Of the six VikingsTerritory/purplePTSD writers and also the bet we had with our friends over at Vikings61.com, I was the only person to pick the 49ers to best the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. For a while, it felt like I was going to not only be right but that I might also be really close on my score prediction of the 49ers winning 27-13. With six minutes left in the game, the Chiefs trailed the 49ers by 10 points, 20-10, and because they hadn’t really done much all game, it was hard to believe that they’d be able to double their point total in that time frame.
Then came three straight touchdown drives.
Super Bowl LIV was a changing of the guard, of sorts, or at least a semi-torch passing from the NFL that you and I have known for the past decade-plus to the new leaders of the league. The Patriots were nowhere in sight and the two teams are being looked at as two new dynasties, with two new superstar quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo, and the best two tight ends in the NFL in Travis Kelce and George Kittle.
But the story of the start of this game didn’t come down to the quarterbacks or the tight ends, really, as much as it came down to the officially historically dominant and elite defense that the 49ers now has. With the return of defenders Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, it’s safe to say that it felt like outside of some sort of post-Super Bowl hangover, or free agency or head coaching opportunities for the coordinators tearing this team apart in the months and years to come, that this 49ers team with its offensive-minded head coach has one of the best defenses we’ve seen since the 2000 Ravens.
Holding a powerful offense like the Chiefs to 10 points for the vast majority of the game in a stadium that felt like it was much more pro-Kansas City than it was pro-San Francisco, is something that will be talked about also in the months and years to come. What will also be talked about is the complete implosion that occurred in the final six minutes.
The Niners defense stifled the Chiefs early and often, forcing Mahomes into odd throws even on passes he completed and two interceptions that were really the difference in this low-action game. Mahomes tried his best, extending play after play, but the Niners defense was just too good for most of the game.
Despite a late touchdown by the Chiefs to get the score to within 3, you still felt like it was the dominant run blocking of the Niners that was going the story of the game. However, the Chiefs defense saved their first three-and-out for the best possible time, stopping the Niners deep in their own territory with just over five minutes left in the game. After a punt, the Chiefs would start their next drive on their own 35 (ish) yard line.
That put the ball in the hands of Super Bowl LIV MVP and perhaps the new face of the NFL, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes had been shaky all night and went into that drive completing just 58% of his passes. He completed his next two passes, though, including a nine yarder to Kelce after stepping up in the pocket to avoid pressure, for a big first down and after throwing a touchdown to go ahead by 3 (and eventually 4), was 5-for-5 on the drive.
The turning point of the game was the Second and 7 throw to Sammy Watkins on Second & 7, with Richard Sherman covering Watkins one-on-one thanks to a blitz. It was that throw that got the Chiefs believing they could move the ball against the stifling defense of the 49ers and when it mattered most Mahomes was at his best.
After a small pick-up on a designed QB-run by Mahomes on first-and-goal, another QB-run that resulted in a loss of one yard (that confused Troy Aikman to the point of muttering “… this is another time where I’m not sure what Patrick Mahomes is trying to do”), Kansas City pulled ahead thanks to a Mahomes pass to Chiefs running back Damien Williams (that WAS a touchdown).
After Jimmy Garoppolo missed a pretty-open Emmanuel Sanders for perhaps a go-ahead score, the Niners went for it on 4th and 10 and didn’t convert. With three-time outs left, the Niners may have had another shot at things, but their defense couldn’t stop the Chiefs’ run game (that was simply trying to run the ball to keep the clock rolling). Chiefs running back Damien Williams broke free for a 38-yard touchdown down the sidelines, and the Chiefs completed their comeback by putting up 21-unanswered points in the final six minutes of the game.
With that the passing of the torch was over, with Troy Aikman crowning Mahomes as the new face of the NFL and Chiefs coach Andy Reid finally getting the championship many have said he’d need to be considered one of the best coaches in league history. It may not have been the instant classic some, including me, said it might be… It did feel like this was the shift the league needed to move on from the superstars who are at the tail end of their careers and the new faces of the NFL.
It was a bit frustrating to see a team solve the Niners’ defense when the Vikings (and Packers) really had no answers and does make you feel like the Vikings are even further away from winning a Super Bowl than they were before the game. However, especially when it comes to Garoppolo, perhaps some of us (like me) were too quick to crown the Niners as this unstoppable new dynasty.
Then again, the Chiefs do have Patrick Mahomes, and he’s the new face of the NFL for a reason.