The Kansas City Chiefs have arrived, ready to dominate.
The Chiefs emerged victorious in Super Bowl 58, defeating the San Francisco 49ers with a score of 25-22. This remarkable achievement makes them the first team in nearly two decades to successfully defend their Super Bowl title. In the past five years, they have achieved an impressive feat by winning three titles. At the heart of it all are coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who earned his third career Super Bowl MVP award, joining an elite group of only three players in NFL history.
Once again, the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan find themselves facing another devastating disappointment. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but one thing that should bring the 49ers some comfort is the impressive performance of quarterback Brock Purdy on the sport’s biggest stage.
Legendary Patrick Mahomes
There is no denying the greatness of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He has proven himself to be one of the best players to ever play the game. His remarkable intuition for the game and composure in the pocket, his keen awareness of the available areas on the field, and his impressive skill to both run and make any required pass—these qualities have enabled the Chiefs to become the first team in 19 seasons to win back-to-back Super Bowls. In all three of Kansas City’s Super Bowl wins, the team managed to overcome 10-point deficits thanks to his leadership.
Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes faced zone coverage on 67.9% of his dropbacks, completing 23 of 32 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 12, 2024
Mahomes demonstrated exceptional control during the game against the 49ers, with the exception of an interception thrown into double coverage. He refrained from pushing plays. After assessing the field, he felt satisfied as he skillfully executed precise passes to exploit the gaps in the 49ers’ defense, who had strategically positioned themselves in a zone formation. He is an extraordinary athlete, excelling in the same league as Michael Jordan, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams. What’s truly remarkable is that Mahomes, at the young age of 28, is just entering his prime. This fact should strike fear into the hearts of the rest of the NFL.
Let’s Expound on Mahomes’ Mobility
As San Francisco dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, Mahomes made a small adjustment to his game plan in the third quarter to give Kansas City a boost: he relied on his mobility. He only carried the ball twice for a mere seven yards in the first half. During the third quarter, he made three rushing attempts for a total of 26 yards. Notably, one of those attempts was a 22-yard gain on a crucial third down, which ultimately led to a successful field goal.
Mahomes takes it himself with the game on the line!
— NFL (@NFL) February 12, 2024
Mahomes ended up being the top rusher for Kansas City, gaining 66 yards on nine attempts. When he poses a danger with his rushing abilities, he puts the opposing defenses in a difficult position because he remains a formidable threat to pass the ball down the field, even while on the move. To be honest, defending it is quite a challenging endeavor.
Kansas City’s Resilience in the Face of Turnovers, Penalties, and Blowups
This Chiefs team, which some may argue is the least talented in the Reid-Mahomes era, particularly on offense, encountered numerous challenges during the regular season. During the first half, there were some notable incidents. Tight end Travis Kelce expressed his frustration towards Reid and made physical contact with him on the sidelines. Star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed made a completely avoidable unnecessary roughness penalty, and running back Isiah Pacheco unfortunately fumbled in the red zone.
Despite facing a series of challenging events that could have easily caused many teams to fall apart, the Chiefs managed to regroup and refocus on their strengths. They united in support of their leaders, exemplified by defensive tackle Chris Jones, who called for a meeting with the entire defense on the sidelines. Above all else, their main focus was on football. Label it as championship mettle, label it however you please, but Kansas City’s capacity to navigate through all of that established an impressive second half.
Although he didn’t come out as the winning quarterback, Purdy’s performance (23 of 38 for 255 yards and a touchdown) should put to rest any doubts San Francisco may have had about his ability to succeed at the highest level. Purdy is a player who definitely benefits from having a certain level of talent around him to excel. He may not have the same ability as Mahomes to elevate average receivers, but he has proven that he can win a Super Bowl when in the right system.
Purdy. Jennings. 49ers back up 16-13!
— NFL (@NFL) February 12, 2024
Purdy demonstrated exceptional performance when under pressure. He had a solid performance, completing 12-of-19 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs applied pressure by blitzing him on more than half (51.2%) of his dropbacks. He displayed a composed demeanor, exhibited grace in his play, and demonstrated careful ball handling. Opinions on him may vary, but there’s no denying his ability to rise to the challenge in the most demanding situations.
Kansas City’s O-line
Despite facing a strong challenge from the 49ers’ pass rushers for most of the game, the offensive line of Kansas City managed to hold their ground and protect their quarterback in the second half. Mahomes’ improved mobility played a crucial role in countering the San Francisco pressure, while the Kansas City offensive line provided ample protection for Mahomes during their impressive 13-play, 75-yard game-winning drive.
In the fourth quarter and overtime alone, the Chiefs managed to accumulate an impressive 208 yards, which accounted for 45.7% of their total offensive output. It’s clear that the Chiefs’ offensive line stepped up at just the right moment.
There are several factors that contributed to the Niners’ collapse, but it is clear that the head coach shoulders the majority of the responsibility. As the offensive play caller, he managed to orchestrate a decent game at times, but unfortunately, he also made some glaring mistakes. Surprisingly, the 49ers seemed to overlook the talented running back, Christian McCaffrey, during the initial three drives of the third quarter.
The two Shanahan 49ers teams are now the second and third best teams by DVOA to lose the Super Bowl, if we include playoff performance.
1980 Eagles will join this list soon. pic.twitter.com/JgZ4cTRLzh
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@ASchatzNFL) February 12, 2024
San Francisco had a rough start to the second half, with three consecutive three-and-outs. The 49ers under Shanahan’s leadership faced difficulties on third downs as they were unable to effectively respond to the strategic pressures implemented by Chiefs coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. San Francisco struggled to convert only three-of-12 (25%) third-down attempts. In the final moments of the fourth quarter and overtime, the team had two opportunities to score touchdowns but settled for field goals instead. Shanahan’s teams have consistently managed to secure a 10-point lead in all three Super Bowls he has been involved in as a head coach or offensive coordinator. His teams have not been successful, losing all three of those games.
His determination to receive first in OT
It could be seen as a minor detail, but it inadvertently benefited the Chiefs. Given the revised overtime rules, both teams were given the opportunity to possess the ball. Shanahan made the decision to receive the ball first. In his postgame comments, he expressed his desire to have the ball in a sudden death situation, specifically on the potential third possession of overtime.
The issue at hand is the strategic disadvantage of allowing a team like the Chiefs, with a talented quarterback like Mahomes, to have the advantage of going second. This grants their offense the freedom to be in four-down situations throughout the entire possession. Facing Mahomes is already challenging, especially when he has three downs. Adding another opportunity for him, when he excels in moments like the Super Bowl, unintentionally added an extra challenge for his defense, which, at this point, was already exhausted. Up until that moment, the 49ers defense had recently finished their time on the field, right before the beginning of overtime. However, it is illogical to provide the offense, which had gained significant momentum, with the opportunity to score a game-winning touchdown.
Steve Wilks and Zone Coverage
It’s quite a challenge to figure out how to effectively contain a player of Mahomes’ caliber. In the first half, San Francisco dominated the line of scrimmage, putting pressure on Mahomes and limiting his mobility within the pocket.
As the game progressed, it seemed like San Francisco’s defense was starting to tire. Unfortunately, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks heavily relied on zone coverages, which caused the 49ers players to be positioned too far from the line of scrimmage. This gave Mahomes a comfortable opening to take advantage of. This became particularly evident during overtime. Adding to the challenge, when those defenders retreated, it frequently resulted in an empty space that Mahomes skillfully took advantage of with his rushing. Wilks, in general, did a commendable job, and the absence of Dre Greenlaw was a significant setback. To be honest, the offense deserves most of the blame for leaving points on the field and completely stalling in the third quarter. However, as the game progressed into the late fourth quarter, the 49ers had the opportunity to make defensive adjustments by increasing the pressure on Mahomes and the Chiefs in order to slow down their offensive onslaught.
You Cannot Gift Reid-Mahomes Chiefs Points
However, in the third quarter, the 49ers made that exact move. It can be quite disheartening for a defense to successfully prevent the opposing team from scoring, particularly when facing a skilled quarterback like Mahomes, only to have the special teams unit mishandle the punt return. Tommy Townsend’s punt took an unexpected bounce off rookie corner Darrell Luter Jr., and Chiefs corner Jaylen Watson eventually caught it.
The Chiefs excel when teams generously provide them with opportunities like this, and, on the subsequent play, Kansas City successfully scored its first touchdown of the Super Bowl. It also provided them with momentum. As a result, the Chiefs managed to score on every possession that followed the failed return.