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Neil Reynolds' Wraps Super Bowl LVIII

The final pieces of confetti have been swept off the floor at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and I've had some time to reflect on what I saw unfold in Super Bowl 58. And what we witnessed was a piece of NFL history that will still be talked about 20 years from now.

Led by the indomitable Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in only the second Super Bowl to go into overtime.

And when Mahomes threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman just three seconds shy of heading into a sixth quarter of action, it was like watching a movie. Hardman was in shock (he later admitted he blacked out), Mahomes ran through the end zone, right underneath our Sky Sports booth and then collapsed to the ground in euphoric exhaustion; and Chiefs players stormed the field in utter jubilation.

The confetti began to rain down and the Chiefs were crowned champions of the NFL for the third time in five years. But it looked like it was going to be oh so different.

Kansas City trailed 10-0 in the first half and were on the ropes. A frustrated and furious Travis Kelce shoved head coach Andy Reid and if he had sent the 65-year-old tumbling to the turf, that would have been an iconic image remembered for all time for all the wrong reasons.

The Chiefs called an emergency offensive meeting on the sideline led by offensive coordinator Matt Nagy and a similar one with the defense chaired by Chris Jones. In short, they needed to get their stuff together! At one point, they went 16 straight drives – dating back to the AFC Championship Game win against Baltimore – without scoring a touchdown.

Like all successful sports teams, the Chiefs needed a little bit of luck and it came late in the third quarter as Kansas City's offense stalled again and punted the ball back to the 49ers. Cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. did not get away from the football and it hit him on the back of the ankle. Live ball! Ray-Ray McCloud tried to get a handle on it, but Kansas City recovered. They had not looked capable of going the length of the field for a touchdown, but Mahomes could handle 16 yards. He threw a touchdown to Marques Valdes-Scantling and KC had their first lead.

The teams then went back and forth, ending in a tie at the end of regulation. Then came the difference in the game. Brock Purdy missed a would-be touchdown – albeit with Chris Jones in his face – and San Francisco settled for the field goal and a 22-19 overtime lead. Scoring threes and not sevens against Mahomes is always a dangerous thing.

There was an inevitability to what happened next… Mahomes and the Chiefs added to any good fortune they had enjoyed earlier with some historic brilliance. The now three-time Super Bowl MVP guided his team 75 yards in 13 plays. He completed all eight of his passes and made key plays with his legs, including picking up a first down on fourth down when any failure there would have ended the game.

Mahomes never knows when he's beaten. I noticed today that ESPN's win probability chart did not swing in favour of the Chiefs all night long until that final drive of the game. At one point, San Francisco had close to a 90 percent likelihood of winning this contest.

Nobody told Mahomes, Travis Kelce – who had one receiving yard in the first half but ended with 93 – Andy Reid and the rest of his players.

That's now three Super Bowl wins for Mahomes and the Chiefs in five years. And in each of them they have overcome a 10-point deficit… against San Francisco in Super Bowl 54, against Philadelphia in Super Bowl 57 and now against the Niners again in Super Bowl 58.

They may not be perfect, but they can be close to it when it matters the most. And that is why Mahomes is already an all-time great at the age of 28 and the Chiefs are well and truly an NFL dynasty.

Quick Thoughts…

With just one game this week, I thought I would go with a different format to wrap up the 2023 season. Here is my brain dump before jumping on a plane back to the UK.

  • I was surprised Kyle Shanahan opted to take the ball first in overtime. I know San Francisco's defense was on its knees at the end of the Chiefs' game-tying drive, but he essentially gave Mahomes four downs with the new overtime rules and Kansas City knew exactly what was required after Jake Moody's field goal. Even if Mahomes had the ball first and had scored that touchdown, San Francisco still controlled the game and would have been in instant four-down territory. Shanahan said he wanted the ball third – sudden death – in case both teams opened overtime with touchdowns. I think that's looking a bit too far down the line.
  • Speaking of Moody, how damaging was his missed extra point following Jauan Jennings' touchdown catch in the fourth quarter? It was most definitely blocked as a result of a very low kick. And it meant right at the end of regulation, the Chiefs could take the easy Harrison Butker field goal and head into overtime. If Moody had made that extra point, Kansas City would have been required to take one shot at the end zone with three seconds remaining. Having broken up an end zone pass to Kittle on the final play before the field goal, the Niners might have fancied their chances in that scenario.
  • There were a few players on the 49ers who didn't deserve to be on the losing end, including Christian McCaffrey (160 scrimmage yards) and Nick Bosa, the latter of whom was relentless in chasing Mahomes all over the field. It was a brave effort, but both those star players will go away empty-handed and arguably the most talented roster in the NFL has, once again, failed to result in a Super Bowl victory.
  • Shanahan said during Super Bowl week "I don't care about your narratives" when asked about his previous title game losses as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons and head coach of the 49ers. He might hear a bit more about that now. In Super Bowl 51, the Falcons led 28-3 and lost. Four years ago, the Niners led by 10 and lost. And it was the same again on Sunday night. When you get a label in pro football, it's going to get talked about until you prove otherwise and Shanahan is going to deal with talk that he cannot win the big game.
  • Back to Travis Kelce for a moment. If he is on the opening day roster of the Chiefs in 2024, it will be because he is a star player who is so very valuable to his team. Lesser players would be out the door at super-quick speed if they had done to Andy Reid what Kelce did in front of the whole world on Super Bowl Sunday. He can feel fortunate Reid is a forgiving type who loves to give people a second chance.
  • Andy Reid will turn 66 next month and has been asked time and again in the last seven days about his future and if he is contemplating retirement. He was non-committal on his long-term future and we don't know how demanding that coaching life is unless we actually live it. Reid may decide that three Super Bowl rings is more than enough. But if he has the energy and passion, why stop now? The Chiefs have the youngest defense in the league (average age of 25) and they have Mahomes. They need an elite receiver, in my opinion, and an heir apparent to Kelce. But they can get to a lot more of these Super Bowls in the next decade. And at 28, Mahomes definitely has another 10 years in him.
  • Let's end on Mahomes, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player after passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Within minutes of delivering the Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass to a man who started the year on the New York Jets in Hardman, Mahomes was setting the tone for the offseason and insisting that Kansas City were going to win three in a row. That's greatness right there – Mahomes has instantly turned the page to 2024 and he is eyeing another title run. Three is clearly not enough for him so the pursuit of Tom Brady's seven will go on and on.