NFL playoffs: What We Learned from Chiefs’ overtime win against 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII
Published: Feb 11, 2024 at 10:47 PMKevin Patra
Around the NFL WriterKansas City Chiefs 2024 · 15-6-0 25-22 (OT)San Francisco 49ers 2024 · 14-6-0
FULL BOX SCORE
- READ: Patrick Mahomes wins back-to-back Super Bowl MVPs
- READ: Kelce ‘on top of the world’ after third Super Bowl win
- READ: Kansas City becomes seventh franchise with four Super Bowl victories
- READ: Niners LB Dre Greenlaw suffers torn Achilles
- READ: Mahomes hits postseason milestone in latest triumph
- READ: Social media reacts to Chiefs’ win over 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII
- READ: Chiefs owner/CEO expects Andy Reid to return for chance at ‘three-peat’
- READ: KC defense follows ‘survive, then thrive’ motto to earn Super Bowl LVIII victory
- READ: Niners WR Jennings has historical night in loss
- READ: San Francisco hurting after loss, but ‘we’ll recover’
- READ: Chiefs become true dynasty as Mahomes’ third title puts him on Brady pace
- READ: Shanahan explains decision to receive OT kickoff
LAS VEGAS —
1) Patrick Mahomes conjures magic as Chiefs outlast 49ers in OT slobberknocker. With the game on the line, there’s no one on the planet you’d rather have with the ball than the Magic Man, Mahomes. The Chiefs’ offense came out of the gate slowly, as it has for much of the 2024 campaign, scoring three points with a red zone turnover in the first half. Then Mahomes began to find Travis Kelce, ate up a Dre Greenlaw-less 49ers D over the middle, and marched up and down the field. A few red zone stalls highlighted a year-long struggle for an offense that missed a big-play presence. But Mahomes led a game-tying field goal drive to force the second overtime Super Bowl game in NFL history. Then he got the ball back, trailing by three in OT, and zoomed the Chiefs down the field. Mahomes used his legs, scrambling for a first down on fourth-and-1, and his arm. When Niners defensive coordinator Steve Wilks dared bring the blitz in a key spot, the QB did what he always does: ate it alive, finding Rashee Rice for a big third down. Another Mahomes scramble put the Chiefs on the doorstep. The QB kicked it down, finding a wide-open Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard, game-winning TD. All season, Mahomes has conjured magic with an up-and-down pass-catching crew. He did it again on the biggest stage. Greatness personified. Dynasty cemented.
2) Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers come up shy once again. Once again, Shanahan watched Mahomes eat up a 10-point deficit in the Super Bowl. Credit the coach for not puttering out, going for it on a big fourth-and-3 early in the fourth quarter when a chip-shot field goal would have tied the game. The decision underscored that Shanny knew they needed touchdowns, not field goals, against Mahomes. The coach pulled out the stops, including a big trick play TD pass from receiver Jauan Jennings to Christian McCaffrey in the first half. Alas, an OT FG from inside the 10 opened the door for Mahomes’ heroics. The Niners will beat themselves up all offseason for not putting the game away early. San Francisco gashed the Chiefs D in the first quarter, including gains of 18 yards, 11 yards, and 11 yards on the opening possession, but a McCaffrey fumble (just his third loss all season) snuffed out the drive. The Niners led by seven at halftime despite dominating possession early. Shanahan’s offense struggled to open the third quarter, going three-and-out on three consecutive possessions. A muffed punt in the third quarter set up the Chiefs’ first TD and lead. Instead of a big lead, the Niners were in scramble mode. A blocked PAT also proved massive late. Credit Brock Purdy for making plays in the fourth quarter after a roller-coaster game that saw him miss a few throws and make some other excellent reads. The 49ers’ last three possessions went TD, FG and FG. Unfortunately for Shanahan, his D couldn’t stall Mahomes, allowing the Chiefs to go TD, FG, FG, TD. The NFL has seen two overtime Super Bowl games, and Shanahan has been on the losing end of both. Brutal.
3) Chiefs D stands tall once again. K.C. wouldn’t have been the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots without Steve Spagnuolo’s smothering defense. The Chiefs gave up some chunk plays, particularly in the first half, but bowed up often. The lack of edge pressure on Purdy was noticeable, but Spagnuolo adjusted and made life more difficult on the QB in the third quarter. Spags brought the blitz on 51.2% of Purdy’s dropbacks. The signal-caller made some plays versus pressure, but speeding him up made a difference in the second half. Spags’ crew stuffed McCaffrey on the ground for the bulk of the game, holding the RB to 3.6 yards per carry on 22 totes. Taking out those gashing runs put the onus on Purdy to carry the contest. The Chiefs were phenomenal on third downs, allowing the Niners to convert just 3 of 12 in the contest. K.C. corner Trent McDuffie was the defensive MVP, making numerous big plays, including a TD-saving swat on Deebo Samuel early in the game. Nick Bolton was all over the field, gobbling up 13 tackles, one TFL and two QB hits. And Chris Jones generated a team-high six QB pressures, forcing several errant Purdy passes that could have gone for big gains. K.C.’s D generated a season-high nine unblocked pressures in Super Bowl LVIII, all of which came on blitzes, per Next Gen Stats. That is amazing scheming by Spags.
4) Kicker Fiesta comes to the Super Bowl. This game put the foot back in football. Both 49ers rookie Jake Moody and Chiefs veteran Harrison Butker were sensational. Moody set a Super Bowl record by connecting on a 55-yard boot early in the second quarter. Butker allowed Moody to keep the record through Usher’s halftime show, but little longer. Butker blasted a new record 57-yard bomb in the third quarter. Moody, who had some shaky moments during his first season, connected on three field goals but had one of his two PATs blocked, which proved massive. Butker nailed all four of his field goals and his lone point-after try. In a back-and-forth affair, both kickers calmly nailed massive field goals late to force overtime. Ultimately, a muffed Niners punt and the blocked extra point proved the difference. In the game’s third phase, the Chiefs were better, taking home the hardware because their special teams proved a difference-maker.
5) Travis Kelce comes alive in the second half. In the first half, a fired-up Kelce was held to one catch for one measly yard. Taylor Swift’s boyfriend turned it up a notch in the second half. Kelce finished with a team-high nine catches on 10 targets for 93 yards. As he has all season, the tight end found open areas in the Niners’ defense, eating up linebackers over the middle. Kelce caught eight of his nine targets under 10 air yards for 77 yards, gaining 59 yards after the catch. With the Chiefs trailing by three points in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Mahomes hit Kelce on a crosser, and the tight end dashed for a huge 22-yard gain to set up a short field goal to force overtime. It looked like Kelce found an extra gear on the play, which Next Gen Stats backs up: Kelce reached a top speed of 19.68 mph, his fastest speed as a ball carrier over the last seven seasons. The Super Bowl just means more. Now Kelce has three rings to show off.
Next Gen stat of the game: Nick Bosa generated 10 pressures on 48 pass rushes (20.8% pressure rate) in Super Bowl LVIII, tied for the third-most in a playoff game since 2018. Bosa finished the season with 114 pressures, tied for the most in a single season since 2018.
NFL Research: Niners WR Jauan Jennings became the second player to throw and catch a TD in the same Super Bowl. The first was Nick Foles, who won Super Bowl LVII MVP.