By Rob Bishop
Back again, and Super Bowl LIV lacked the barrage of fireworks that typically accompany Kansas City’s offense, but the Chiefs managed to light a spark when it mattered most, eliminating a 10-point second half deficit to rack up a come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was off his game for most of the night due to San Francisco’s non-stop defensive pressure, managed to orchestra a fourth quarter drive to take the lead, earning the game’s MVP for his efforts.
Mahomes was under pressure all game, with rookie pass rusher Nick Bosa shining the brightest for San Francisco. Bosa was a consistent presence in Mahomes’ face all game, and for three-plus quarters of action, San Francisco’s defense kept Mahomes on the run and separated from big plays. In fact, Bos and company forced Mahomes into one brutal interception and another turnover-worthy play that hit the turf after bouncing off linebacker Kwon Alexander’s hands.
Running back Damien Williams, a journeyman runner who emerged as a starter for the Chiefs this season, rushed 17 times for 104 yards and a touchdown while also contributing four grabs for 29 yards and a second TD. There was some debate about whether or not Williams managed to actually break the plane on the first score, but his second score was a break-away TD that showcased his speed and put the game out of reach with time running out. Despite his heroics, Williams is unlikely to be the full-fledged starter in the backfield for Kansas City next season, however.
Receiver Tyreek Hill also had a great game, pulling in nine grabs for 105 yards. A hamstring injury ruined Hill, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL, of his game-changing speed during the second half of the season, but he proved more than capable of being Mahomes’ go-to on Sunday. Sammy Watkins chipped in five grabs for 98 yards, including a huge reception in a match-up against elite cornerback Richard Sherman.
On the other side of things, for all of Mahomes’ greatness in the second half, San Francisco has to regret failing to push things when nursing a double-digit lead. Once up on the scoreboard, San Francisco became far too conservative on offense, a likely byproduct of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s much-criticized—albeit unfairly—decision to be aggressive when leading 28-3 against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Instead, the 49ers seemed far too happy to milk the clock rather.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will likely garner some blame for his teams’ loss, but that would be unfair. There are two plays in particular likely to generate criticism, as Garoppolo missed a streaking Emmanuel Sanders on what would have been a game-changing deep pass late in the game and on what became an interception, Garoppolo missed a wide-open George Kittle. The former play squandered a chance to reclaim the game, while the latter turned a big play into a turnover.
Going forward, Kansas City is as equipped as any team in recent memory to make a run at another championship or two in coming years. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a generational talent and has a decade-plus of elite football ahead of him. The Chiefs will be back in this position again. San Francisco, on the other hand, will need to continue to add pieces and play-makers around Garoppolo to keep pace in the NFC. And with that, the NFL off-season has unofficially begun. Now bring on all the rumors surrounding Tom Brady’s free agency, the quarterback carousel across the league, and the NFL draft.