It’s February 2nd, 2020.
Over 62,000 people are in attendance for Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs find themselves with their backs on the wall in the fourth quarter, with their MVP quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, needing to make a play.
We’ve got just over 12 minutes left on the clock, and it’s 3rd & 6. Kansas City is ideally needing a touchdown, but any score will help as they trail by 10.
Kansas would be wise to be wary on this play, their offence has stalled, yet to score in the second half. Furthering this point, their last drive ended with a pick, which the 49ers converted for six within three minutes.
Fortunately, if this play stalls, they’ve got one of the most accurate kickers in history in Harrison Butker, who’s hit 22-23 Field Goals from 30-49 yards this season, including a 31-yarder earlier today.
So, what happens next?
I wonder if we’re gonna hear Tarvarius Moore’s name again.
Anyway, How did we get here?
Well, we need to go back. 50 years, to be exact. I promise we won’t be here long.
It’s January 11, 1970.
We’re at Super Bowl IV, Kansas City’s second appearance in the big game, having first lost to the Green Bay Packers in the inaugural Super Bowl.
This was the last Super Bowl before the merger, Kansas City represented the AFL, which was seen as the inferior league to the NFL, which was represented today by the Minnesota Vikings.
Despite the AFL’s New York Jets winning Super Bowl III, many pundits and fans perceived the win as a fluke, which led to the Chiefs coming in as 13 ½ point underdogs.
Kansas were able to shut out Minnesota in the first half, en route to a 23-7 win in terrible conditions. A point emphasised by a tornado watch issued for the area prior to kickoff.
So, for Kansas City, it’d been a 50-year wait to get back to the Super Bowl. But, what about San Francisco?
Well, as someone who enjoys rooting for the underdog, San Francisco does an elite job of playing the antagonist.
For San Francisco, their last appearance came in 2012, with a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Before that?
The 49ers were a perfect 5-0 before 2012, winning Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV & XXIX (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 & 1994). San Francisco’s five Super Bowls are good enough for equal second all-time.
And in Super Bowl LIV, they sure seem set to make it six, right? Right?
Leading San Francisco’s offence today is Jimmy Garoppolo, a two-time Super Bowl champion* who’s finally had a clean shot at a year as a starter without injury.
*Garoppolo’s two rings came backing up Tom Brady when in New Orleans. For his second ring, he was the only player to not take the field at any time.
Garoppolo’s 27 touchdowns were good enough for equal 5th best in 2019, with the majority of his passes going to his First-Team All-Pro Tight End, George Kittle. Kittle hauled in five touchdowns in his 2nd 1,000-yard season, his first coming just a year prior.
Names like Deebo Samuel and Raheem Mostert will be familiar to many, with both men providing considerable production to boot.
Deebo, a Swiss-army knife of a player, had just shy of 1,000 scrimmage yards in the regular season, but one-upped Kittle with six touchdowns. Mostert, a more traditional back, was also just south of 1,000 yards but finished his season with 10 touchdowns. Including one in Super Bowl LIV.
Furthermore, the 49ers were a defensive juggernaut. Led by All-Pros, Richard Sherman and DeForest Buckner combined with Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw & Nick Bosa, the 49ers were eighth for points against, and 2nd for yards allowed per game.
Before we return to the site of Super Bowl LIV, we should do our dues, and look at Kansas City’s main players.
Much like San Francisco, Kansas are led by an All-Pro Tight End in Travis Kelce. 2019’s Second Team All-Pro’s Tight End, Kelce was the most prolific pass-catcher for Mahomes, with 1,229 receiving yards and 6 total touchdowns.
Just behind him was Tyreek Hill, who was just shy of 900 scrimmage yards, but just edged out Kelce with seven touchdowns. Kansas’ lead back, Damien Williams, also finished with seven, including 711 scrimmage yards.
Kansas’ defence was led by Tyrann Mathieu, a one-man wrecking crew, with a season so good he earned the rare feat of being named to both the First and Second All-Pro teams.
All right, we left off with Kansas City just having turned the ball over, down two scores, and we’re in the fourth quarter.
The 49ers should be in no position to lose this game, more so with Mostert and Kittle working to run the clock down past 11 minutes and earn a first down.
Here, It’s worth noting that after Kittle’s 12-yard reception, ESPN has given San Francisco a win probability of 94.1 per cent. Now, this number will slide very marginally as the 49ers drive stalls, bringing out Mitch Wishnowsky, whose punt to the KC 17 puts that win probability at 93.4 per cent.
We return with 8:53 left on the clock and a Mahomes-led offence that’s thrown back-to-back interceptions.
Now I won’t bore you with the specifics, but Mahomes is able to push the ball 10 yards shy of midfield, but a false start penalty on Kansas’ Right Guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, makes the question harder, forcing a 1st & 15.
Good coverage denies any forward progress on the following play, bringing second down, in which Mahomes is finally able to put the foot on the gas following a 16-yard completion to Tyreek Hill.
That is until San Francisco throws their challenge flag. Do we remember what follows San Francisco?
The play is overturned. 96.1 per cent sits the win probability. Mahomes is now facing 3rd & 15. You should have little faith.
Following Tyreek’s chunk play, the offence stalls once more, but this time, the refs pay favour to the Chiefs.
Defensive Pass Interference is called on San Francisco’s Tarvarius Moore, which brings the ball to the KC 1, immediately converted by Travis Kelce for six.
After this, frankly, the wheels fell off for San Francisco who go three and out on their next drive, giving the ball back to Mahomes with over 5 minutes on the clock.
It becomes surgical for Mahomes, whose only third down of the drive results in a Damien Williams touchdown.
Chiefs by four.
Whilst there’s time on the clock for San Francisco, 2:39 come the time of their first play, the frustration compounds, as a fourth down sack pushes the ball behind midfield and in the hands of Kansas City.
From there, it’s all she wrote. two plays were all that Damien Williams needed, rushing for four yards, then punching in a 38-yard run to the endzone to cap off a miraculous recovery.
Garoppolo got the ball back one more time, but in a depressing mirror image, threw a pick on his second play.
Mahomes knelt out the game, an 11-point winner in his and Kansas City’s first Super Bowl victory in a half-century. Mahomes would subsequently be honoured as Super Bowl LIV’s MVP, his first of what’s currently two.
I hope you had more than a little faith.
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