Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV in Epic Comeback
February 6, 2020
The San Francisco 49ers had just taken a 10-point lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert. The score had been setup by the first interception of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the postseason. Down by 10 early in the 4th quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs were in the process of putting a scoring drive together to close the gap, but Mahomes threw his second interception of the game.
If the game had ended at this point, 49er quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might have been the MVP and Mahomes might have been the goat of Super Bowl LIV. But there was 11:57 left in the game and that would prove to be enough time for the Chiefs to stage a comeback. The Chiefs, led by Mahomes, scored three touchdowns in the final 6:13 of the game to stun the 49ers and win their first Super Bowl in 50 years, 31-20 over the 49ers in Miami. The Chiefs were in their first Super Bowl in 50 years, with their previous title coming in Super Bowl IV in 1970.
For Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, it was his first Super Bowl win in a long and very successful coaching career. Reid has been to the playoffs 15 times in his 21 years as a head coach in the NFL, but he had never won a super bowl championship. Born in Los Angeles, California, Reid played football at John Marshall high school in Los Angeles. He went on to play two years of football at Glendale Community College and two seasons at Brigham Young University. He played offensive guard and offensive tackle.
There are and will continue to be a lot of questions about what happened to the 49ers in the 4th quarter. Once the 49ers took the lead at 13-10 on a field goal in the 3rd quarter, the 49ers ran 14 offensive plays with the lead. Nine of the fourteen offensive plays were pass plays, which does not seem to make a lot of sense considering that they are a running team.
After the second Mahomes interception, the 49ers needed to just run the ball, take time off the clock and they would win their sixth super bowl championship. In their first six offensive possessions, they had not punted the ball. They had four scoring drives, one possession that ended in an interception and another offensive drive that ended when time expired. Needing to control the ball and the clock, the last thing the 49ers needed were incomplete passes.
But the Chief defense rose to the occasion. After holding Mostert to a one-yard gain, Garoppolo missed on a pass across the middle to wide receiver Deebo Samuel, stopping the clock. A false start on right tackle Joe Staley pushed the 49ers back five yards and a Garoppolo pass attempt ended in a scrambling 3-yard gain. The 49ers had to punt for the first time in the game, having run only 3:04 off the clock.
The Chiefs got the ball at their 20-yard line with 8:53 left in the game, trailing 20-10. That turned out to be too much time for the Chiefs high powered offense. Mahomes drove the Chiefs the length of the field in 10 plays, hitting tight end Travis Kelce on a short one-yard touchdown pass to the right, cutting the lead to 20-17 with 6:13 left in the game.
In the next offensive series, the 49ers started their drive at their own 20-yard line after the kickoff. The first play gained five yards on a Mostert run over left tackle. The next two plays were pass plays and both were incomplete passes. This is where the second guessing of the 49ers strategy really begins. During the 2019 regular season, the 49ers ran the ball 51% of the time, second highest in the NFL. In their two playoff wins, the 49ers ran the ball on 75% of their offensive plays. The 49ers were second in the NFL in rushing yardage.
For a running team to throw passes when they need to control the ball and run time off the clock, well, there is no good explanation. After the game, 49er head coach Shanahan stood by his decision to throw the ball: "No not at all. The last thing you're thinking about when you're up three points and there is that much time left, the clock is not an issue at that time, especially with the timeouts. The issue was moving the chains. If you move the chains, then you will wind the clock." That is a valid statement, but they could move the chains on the ground. They did not have to throw a pass.
At the end, one quarterback executed in the 4th quarter and the other did not. Mahomes threw two touchdown passes in the 4th quarter to give the Chiefs the lead for good, coming up with two big pass completions. Mahomes completed a 44-yard pass to speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill to set up one touchdown and beat 49er cornerback Richard Sherman for a 38-yard pass completion to wide receiver Sammy Watkins to set up the game winning touchdown pass.
Garoppolo, on the other hand, completed 3 of 11 passes for 36 yards and an interception in the 4th quarter. In the first three quarters, Garoppolo completed 17 of 20 passes for 183 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He missed on several throws in the 4th quarter, but none bigger than a pass to wide receiver Emanuel Sanders. On third and ten from the Chiefs 49-yard line with 1:33 left in the game, Garoppolo overthrew a wide-open Sanders in the endzone on a possible game-winning touchdown pass.
What looked like a bad night for Mahomes turned into a Super Bowl MVP performance. What looked like a good night and possible MVP performance for Garoppolo turned into a miserable evening. One quarter of football changed the fortune of these two men and their teams, forever.