NASHVILLE – Super Bowls offer many lessons, especially when it's an overtime thriller like Sunday's Kansas City Chiefs win against the San Francisco 49ers. Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan will have insights to share with his team.
There's only one Patrick Mahomes, on a career trajectory to becoming the best quarterback in NFL history. Yet he needed help. A stout Chiefs defense and an unfortunate Niners turnover allowed the champions to hang around in a game they seemed likely to lose.
While the Titans have a quarterback-in-training (Will Levis) with new coaches prepared to continue his education, the Chiefs proved there are multiple ways to win.
Let's start at the end of Super Bowl LVIII — the overtime — in our review of teachable moments.
Know the rules
Mahomes revealed after their victory that the Kansas City Chiefs had gone over the postseason overtime rules so many times that he almost got sick of hearing about it. They had reviewed the regulations during their training camp, ensuring everyone was on the same page in case they ever played an overtime game during the playoffs.
According to reports, some 49ers players have acknowledged being unclear about the new rules introduced in 2022 — specifically that both teams can have possession of the ball on offense during the playoffs, unless the first possession ends in a defensive score.
If the 49ers were more prepared, perhaps they would have elected to kick off instead of taking the ball when they won the coin toss. The Chiefs benefited from knowing they could tie the game with a field goal or win with a touchdown.
Chris Jones, the Chiefs' All-Pro defensive lineman, said that if the Niners had scored a touchdown on their opening overtime possession to take a seven-point lead, the Chiefs were prepared to "go for two" if they scored on their ensuing possession.
Special teams matters
Special teams are take for granted until something goes very right or very wrong.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker converted all four field goal attempts, with his 57-yarder in the third quarter claiming a Super Bowl record that 49ers kicker Jake Moody had held for about an hour.
Mood was 3-for-3 on field goals, but one of his extra-point attempts was blocked in the fourth quarter, allowing Kansas City to stay within three points. The Chiefs would ultimately force overtime with a field goal.
Struggling to dent the Niners' defensive line, the Chiefs caught a break in the third quarter when their punt hit a San Francisco blocker's foot. One play later, Patrick Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a touchdown and a 13-10 lead.
Defense buys time for offense
The 49ers owned the line of scrimmage in the first half.
Their offensive line kept Brock Purdy clean and their vaunted defense — with Pro Bowlers Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Fred Warner, and Charvarius Ward — gave Chiefs All-Pro Patrick Mahomes little time to think.
When the Niners' pass rush hurried Mahomes into an interception on the Chiefs' opening possession of the second half, San Francisco had KC on the ropes.
The Chiefs defense ratcheted up the pressure on Purdy until Mahomes and the Chiefs found their rhythm. Blitzes in critical moments kept the Chiefs close.
On the 49ers' final drive of regulation, All-Pro corner Trent McDuffie blitzed off the left side and deflected a pass to force fourth down. The Niners settled for a field goal that the Chiefs would match to force overtime.
In the extra period, the Niners had third-and-4 at KC's 9-yard line. Defensive star Chris Jones roared up the middle and Purdy threw the ball away. The aggressiveness prevented touchdowns, forced incompletions, and held San Francisco to field goal attempts.
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