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The Eastern Echo Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Print Archive
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Review: Super Bowl LIV key plays and takeaways

Here are some key plays and important takeaways from the biggest game in America.

The 54th edition of the Super Bowl was played on Feb. 2 in Miami, featuring a match up between the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. 

This game had analysts everywhere excited to see the high powered offense of the Chiefs face the rock solid defense of the 49ers. Led by 2019 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs were favored by one and a half points heading into the biggest game in America.

Before the first quarter began, the 49ers won the coin toss and elected to defer. I thought this was smart - letting the strongest part of their team go out onto the field first was a good way to try and gain momentum, while also putting themselves to get the ball after halftime.

The choice proved advantageous, as the 49ers defense forced the Chiefs to punt on their first drive. The 49ers then went down and managed to put up a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.

The Chiefs responded quickly, as we all expected them too. Mahomes drove the Chiefs down the field and eventually walked into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 7-3 in favor of the Chiefs.

Early in the second quarter, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo rifled a pass that was intercepted by Kansas City’s Bashaud Breeland. The Chiefs then had to settle for a field goal on their next drive, which made the score 10-3. Only down one score, the 49ers had to put together a competent drive that would give their defense enough time to rest before coming back onto the field. 

One key point that was made before the game was that if the 49ers were going to win, they had to run the ball effectively, as most people didn’t think Garoppolo’s arm could carry them to a victory. I agreed with that sentiment.

On the next drive, the running game started to crank up and the offensive line came alive. San Francisco running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert started getting loose and making some big plays, which led to a 15-yard touchdown by 49er fullback Kyle Juszczyk. This led the game into halftime, with both teams tied at 10-10.

The halftime show by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, in my opinion, was tasteful and fun, featuring hits from both star singers that most of the audience knew. It was well-choreographed and left me singing “Hips Don’t Lie” for the next 24 hours.

I would’ve loved to be in the 49ers locker room at halftime, because whatever coach Shanahan said must have really fired them up. The 49ers exploded in the third quarter. The choice to defer at the beginning of the game paid off, as the 49ers took the lead after a 42-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half.

Mahomes then came onto the field to answer the score from the 49ers, only to throw a very bad interception to 49er Linebacker Fred Warner. The throw was one of Mahomes’ many below average throws of the night, but I’ll get to that later. The 49ers now had all the momentum, and following Mahomes’ interception, Raheem Mostert was able to run into the endzone for a 49ers touchdown. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 20-10, with San Francisco on top.

Trailing by 10 and running out of time, Mahomes led the Chiefs out for the first drive of the fourth quarter. It didn’t go well. Mahomes threw another badly timed pass that was tipped and then intercepted by Tarvarius Moore. This put the Chiefs in disaster mode, as a touchdown by the 49ers would put the game likely out of their reach.

But the Chiefs defense said no. They forced a crucial punt from the 49ers, which gave them the ball back. Mahomes then threw a 44-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill which then led to a one yard passing touchdown to Travis Kelce.

The 49ers watched as their 10 point lead quickly evaporated to just 3. I thought the 49ers' strategy should’ve been to run out some clock and then try to score, but the Chiefs defense wouldn’t be denied. They forced the 49ers to punt again and put themselves in a position to win the Super Bowl.

This was it. This was where Mahomes would either show his greatness or crumble. Spoiler alert: he didn’t crumble.

The former NFL MVP executed a game winning drive that echoed the legendary drives of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Mahomes completed four consecutive passes to start the drive, which brought the Chiefs down to the 49er 10 yard line. Two plays later - a five yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams - put the Chiefs back on top.

The rest was history. The Chiefs defense continued to eat the 49ers offense alive and forced a turnover on downs, and another big touchdown run by Williams sealed it. The Kansas City Chiefs were Super Bowl Champions for the first time in 50 years.

Some takeaways I had from the game are as follows:

First, Mahomes wasn’t perfect, but executed when it mattered. Throwing two interceptions is normally grounds for a bad game, but Mahomes countered those interceptions with the game-winning touchdown. 

Second, analysts were right when they thought the 49ers couldn’t win on Garoppolo alone. Their best moments were when the offensive line was creating holes for the running backs to run through and grind out the game. When the Chiefs started to come back, the running game disappeared. This left them looking like a boat without a rutter.

Third, the Chiefs defense was amazing. I argue that they saved this game for themselves, because Mahomes wouldn’t have been able to lead the comeback if the 49ers kept scoring. Big props to the defense.

Finally, it was also very nice to see an EMU alumnus, Andrew Wiley, win a Super Bowl ring. He plays guard for the Chiefs and became part of the Super Bowl Championship win.

Overall, Super Bowl LIV was a memorable performance from both teams. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the first of Mahomes’ future championships. Kansas City is my favorite to win it all next year, and I think the future is bright for the city and for the rest of the NFL.