A Super (Bowl) Comeback

An analysis of Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

With only a four-point lead over the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs needed to push through the last few intense minutes of the fourth quarter to ensure that they would bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Missouri as the champions of Super Bowl LIV.

Standing at the 38-yard line, quarterback Patrick Mahomes decides to run the ball to running back Damien Williams. Williams cuts past the 49ers’ defensive line and sprints straight for the end zone. Fullback Anthony Sherman chucks the 49ers defense out of the way, creating a clear path for Williams to bring it home. 31-20: touchdown Chiefs! The Super Bowl results are nearly secured, as it is very unlikely that the 49ers will be able to come back with the time quickly dwindling. Mahomes is about to fulfill his dream of going to Disney World as the Super Bowl LIV MVP.

The 2020 season brought huge wins and unexpected losses for both teams. The Chiefs finished with a record of 12-4, while the 49ers ended with a slightly better record of 13-3. The Chiefs’ tight end, Travis Kelce, and wide receiver, Tyreek Hill, who caught 66 passes for 968 yards, were both common targets for Mahomes; many of their receptions allowed the Chiefs to get first downs.

San Francisco fullback Kyle Juszczyk showed the NFL how powerful the fullback position could be despite its lack of popularity in the league. The former Baltimore Raven is known for his versatility, as he is capable of playing several positions, such as tight end, wide receiver, and running back. His consistent blocks have been key to the 49ers’ offense, and coach Kyle Shanahan’s decision to keep him on the roster ultimately proved to be extremely beneficial.

The first half of Super Bowl LIV started out slowly. There were many mistakes from both ends of the field: both quarterbacks threw two interceptions, and the Chiefs’ notoriously bad defense made poor decisions left and right. By halftime, each team had scored one field goal and one touchdown, leaving the score at 10-10.

Nonetheless, both teams, having had faulty errors throughout the first half of the Super Bowl, came back fired up and ready to redeem themselves. With the score tied, no one could predict which team had the upper hand, which made the second half all the more exciting to watch. Mahomes unexpectedly did not deliver. When his team needed him the most, the young quarterback could not capitalize on the quick decision-making and impressive play-making he had demonstrated all season long. And the 49ers took advantage of this weakness straight off the bat. In just the third quarter alone, Mahomes teased the 49ers with a risky fumble, and then minutes later, threw his first interception of the playoffs. However, this lull can’t be solely blamed on Mahomes, as the Chiefs’ offense was also initially lackluster. The team had scored 86 points during its first two playoff games, but only scored 10 points in the first three quarters of the Super Bowl.

Then, the 49ers scored another field goal and touchdown. The 55-yard touchdown drive was credited to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, whose 26-yard play converted a third down-and-eight into a pivotal play for the 49ers. Running back Raheem Mostert topped it off with a dive into the endzone, giving the 49ers a 20-10 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.

However, Mahomes and the Chiefs never lost sight of their Super Bowl dreams and instead turned their score deficit into a source of motivation. With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mahomes launched the ball to Hill for an incredible gain of 44-yards. A few plays later, Kelce delivered his only touchdown after a pass interference call on Tarvarius Moore. After another huge reception by wide receiver Sammy Watkins, running back Williams managed to slip in a controversial go-ahead touchdown before the two-minute warning. Williams tip-toed out of bounds just before he extended the ball inside the end zone, but the touchdown call stood after official review. The final blow to San Francisco was struck when Williams scored a 38-yard touchdown, boosting the Chiefs up to a final score of 31 points.

This Super Bowl win was the third consecutive double digit comeback game by the Chiefs during the postseason. In fact, this 10-point comeback is tied for the second largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

One of the most inspiring aspects of the game was how Patrick Mahomes was able to turn one of his worst performances of the season into his best within one quarter. However, while Mahomes ended the night as the MVP, other players made key plays that led to the Chiefs’ victory. Williams had a phenomenal game with 104-yards in over 17 carries. Sammy Watkins ran 98-yards in only five carries. The Chiefs' defense was also able to contain the 49ers’ impressive rushing, only allowing the 49ers to run 141 yards.

Most importantly, Coach Andy Reid was finally able to get rid of his nickname as the “winningest coach to never win the Super Bowl.” After a very long career as an NFL coach with over 200 wins, Reid finally secured his first Super Bowl title, giving him the second highest number of wins of any coach after the New England Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick.

Reid’s determination combined with the Chiefs’ persistence on the field will continue to be key for the young team as they head into the 2020-2021 season as the NFL's team to beat.