Alright everyone, I know it’s been a long time coming, but we have finally reached the Super Bowl! Again. I have to say that combing through these games has been an absolute pleasure from a film standpoint, even with some of the gut-wrenching moments thrown in. From where the Chiefs were headed after the week 10 loss to the Titans to where they are now is an incredible feat for most teams. Going from 6-4 and finding a team like the Raiders close to them in the division race to winning out and pulling away from every team in the division in the process takes a lot of mental toughness in a long season full of injury and adversity.
We can point to the Chiefs being down in each of their previous playoff games as a catalyst for how they ended each game. They were able to come from behind and, essentially, blow out each team they played leading up to the Super Bowl, in this game however, they would find things a little more difficult. With this being the first Super Bowl most members of the Chiefs experienced, pressure builds in an entirely different way. The Chiefs were face to face with a much better defense than they had seen in the playoffs.
The 49ers presented a daunting task from a physicality standpoint, something that doesn’t mesh well with most of the Chiefs offensive line. Their defensive front is exceptional, led by Nick Bosa their front four is big, strong, and athletic, and Bosa in particular caused a lot of problems in this game early on.
Bosa may be a rookie but he is an absolute beast and smart player beyond his physique. This play shows exactly why he’s not just strong and athletic; Kelce is coming over from right to left which he frequently does to wham block, but if you look at the offensive line in front of Kelce, they were setting up for a screen to the left for him. Bosa holds on to Kelce, forcing Mahomes to hold on to the ball. When Bosa releases Kelce, it’s too late to throw the screen, and Mahomes has to throw the ball away.
Bosa was a terror for Eric Fisher to deal with most of the game, the 49ers didn’t feel like wasting possible pass rush pressures by putting him over on Schwartz’s side where Dee Ford was having less than a fun time. Bosa’s bull rush and overwhelming strength is something Fisher doesn’t handle well and Bosa was able to create tons of pressures and force Mahomes to make quick decisions and throw the ball away more often than he had in the playoffs until this point. The Chiefs were going to be up against it and would need great plays from their defense to stay in this game early on.
Bashad Breeland had his ups and downs, even in the Super Bowl, but his ups were great plays that were needed when they happened and this is one of them. It was second and eight on the 49ers first drive of the game, they are driving and in Chiefs territory very close to the red zone. The 49ers look to get Samuel the ball on a quick screen, but Breeland identifies it quickly and beats the block attempt from Kittle to get Samuel down with a loss on the play. They would go on to get a field goal instead of a touchdown. Breeland would also have an interception in this game on a throw from Jimmy G where the receiver was never open.
The game script was different than I anticipated it to be, I thought the Chiefs offense would finally get out to a good start and pull away early. It didn’t work out that way, as usual. The big plays weren’t falling their way, but they were able to sustain drives with intermediate gains even though Mahomes wasn’t at his best early in the game.
This is one of my favorite examples of a quarterback and receiver always on the same page. This RPO shows the alertness of Kelce and how Mahomes has already processed where he is going with the football before the snap. As the left outside linebacker widens a slight amount Kelce knows he’s getting the ball and as soon as he clears the defensive end his head is looking for the football. Mahomes throws this laser in between the linebackers for a moderate gain.
This is the kind of stuff that makes Mahomes special, Peyton Manning was notorious for throwing the ball on his “first read” because pre-snap told him everything he needed to know about the play. An RPO does make it a bit easier on the quarterback, but this is just a small example of what Mahomes does on a near every down basis and he doesn’t even have a full understanding of NFL defenses yet. That thought should really scare the entire NFL.
The first half was a lot of back and forth, but the one constant was Deebo Samuel tearing up the Chiefs’ defense. They used him in so many ways and they wanted to attack the outside because of the lack of speed on this defense. Samuel is great with the ball in his hands and he was able to have big play after big play in the first half. He weaved his way through traffic with the help of his offensive lineman and they created massive cutback lanes for Samuel to work through, getting into and through the second and third levels of the defense at will. This play aided a 49ers scoring drive to tie the game; the first half would end tied and then things would start to turn in the favor of the 49ers.
The 49ers started their first drive of the second half and were able to squeak in a field goal, with the defense doing their job to keep the score close it was the Chiefs’ offenses turn to go out there and do what they do the best, score. They were driving; it started with a nice chunk play to Watkins and then a few more positive plays then the strip-sack which put the Chiefs in a third and long, which is the play seen above. This is an uncharacteristic throw from Mahomes who doesn’t appear to see Warner underneath Hill waiting for the throw. Warner steps in front of this slightly off-target throw from Mahomes and intercepts the ball.
The 49ers got the ball and knew just what to do with it, and then the unthinkable happened and I swear to you I thought the game was essentially over after Mahomes threw his second interception on consecutive drives. I was a mess, I figured the 49ers would be able to run the ball as they had all game and salt this one away. The defense clearly had other ideas.
After a first down from the 49ers, the defense dug in their heels and knew much of how the rest of the game played out would land on their shoulders. They needed stops and they needed them now. On first down it was a given the 49ers would run the ball, but Wilson does a great job taking on the block in the backfield from the fullback allowing Sorensen to fill the gap and help bring down the back. Chris Jones fights across the face of the offensive lineman and gets free of the block to get to the back as well and the Chiefs stop this run for a one-yard gain.
The 49ers’ drive would fall apart from there and they would be forced to punt. Giving the Chiefs the ball back with just under nine minutes left in the game. Mahomes hadn’t faced quite this exact situation before, but in 2018 he brought the Chiefs back against the Patriots to take the lead which would eventually be given back up by the defense. With the drive looking bleak the Chiefs came to a 3rd and 15 situation. There was only one question on Mahomes’ mind, do we have time to run wasp?
With Mahomes able to buy time in the pocket, the answer was yes they did. The 49ers are in a cover three shell on third down and would have had this play completely covered had Sammy Watkins not drawn the attention of the deep left third corner. He runs his route with purpose and comes out of his break to the middle hard which draws the corner with him. That leaves too much room for Hill to work with and he forces the deep middle safety to open his hips to the right of the field and Hill breaks back to the left. Mahomes throws this ball before Hill breaks because he knows there’s no one there to stop it. This is the play that sent the internet into a frenzy, especially after the play was broken down by NFL Films.
Wasp was the play that got the Chiefs offense rolling and put the 49ers on their heels. One single play was able to put both the defense and offense of the 49ers into panic mode and from there on it was all KC. The defense would continue to make plays and this one, in particular, is really what saved the Chiefs Super Bowl chances.
Without this play, I think it’s very likely that the 49ers offense gets on a roll and at least gives themselves a new set of downs to work with. Derrick Nnadi has been one of the most underappreciated players on this defense so it’s only fitting that he makes of the most overlooked key plays of the fourth quarter. Nnadi rarely gets blown off the ball and one of his best traits is locking up, anchoring, and locating the football. He finds the running back, but his feet begin to slide underneath him and that allows the running back to cut this run into what used to be the A gap. Nnadi regains some of his footing and throws his arm up to trip up the running back and brings the 49ers to second and five instead of a first down. Chris Jones would put his stamp on this game with his long arms as well, he’s so good.
The defense stepped up tremendously down the stretch at just the right moment. If it was any later the Chiefs lose this game; I’m not sure what it is about double-digit deficits that gives this team that edge, but they came into their own when their backs were against the wall. Speaking of coming into their own, Sammy Watkins is an elite playoff playmaker for the Chiefs and in back to back seasons has made key plays and been a go-to guy for big plays. Watkins steps into his talent when the Chiefs needed him to, with the defenses’ attention on Kelce and Hill it’s up to Watkins to win one on one matchups and he didn’t disappoint.
This was another play that sent the twitter-verse into a frenzy; with Watkins lined up against Richard Sherman in press-man coverage he told Mahomes he would get open on this play, oh man did he ever get open. He jab steps to Sherman’s left and forces the opening of his hips enough for Watkins to come back around and under Sherman to the inside. Watkins comes wide open behind Sherman and Mahomes throws a beautiful ball for Watkins to catch over his shoulder for a huge gain, putting the Chiefs easily into scoring range where they would take the lead.
The 49ers offense was already in panic mode, knowing they were going to have to keep up with Mahomes and after the Chiefs took the lead, throwing the ball was the only thing they did. They were able to get some chunk yards here and there, but then another Jones batted pass comes up, Kendall Fuller jumps a route almost coming away with an interception, then Jimmy G has Emmanuel Sanders open down the field for a touchdown and overthrows him. That brought up fourth down and that is where the Chiefs got home.
This drive ending sack doesn’t happen without Chris Jones knocking down the blocker on Frank Clark. With Clark coming around on a stunt, he is picked up by the center, but Jones is working his way around to the vacated A gap and collides with the center. That frees up Clark to go get Jimmy G. He does and Sorensen closes as well to bring down the 49ers quarterback and give the Chiefs the ball back with the lead and under a minutes and a half on the clock. Then Damien Williams would end any thought of a possible comeback for the 49ers on his “run to immortality” as Mitch Holthus calls it.
This play really speaks for itself and outside of the extremely underrated block thrown by Byron Pringle, the 49ers defense was defeated and it showed on their inability to get in the backfield or touch Williams. Anthony Sherman leads Williams to the left, knowing all he’d need to do was follow him into the open field, and not one 49er touched him on his way to the end zone. This was such a special play to watch and it’s when I knew the Chiefs had just won the Super Bowl.
Kendal Fuller would pick off Jimmy G on the following drive to *officially* end all hope for the 49ers. It was a great play to jump over the receiver to record the interception, Fuller played well down the stretch and earned himself a nice free agent contract showing his ability to play safety as well as corner. I can’t tell you how amazing going back through this incredible playoff run was and reliving it all with you, the fans, make it all the better. I’d love to hear some of your favorite moments from the playoffs or just the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes now has an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP to his resume after his second year starting in the NFL. What a phenomenal start to what is likely to be a historic career. I can’t wait to see what else he does.