The Kansas City Chiefs cemented their status as comeback kids by rallying from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV. The game was marked by Patrick Mahomes’ fourth quarter dramatics and a very impressive performance by the Chiefs’ defense.
Here are the five biggest reasons the Chiefs were able to take the title.
1. Comeback experience
It would be very easy for a team to tighten up and fall short down 10 points with less than 10 minutes to go in the Super Bowl. It was advantageous for the Chiefs, however, to have been in this situation in both their previous playoff games. Having fallen behind 24-0 to Houston, and 17-7 to Tennessee, the Chiefs didn’t panic and knew that their quick-strike offense could get them back in front on short notice. They may not have had to come from behind in the fourth quarter yet, but those games prepared them for Sunday.
2. Patrick Mahomes arrives at the right time
At the end of the game, Mahomes made the throws that his 49ers counterpart Jimmy Garoppolo did not. The Chiefs quarterback struggled for much of the game, missing receivers and being pressured by San Francisco’s front four. That changed in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs went to a more up-tempo offense. He made several key throws, and his pass to Sammy Watkins to set up Kansas City’s go-ahead touchdown was clutch. He also made a few key runs to get first downs his team needed. This was far from Mahomes’ best performance, but he showed he has what it takes to step up when his team needed it most.
3. Defense stepped up
The Chiefs defense has often been criticized over the last two years, and there have been serious doubts whether that unit was good enough to help win a Super Bowl. On Sunday, they proved that they were. On the 49ers’ second-to-last drive, they stepped up, forced the 49ers into 3rd- and 4th-and-long situations, and forced Garoppolo off the field with a key Kendall Fuller pass breakup followed by a big sack. NFC Championship star Raheem Mostert was held to 58 rushing yards, while Garoppolo was intercepted twice. It was the performance the Chiefs needed.
4. They outran the 49ers
Expectations were high for Mostert coming into this game on the heels of his 220-yard, four-touchdown performance in the NFC Championship. He didn’t come close to that Sunday night, being held to 58 yards on just 12 carries. He was thoroughly outplayed by Kansas City’s Damien Williams, who racked up 104 yards, including two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs have had their issues with the run, but it was the 49ers who had those problems Sunday, and it played a huge role in the outcome.
5. Kyle Shanahan’s conservatism
The San Francisco 49ers head coach called a very strange game. The offense was working quite well in the second and third quarters, and the 49ers were really crushing the Chiefs with Deebo Samuel end-arounds. Shanahan was not aggressive late in the first half, potentially leaving points on the board that the team would need later. In the fourth quarter, instead of using Samuel to try to run out the clock, they went frequently to Mostert, who wasn’t getting much going. That inability to kill the game off left the door open for Kansas City’s comeback, and cost them in the end.