The Kansas City Chiefs formalized their new NFL dynasty Sunday night with a 25-22, overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.
The Chiefs’ win took nearly a full 15-minute OT and consecutive do-or-die drives from Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and his offense. When it ended on Mecole Hardman’s 3-yard touchdown reception, they had captured a third title in four Super Bowl appearances over five years – making it increasingly possible for Mahomes to catch Tom Brady’s record seven wins in football’s biggest game.
Coach Andy Reid and tight end Travis Kelce both have three to match Mahomes, and the Chiefs will bask in the afterglow of the most improbable of their Super Bowl titles together.
The Chiefs lacked home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs and were underdogs in their final three games, but the season ended the same as last year with the Lombardi Trophy on a plane to Missouri, and Mahomes and Co. atop the world.
There were a number of opportunities for the Chiefs’ night to go off the rails and San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy to win his first Super Bowl instead.
Here are five numbers that illustrate why the Chiefs became the ninth back-to-back Super Bowl champions – but the first in 19 years – as well as a new NFL dynasty:
1 and 92
Travis Kelce’s yardage totals in the first and second halves.
The world’s most famous boyfriend had a tough first 30 minutes in Super Bowl LVIII as the Kansas City Chiefs fell behind 10-0 before they wound up matching the second-biggest comeback win in the game’s history.
The San Francisco 49ers defense was physical with Kelce at the line of scrimmage and got to Mahomes quickly enough that the QB only found his favorite target once – on a play that barely went anywhere. On another target at Kelce, Mahomes overthrew him on third down, leading to the game’s only interception.
But two big occurrences broke in the Chiefs’ favor.
First, 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw tore his left Achilles tendon in a freakishly cruel incident as he started to run onto the field after a change in possession with nine minutes left in the second quarter. He is one of the NFL’s best coverage linebackers and figured to be a big part of the Niners’ attempt to contain Kelce containment.
Second, the halftime show took a while. While Usher dazzled the world with an electric set, the Chiefs had an extended locker room break to scheme up ways to get Mahomes and Kelce in sync.
The two future Hall of Famers were more effective after halftime, as Kelce led the game with 93 receiving yards and delivered at crucial moments. He caught conversions from Mahomes on third-and-10 and third-and-7 on consecutive drives to help the Chiefs push the game to overtime, and had a 7-yard reception on K.C.’s OT possession to set up Hardman’s game-winner from Mahomes (34 of 46, 333 yards, two TDs, one interception; 66 rushing yards).
Combined scrimmage yards for Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.
All season, the 49ers helped Purdy with one of the deeper groups of skills-position weapons the NFL has seen in years. They had four first-team All-Pros on offense with running back Christian McCaffrey, tight end George Kittle, fullback Kyle Juszcyzk and left tackle Trent Williams.
Brandon Aiyuk made the second team, while fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel is an elite player as well with dynamic skills.
Samuel suffered a noncontact muscle injury in the second half, and though he returned afterward, he wasn’t productive, catching three of 11 targets for a shockingly low 27.3% and just 33 yards. Aiyuk caught three of six targets for 49 yards, while Kittle had four yards on two catches and also was injured late in the game.
The 49ers got a typically strong game out of McCaffrey (80 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards on 30 touches), but the Chiefs otherwise put a lid on their more prolific offensive stars.
Jauan Jennings, the No. 3 wide receiver, caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, and he threw a score to McCaffrey on a clever pass-back screen.
But Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was surely content with a plan that made Aiyuk, Samuels and Kittle work so hard for so little.
The punting average for Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend and 49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky, who each punted five times for exactly 254 yards.
That’s one of the more mind-boggling statistical coincidences in Super Bowl history, but it’s also an important part of how the game went.
Both punters were excellent, and their long-range kicks were a key part of the game’s low-scoring trajectory. Townsend topped out with a 62-yard net that led to the Niners getting a first-half field goal instead of a touchdown, while Wishnowsky’s best work was a 43-yarder the 49ers downed at the Chiefs 2.
One of the game’s critical plays occurred in the third quarter when a punt by Townsend deflected off 49ers blocker Darrell Luter Jr., and punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud couldn’t corral the ball. The Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson fell on it for a recovery. On the next play, Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 16-yard touchdown that gave the Chiefs their first lead.
Add in Niners kicker Jake Moody having a PAT blocked, and the Chiefs claimed a decided advantage on special teams.
Fumbles by the Chiefs, who managed to recover four of them.
A little luck never hurt anyone.
Kansas City had frequent exchange problems between Mahomes and center Creed Humphrey, punt returner Richie James muffed a ball in the first half, and running back Isaiah Pacheco did not cleanly catch a pitch from Mahomes to start the third quarter.
But the only loose ball the Chiefs didn’t get back was the one Pacheco coughed up in the red zone in the first quarter, more or less canceling out a fumble by McCaffrey on San Francisco’s first drive.
The 49ers fumbled twice and lost them both. One more recovery on the Chiefs’ five fumbles could’ve fundamentally changed the game.
The yardage covered on Kansas City’s last three drives, all of which started with the Chiefs trailing in the fourth quarter or overtime.
A 12-play, 69-yard drive for a game-tying field goal.
An 11-play, 64-yard drive for another game-tying field goal.
And, finally, a 13-play, 75-yard drive that saw the 49ers’ defense give out against Mahomes as he produced the game-winning touchdown.
Most quarterbacks will never mount a single comeback drive in a Super Bowl, but the game’s MVP (for a third time) put together three after the third quarter in this one game.
In the end, nothing mattered more for the newly minted NFL dynasty Chiefs than having No. 15 behind center.