a 1-yard Raheem Mostert touchdown, putting the 49ers 20-10 ahead.
The Chiefs had come from 24 points behind in the Divisional round, 10 points behind in the Championship game, and would need another unlikely comeback. Mahomes began to take the ball downfield in the 4th quarter, before disaster struck, as a badly thrown pass was juggled by Tyreek Hill, landing in the arms on 49ers cornerback Tarvarius Moore for another interception.
The 49ers had a 10-point lead, and possession with under 10 minutes to play. But the Chiefs defense rallied, forcing the 49ers to punt, offering Mahomes a chance of redemption. All was beginning to look lost after Tyreek Hill let an easy catch slip through his hands. But, the very next play Mahomes chucked a bomb downfield to Hill for 44 yards, and 3 plays later Mahomes threw a touchdown pass to Tight End Travis Kelce, making the score 20-17.
Garoppolo and the 49ers offense stuttered once again, resulting in a quick 3 and out, returning the ball to the Chiefs. Mahomes again made no mistake, advancing 65 yards on 7 plays, resulting in a touchdown pass to Damien Williams, giving the Chiefs a 24-20 lead with just under 3 minutes to play.
This was ample time for the 49ers offense to respond, but they once again faltered, as Garoppolo was sacked on 4th down, giving the Chiefs the ball, and enough time for Damien Williams to score his third touchdown and put the game to bed at 31-20. There were mere seconds left when Garoppolo threw another interception out of desperation, allowing the Chiefs to run the clock down and win their fight for the right to party.
After a rocky game, Mahomes won Superbowl MVP, and most NFL fans were delighted to see Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid finally lift the Lombardi trophy. But the same questions will arise for Shanahan and Garoppolo, as Shanahan has now been part of two the biggest 4th quarter collapses in Superbowl history, whilst Garoppolo didn’t provide answers when it mattered. However, these narratives are easy to ride, and we must remember that the Chiefs have been overcoming large deficits on a weekly basis with their high-octane offense led by Mahomes, whilst Garoppolo is still in the early years of his career.