After an evenly-played first half, the Niners pulled into a 10-point lead. A lead they held midway through the fourth quarter when they could not have looked more in control if they tried. I think I might have even tempted fate on their behalf by mentioning in our Sky Sports studio that they were closing in on a record-tying sixth Super Bowl crown
And then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, they were not. And Kyle Shanahan was left picking through the rubble of another blown fourth quarter in a Super Bowl. More on that later.
The Chiefs looked devoid of answers and done. When Mahomes was picked off for the second time with 11 minutes remaining, it felt like the writing was on the wall and 50 years of hurt was going to tick over into at least 51.
Things didn't look much better with seven minutes left on the clock and Kansas City facing a third and 15 play. It was getting close to being their last roll of the dice.
And that's where Mahomes' belief really shone through. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill revealed in his post-match press conference that Mahomes told him: "I need you. Believe." And Hill told the media that he immediately thought, 'Dude it's 20-10 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Come on man.'
But Hill - who leads the NFL with 28 receptions of 40+ yards since entering the NFL in 2016 - got open downfield and on the end of a 44-yard bomb from Mahomes. And the comeback was on. All the momentum shifted towards Kansas City and a serious amount of panic set in for the 49ers.
In boxing terms, the Chiefs had been on the ropes for much of the night but refused to go down. They lashed out in one last effort to stay in the fight and rocked the 49ers. Hill's catch gave the Niners wobbly knees, Mahomes to Damien Williams had them stumbling around and when Williams raced 38 yards down the left sideline for the Super Bowl's final score, San Francisco were flat on their back and wondering what day it was.
Such a quick and dramatic turn of events was hard to fathom and tremendous to witness. But it has just been par for the course for Kansas City in these playoffs. They were down 24-0 to Houston in the Divisional Round and twice by 10 to Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game.
They came back then and they came back on Super Bowl Sunday, providing us with images that will live long in the memory.
Patrick Mahomes...With great quarterbacks of NFL past and present such as Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady looking on in Hard Rock Stadium, Patrick Mahomes stood tall when it mattered most in what was playing out as a very challenging Super Bowl against a San Francisco pass defense that ranked first in the league and was the best to reach this big game in the last 11 years. Any big play Mahomes made in the first 53 minutes of this contest came with him under extreme duress. Yet he hung in there and after throwing his second interception of the game, Mahomes finished the biggest game of his life by going eight of 13 for 114 yards, two touchdowns, no picks and a quarterback rating of 129.5. Josh Norman was in our studio on Sky Sports and said this game would not be about how you start, but how you finish. Mahomes finished red hot and that's why he has won the first of what I think will be several Super Bowl crowns.
Damien Williams...Returning to the stadium where he played for the Miami Dolphins for four seasons from 2014 to 2017, Williams once again showed just how big he can play in key moments of games. He scored the game-winner on a five-yard pass from Mahomes with 2:44 remaining and iced this contest with that scamper down the left sideline with 1:12 on the clock. Early Monday morning, a bleary-eyed Williams said of that play: 'It felt like I was floating. It didn't feel real.' Williams scored six touchdowns in this playoff series for the Chiefs and now has 10 in his Kansas City career - the most by any player in franchise history. The years won't be kind to Williams as we will likely remember Mahomes' role in the comeback more than his, but this game was very much about this former undrafted free agent and he deserves to be placed on a similar pedestal.
Andy Reid...Mahomes said this week that Andy Reid was constantly thinking up new plays and that was the case again on a fourth and one play that led to Kansas City's first touchdown of the game. It looked like a crazy dance routine with Mahomes and his backfield partners doing a full spin before the direct snap to Williams, who picked up the first down. Reid didn't have every answer for the 49ers on Sunday night so there is no point in pretending that he did, but he was aggressive and creative down the stretch and secured win number 222 of his illustrious career on 2/2/2020. And after a 21-year wait as a head coach, Big Red is finally a champion. And that is going to be enough to get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But do you know what? I don't think he's done - I think he's just getting started at the age of 61. More title success lies ahead for these Chiefs with Mahomes at the helm.
Kyle Shanahan...In his two Super Bowl appearances as a coordinator and a head coach, Shanahan has now been out-scored 46-0 in the fourth quarter. And what is his aversion to running the football when protecting fourth quarter leads? Stick with what got you there, run the football and play defense with that fearsome rush. Make it tough on Mahomes. Don't hand him back the football so quickly, especially when you're running it so well. As good as he is in play-calling, Shanahan looked confused in situational football on Sunday night. And it was not just in the fourth quarter. With 1:50 remaining in the first half, the 49ers held the Chiefs short of a first down on a screen and were about to get the ball back. General manager John Lynch was up in a luxury suite and furiously signalling for a time out to be called but Shanahan did not use one and allowed a lot of time to be bled off the clock. His reason? He didn't want to give the ball back to Mahomes with time on the clock before the half! How about backing you're guy to get the job done? So Shanahan played scared at the end of the first half and too aggressively at the end of the game. Like I said... confused. And boy is he going to hear about it.
Jimmy Garoppolo...All week long I have wondered about Jimmy G and his ability to deliver in the biggest of spots. He has two Super Bowl rings as a backup but it's different when you're holding Tom Brady's beer while he sorts out the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 and Atlanta Falcons in 2016. Garoppolo was in the harshest of spotlights on Sunday night but was also in a great position and just needed to get his team over the finish line. Yet in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo compiled a passer rating of 2.8 - the lowest final period outing by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. But even when Mahomes had edged the Chiefs in front, Garoppolo had a chance to win it late. But his long bomb to Emmanuel Sanders - who had at least a step and a half on Rashad Fenton - was badly overthrown. It would have been a touchdown. That was not the throw of a $137 million quarterback. It was not the throw of a Super Bowl champion and it was not the only throw he missed on the night. Josh Norman and Rob Ryan were growing increasingly frustrated at his inability to see the whole field. The bottom line is Garoppolo melted in the bright lights while Mahomes grew ever stronger with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line.
The Fast Five...
Finish That Sentence
After a hugely entertaining season, Super Bowl 54 turned out to be the granddaddy of them all. As a result, you have responded via Twitter and I will finish a selection of your Super Bowl-related sentences now.
From Tom Marshall (@aredzonauk)... My favourite play of the Super Bowl was...the disco backfield play. It was just a great example of going back to the past to find innovation. That was a play from 1940s college football and must have come off the back of some offseason project handed to a coach to find some plays that could be brought into the modern era. It put the 49ers on their heels and allowed the Chiefs to score the first touchdown of the Super Bowl.
From Kush Ladani (@kushty86)... Kyle Shanahan will go to another Super Bowl and...get asked about his fourth quarter failures roughly 4,786 times. It's hard to get a label off you in pro football and the fact remains that Shanahan - who is a masterful play-caller - has fallen short twice with Super Bowls on the line in the final period. Game management was an issue for Shanahan on Sunday and it is something he and his team are going to hear about and have to deal with for an entire offseason. He is good enough to get back to the big game (I'm not sure about his quarterback) but there are no guarantees. Look at these NFC Super Bowl teams who have not made it back since... Seattle in 2014, Carolina in 2015, Atlanta in 2016, Philadelphia in 2017 and the Los Angeles Rams in 2018.
From Liam Devine (@liamdevine27)... The team that can stop Kansas City is... the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans and maybe these Niners. With the first two, I think it comes down to young quarterbacks who are redefining the position and the way the game is played. I can see the trio of Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Mahomes buzzing around this game for years to come. There was a changing of the guard in the NFL this season and it's time for this trio to shine. I think the 49ers are a complete team so they can fight back, but I don't trust Jimmy G in a big spot.
Fact of the Week
Only three teams have lost a Super Bowl after leading by 10 points or more in the fourth quarter. Those teams are the 2014 Seattle Seahawks, 2016 Atlanta Falcons and 2019 San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan has coached two of those three teams in the Falcons (offensive coordinator) and 49ers (head coach).
As we were walking out of the stadium on Sunday night, myself, Josh Norman and Jeff Reinebold saw Emmanuel Sanders being driven past us on a golf cart. Jeff coached Emmanuel in college, I travelled the country with him and Josh on an NFL UK Live tour and Josh and E have long been good friends. So Emmanuel stopped the cart and got off. And then the raw pain of a Super Bowl defeat smacked us all in the face. Emmanuel could barely talk. We each took a turn to give him a hug and that was that. There was little we could say or do. So we just offered up a hug and let him go on his way. He looked broken but Emmanuel is a fighter and I really hope he gets back on this big stage. But as the curtain came down on a memorable day in Miami and an unforgettable season, it was a bitter reminder that the majority of the league does not get to stand under that falling confetti at the end of the campaign. And to come so close and fall short was clearly heartbreaking.