Sports Specs with Sam

    Mahomes, Chiefs complete impressive fourth-quarter comeback to win Super Bowl

    Sam Janssen

    More stories from Sam Janssen


    Photo by SUBMITTED

    With less than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the San Francisco 49ers 20-10 in Super Bowl LIV. This is when the Chiefs’ offense, led by Patrick Mahomes, their star quarterback, got the ball in a do-or-die situation.

    Mahomes found Tyreek Hill wide open and hit him in stride for a 44-yard strike to put the Chiefs in scoring position.

    Mahomes eventually found Travis Kelce for a one-yard touchdown, trimming the deficit to 20-17.

    When the 49ers got the ball back with six minutes left to play, anyone watching this game knew what they had to do: Run the ball.

    This is how they were successful all season long — especially in the playoffs, when their rushing attack demoralized the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, leading them to lop-sided defeats of both teams.

    For some reason — after running the ball on first down and gaining five yards — 49ers play caller and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan decided to throw the ball. This is a decision they haven’t trusted Jimmy Garappolo, their quarterback, enough to make in critical situations all throughout the postseason.

    Garappolo threw two straight incompletions, which forced the 49ers to punt and give the ball back to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense. They drove straight down the field again, eventually taking a 24-20 lead on a five-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams. 

    The 49ers did not play from behind much this season and the four-point deficit with 2:44 left to play seemed like a tough hill to climb for the Garappolo-led offense.

    Garappolo eventually threw an interception and Damien Williams, the Chiefs’ starting running back, took off for a 38-yard game-clinching touchdown.

    Damien Williams had a fantastic game, rushing for 104 yards and scoring two touchdowns, one on the ground and one receiving.

    While the 49ers’ defense did play much worse in the second half than they did early on, an equally critical factor in the 49ers blowing their late ten-point lead was their decision to abandon the strategy that had gotten them this far: Running the football.

    When the 49ers got the ball back with a ten-point lead early in the fourth quarter, after a Patrick Mahomes interception, it seemed like they would easily be able to run the clock out and win the game.

    Shanahan’s decision to try to throw several times, especially with six minutes to play and the three-point lead, was highly questionable.

    The 49ers have shown time and time again this postseason that they don’t trust Garappolo to win games for them throwing the ball.

    In their conference championship win over the Green Bay Packers, they only threw the ball eight times. In their divisional-round win over the Minnesota Vikings, they went only 11/19 for 131 yards throwing, while running the ball 47 times. 

    Shanahan’s decision to trust Garappolo to throw late in the game with the lead — instead of just sticking with their strength on offense — could have cost them the game.

    The Chiefs did a much better job in protection in the second half and Mahomes was able to overcome some mistakes from early in the game — which included a very poor interception — to lead his team back, just like he has all postseason.

    The Chiefs came back from a 24-0 deficit against the Houston Texans earlier in the playoffs and came back from a 10-0 deficit to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship to reach the Super Bowl.

    The 49ers’ defense appeared to run out of steam and could not stop Mahomes or the Chiefs’ several speedy weapons on offense in the fourth quarter.

    It would be easy to say that the Chiefs won the game simply because they have an elite quarterback and the 49ers don’t.

    This is true, but this seemed like a game that San Francisco definitely should have won as they headed into the fourth quarter and Shanahan’s questionable play calling down the stretch hurt them significantly.

    It is worth noting that Shanahan was also the play caller for the 2016 Atlanta Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots to eventually lose in overtime.

    Mahomes is one of the best players in the NFL right now and is potentially one of the most talented players to ever play the quarterback position.

    His talent along with the rest of their explosive offense was enough to score three touchdowns in the final 6:13 of this game. The Chiefs clearly outplayed and out-coached the 49ers in the end.

    Janssen can be reached at [email protected].