Friday, November 27, 2020

Super Bowl 54: What we learned as Chiefs snatch victory from 49ers

It was a game that lived up to its hype as two elite teams berthing new eras for their fans battled it out in Super Bowl 54.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs once again rallied the troops and stole victory from the San Francisco 49ers in the final minutes of the game after falling behind by 10 points.

With some superb deep passes, scrambling ability and calm head, Mahomes lead his team back from the brink of defeat to beat San Francisco 31-20.

The victory means Kansas City will be taking the Lombardi Trophy home for the first time in 50 years and head coach Andy Reid has finally won his long-awaited ring.

Here’s what we learned…

Patrick Mahomes is the real deal

If there was any doubt that the Patrick Mahomes hype was legitimate – and let’s face it, it was minuscule – he quashed those doubts on Sunday with a stunning Super Bowl performance.

Just as it looked like the 24-year-old was crumbling under the pressure, throwing two interceptions in the third quarter, it turns out it was just to prove he’s human.

He erased his errors by orchestrating a master comeback in the fourth quarter to win Super Bowl 54 by 31-20.

The play which marked the turning point saw Mahomes launch the ball 44 yards to a wide-open Tyreek Hill on 3rd and 15 during their first 4th quarter drive.

Patrick Mahomes knew it was time to start making plays and he made delivering them look easy.

A careless DPI on the 49ers and a Travis Kelce touchdown later, and suddenly their deficit was cut to three.

Superb – Patrick Mahomes put on a show for fans in debut at Super Bowl 54

It was all Kansas City Chiefs from there.

On the very next drive, a stunning pass from Mahomes hit Sammy Watkins for 38 yards and set up the go-ahead score.

A Patrick Mahomes scramble and a scrutinised Damien Williams end-zone dive and suddenyly the Chiefs were in the lead – something they would refuse to let go of until the end.

Patrick Mahomes has proven he can lead his team to victory from losing situations time and time again.

But, on Sunday, he proved he could do that on the sport’s biggest stage, at the first time of asking, and if that isn’t greatness, we don’t know what is.

Jimmy Garoppolo showed up but fell short at last hurdle

Many critics doubted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be asked to throw the ball much in Super Bowl 54 – his first as a starter – citing lack of talent in big game situations.

After all, he had only thrown it a combined 27 times in his last two post-season games.

But Jimmy showed up come game-time on Sunday, throwing the ball 31 times and completing 20 of those passes for 219 yards and one touchdown.

Yes – he threw two interceptions but when you consider so did the Super Bowl MVP, perhaps you can put that down to first Super Bowl nerves.

Super Bowl 54 Jimmy Garoppolo San Francisco 49ers
Not his night – 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw a late pick to seal defeat in Super Bowl 54

What really let him down, and could fuel his critics even more, was the drive following Kansas City’s go-ahead score.

Garoppolo needed a show of strength to prevent the game running away from them.

Three plays in and it looked like he might manage it too.

But no – he three three straight incompletions before taking a nine-yard sack and turning the ball over on downs.

On the next drive, he threw his second pick and the game was as good as lost.

He may have spent all week fielding questions about what he learned from Tom Brady but one thing he didn’t learn was how to seal a win in the closing minutes of a Super Bowl.

Sammy Watkins is a certified weapon when it counts

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has proved he can be trusted during post-season football.

His performance at Super Bowl 54 broke the franchise record for most post-season receiving yards in a single season.

His 98 yards in Miami means he has put up a total of 288 yards in three playoff games this season and has been a key weapon to the Chiefs’ success.

Watkins was signed as a free agent from the Bills in 2018 and, with one play, has well and truly paid them back.

Down by three, Watkins broke free from veteran All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and hauled in a pass for a 38-yard gain.

Skills – Watkins left Sherman in the dust setting up a vital score in Super Bowl 54

The reception set up Damien Williams’ go-ahead touchdown a few plays later.

In his post-match interview, Watkins thanked Green Bay’s Davante Adams, saying: “I knew it was one-on-one.

“I thank Davante Adams because I seen him kill [Sherman] on inside release.”

Watkins is clearly a hard worker and still a keen student of the game. His attention to detail has paid off big time this season.

If he can continue to grown his talent to cement his role as a star receiver, he may help the chiefs retain that title next year.

READ MORE: Click here for more NFL content from the Sports Despatch team

San Francisco 49ers defense cracked under pressure

And while we’re talking about that Sammy Watkins play, what on earth happened to Richard Sherman?

The notoriously vocal veteran cornerback was muted in his responses during his post game interview after his team’s defeat.

He characterised the loss as “self-inflicted” and said the unit just made “too many mistakes”.

And he’s arguably not wrong. Going into the fourth quarter, the Lombardi Trophy was theirs to lose as they were ten points ahead with one of the top ranked defensive units in the league.

All season long, the 49ers defense has dominated teams and the same was true for the first three quarters of the Super Bowl.

Yet that all dissipated in the final quarter of the game.

Sherman was beat on two game-changing plays – the Watkins reception and Damien Williams’ touchdown dive later that drive.

He recorded an unimpressive three tackles and looked a shell of the Legion of Boom defender he once was.

Meanwhile the 49ers pass rush, which had kept Patrick Mahomes more than uncomfortable for the majority of the game, clearly wilted under the pressure.

Going into the fourth quarter, they could no longer contain Mahomes who was allowed to scramble for multiple first downs and they couldn’t keep up with the Chiefs’ tempo.

Kansas City battered the 49ers with 71 offensive plays in total – a master stroke by Andy Reid – and it was clear the once-dominant defense was tired out.

Patrick Mahomes wasted no time in capitalising in the shift in momentum and the rest is history as the final chapter in the NFL’s 100th season was done and dusted.

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