MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The most successful coach in NFL history without a Super Bowl title has to wait no longer. Kansas City’s Andy Reid, who had won 221 games over his 21 seasons in the NFL, finally secured the biggest victory of his career as the Chiefs came from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV.
The victory was improbable only in the manner that it happened. Kansas City and its flashy offense were limited to just 206 yards through three quarters, and it appeared as if the 49ers were going to cruise to a win largely due to their ability to pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But instead, the last seven minutes turned into a nightmare as the 49ers imploded and the Chiefs surged to three touchdowns in the final 6 ½ minutes.
Here are three other things we learned as Kansas City won its first Super Bowl title in 50 years.
1) Despite plenty of adversity, it was Mahomes’ time
A lot of things seem to come easy for Mahomes. This did not. Down 20-10 in the fourth quarter, it seemed his chance to add a Super Bowl to his Most Valuable Player award from last season was gone when he threw interceptions on consecutive series. But Sunday was a lesson in never giving up on a player with that kind of talent.
Facing third-and-15 with seven minutes remaining, and under the same kind of relentless pressure that had forced him into bad situations all game long, he somehow found a way to escape a sack and loft up a flat-footed pass deep down the field to Tyreek Hill, who had nobody around him. Suddenly, a game that looked like it was lost had new life. Mahomes hit tight end Travis Kelce with a 1-yard touchdown pass with 6:13 left, got the ball back quickly and then marched the Chiefs 65 yards down the field in seven plays to take a 24-20 lead with 2:44 remaining.
Mahomes didn’t have his best on Sunday, largely because of how much the 49ers pass rush affected him, but he was just about perfect when it mattered most. Mahomes finished the game 26-of-42 for 286 yards and two touchdowns, completing 10 of 15 in the fourth quarter.
2) Kyle Shanahan will have another Super Bowl loss to explain away
A lot of the conversation this week surrounding the 49ers’ coach harkened back to the Super Bowl three years ago when he was the offensive coordinator for a Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots. Shanahan talked openly about that experience but never totally embraced the idea that he blew the game by not running the football enough late to run out the clock.
It’s not fair to say the 49ers choked like the Falcons did that day, but it was another Super Bowl fourth quarter to forget for Shanahan, whose offense did nothing on two drives after taking a 20-10 lead. Though 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo played well overall, completing 20 of 31 passes for 219 yards, it’s hard to justify calling five pass plays out of eight snaps on those two drives when you have a 10-point lead. It’s particularly puzzling when the 49ers were so successful running the ball, averaging 6.6 yards per rush for the game. San Francisco’s bread and butter all year long was offensive balance and getting the ball to its variety of playmakers but couldn’t find a way to get a touch for receiver Deebo Samuel (3 rushes, 53 yards) when it mattered.
3) Damien Williams was the X-factor
Given the plethora of flashy receivers the Chiefs have at their disposal, running back Damien Williams often gets overshadowed. But Williams was sensational in this Super Bowl, finishing with 104 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Williams accounted for all but 44 of the Chiefs’ rushing yards and made one of the game’s biggest plays early on when he converted a fourth-and-1 on a direct snap that set up Kansas City’s first touchdown.
The call was a bit surprising given Reid’s history of conservative play-calling in big games, but he fooled the 49ers with a bit of a strange formation where the players in the backfield twirled in unison before going to the line of scrimmage. Williams then took the snap and shot through the middle of the line for the first down and the Chiefs scored two plays later.
Williams then iced the championship for Kansas City when he took a handoff around the left side and got free for a 38-yard touchdown with 1:12 remaining.
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