Student writer A. C. Boyle celebrates Kansas City’s stunning win over the 49ers, a victory that ended a 50-year losing streak for the franchise.
On Sunday, Feb. 2, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, coming from behind 10 with only seven minutes left to win by a score of 31-20. Pinch yourself and don’t wake up, because it doesn’t get any better than this.
I went into the game expecting a high-scoring shootout, one that would finally end the tradition of Super Bowls being defensive, low-scoring affairs. By the end of the first quarter I already knew I was wrong, but of course that mattered little. This game was exciting, perhaps one of the best Super Bowls in history — along with Giants-Bills and Patriots-Seahawks. That might sound biased coming from someone who got to see their team end a half-century long title drought, but what else can you say about the way this game ended? It was simply a raw, intense battle of wills, a game that wasn’t decided right up until the very end. And after last year’s big game debacle, it was very welcome.
The first order of business when talking about this game is to point out that, yes — as a Chiefs fan, I will be the first one to admit that the 49ers lost the game before the Chiefs won it. More on that later. But for now, I should talk about how the game started. The first quarter was neck and neck, with Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid making a gutsy call on 4th down when he could have played it safe and kicked a field goal. The result had the Chiefs up 7-3 as the funny commercials started to flow in.
By the second quarter, the Niners had activated their stellar run offense, picking up big chunks of yards and draining plenty of clock with carry after carry from running back Raheem Mostert and wide receiver Deebo Samuel. The game was 10-10 at halftime, and it was either team’s game.
The lofty halftime performance was a two-man, or in this case two-girl effort, with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira sharing the spotlight as America watched (or used the restroom). Shakira in particular seemed to have the word swagger tattooed on her forehead when she was performing, but this wasn’t the celebrity highlight of the night. That award goes to actor and comedian Bill Murray, who appeared in a “Groundhog Day” commercial for Jeep, which is probably the best commercial we’ll see all year.
When the game resumed in the third quarter, everything seemed to start going San Francisco’s way. Quarterback Jimmy Garroppolo made great pass plays, the 49ers controlled the clock efficiently with the run and they didn’t let KC’s Patrick Mahomes find anybody downfield to throw to. At one point, the camera crews showed a clip of Chiefs Safety Tyrann Matthieu having an angry outburst and berating his teammates. While it looked at first glance like he was having a temper tantrum, he was in fact getting the boys fired up. And they might have won the game for this very reason.
When the fourth quarter rolled in, the Niners had extended their lead to 20-10, and the game looked all but over. They had played better for 50 minutes, and were only a short gap away from their sixth Lombardi trophy. And that’s when their head coach, Kyle Shanahan, lost the game, and the Chiefs won it.
It was already alarming enough to many that Shanahan had played it safe at the end of the first half by running the clock out when he had a minute left and three timeouts to work with, but the way he coached the final minutes of the game was completely unacceptable at the professional level. With about 10 minutes left, all the Niners had to do was keep running the ball and get rid of as much time as they could. They had been running the ball all night and it was working. Why stop at the only time you shouldn’t do anything else?
Shanahan, who had already proved his allergy to smart game clock management as the Offensive Coordinator of the Falcons the year they blew the infamous 28-3 lead, showed that he had learned nothing from that loss. He called for pass plays until they had to punt. With 7:13 left and at 3rd and 15, the Chiefs looked like they would give the ball right back. Instead, Mahomes finally activated for the first time the entire night, and dialed up a beautiful pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a 44-yard play that gave a dying team hope, light at the end of the tunnel. With 6:14 left, the Chiefs scored to make it 20-17. Then the Niners made more puzzling play calls, giving the ball back to the Chiefs with five minutes left — more than enough time for this explosive offense. The Chiefs drove down the field with grit, and scored with 2:45 remaining. Then their defense fought with a passion to protect that lead, getting a turnover on downs. With the ball up four, Kansas City scored another touchdown as insurance, and the most miraculous comeback in Super Bowl history was complete. At one point, ESPN’s Football Index gave the Chiefs only a 3 percent chance to come back and win. But they had come from behind double-digits twice before in the playoffs, so they knew how to keep fighting. And unlike the Niners, they weren’t playing afraid out there on the field. They took risks, and never played it safe.
This is Andy Reid’s first superbowl victory in his career, a moment he’s been waiting for for over two decades. Mahomes had to wait a lot less, becoming the youngest Super Bowl MVP in history. With so much time left in Mahomes’s career, this might very well be the start of the NFL’s next dynasty, a team with a core that can contend for as long as the New England Patriots have.
The question on everybody’s minds is: did the Chiefs win it or did the Niners lose it? I will not for a second let anybody undermine this accomplishment for the Chiefs, but at the same time, this was a game that the Niners let slip away from them. At the end of the day, the thing that seperated these two teams was the clutch gene. Mahomes did not have a good game until the last nine minutes, compiling two interceptions. Nobody will remember those interceptions, though. They will remember his refusal to give up when things were dire. Because that is what makes a champion. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Never give in. Never, Never, Never.”
You can be sure that Chiefs fans around the world will never forget this moment, nor will they forget the incredible milestones yet to come.