Super Bowl Déjà Vu

By Jotham Kriakos

Super Bowl
On the night of February 9th, the NFL’s 2023-2024 season came to an end with Super Bowl 58 played between Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers and Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs. An eerie callback to Super Bowl 54 back in 2020 played between the exact same teams. But much had changed in the past four years.
By 2022 the 49ers seemingly moved on from their QB Jimmy Garappollo to their newly drafted third overall pick QB Trey Lance, but just two weeks into the 2022 season Trey Lance suffered a season-ending injury that put QB Brock Purdy in the helm of the playoff hopefuls. Brock Purdy was the 262nd player picked in the 2022 NFL draft and happened to be the last player picked in the draft, earning him the nickname ‘Mr. Irrelevant”. Ironic given that this seemingly no-name player would go on to have a 7-1 record in his first NFL season with his only loss being due to a game-ending (and therefore season-ending) injury against the Eagles in the NFC Divisional round. The 2023 season had Brock Purdy return as the Niners starter and saw a return to the elite play that glistened in the 2022 season, coupled with the new addition of star running back Chrisitan McCaffery from the Carolina Panthers, resulting in a 12-5 record giving the 49ers the 1st seed in the NFC.
Since the 2019-2020 season, the Chiefs maintained a high level of success… but with a few bumps along the way. The 2020-2021 season saw the Chiefs make the Super Bowl once again before being handed one of their worst playoff losses by the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 2021-2022 season resulted in the Chiefs losing the AFC Championship game to the dark horse Joe Burrow-led Cincinnati Bengals. But by the 2023 postseason, the Chiefs were able to edge out the Jalen Hurts-led Philadelphia Eagles to take home the Lombardi trophy for the 2022-2023 season. During the offseason before the 23-24 season, the Chiefs traded star Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill, a centerpiece of their offense, to the Miami Dolphins. This move led to uncertainty about the Chiefs’ future success, but nonetheless, the Chiefs persevered to an 11-6 record and ended up with the third seed in the AFC.
After a captivating postseason filled with numerous revenge storylines and matchups that felt a little too good to be true. The 49ers won close games against the dark horse Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. While the Chiefs coasted by the Miami Dolphins but won nailbiters against the Buffalo Bills, and the AFC’s number 1 seeded Baltimore Ravens, led by this season’s MVP Lamar Jackson. Thus the world’s biggest stage was set, Super Bowl 58 would be a rematch of the same two powerhouses that graced national television just four years prior.
The Super Bowl
The first quarter of the Super Bowl was off to a slow start filled with mistakes and sluggish advancements by both sides. The 49ers started with the ball, but their drive came to an abrupt end after a fumble by star RB Chrisitan McCaffery. On the 49ers' next drive, two costly penalties by their offensive tackle Trent Williams brought the drive to an end with no points on the board to show for it. On the other side of the ball, the two drives by the Chiefs both ended with punts, ending the first quarter still 0-0.
Just 10 seconds into the second quarter, the 49ers got some points on the board with a 55-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jake Moody, breaking the record for the longest field goal in Super Bow history. The Chiefs were right on the doorstep of answering this with a touchdown- but Chiefs RB Isiah Pacheco fumbled the ball at the 10-yard line giving the 49ers a breath of relief. The fumble also resulted in the now infamous clip of Travis Kelce surprising and screaming at his head coach Andy Reid, an action that in most cases would get a player benched immediately, showing just how badly tensions were brewing in the Chiefs Side.
The 49ers followed up their field goal with a masterful bit of trickery with QB Brock Purdy lateraling the ball to WR Jauan Jennings who then launched an absolutely beautiful pass to RB Christian McCaffery who took it in for a touchdown, extending the Niners lead to 10-0. The Chiefs responded on the following drive by scoring a field goal to get their first points of the game and head into halftime down 10-3.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, both teams are exactly where they wanted to be going into halftime. The 49ers are a team that is very good at capitalizing on leads but not good at trying to win a game from behind, going into halftime up a touchdown was ideal for them. However, the loss of linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who suffered a torn Achilles as he was running back onto the field for a defensive play was a major blow to the 49er's defense and the momentum and morale of the team. The Chiefs, with the genuineness of Head Coach Andy Reid, and the clutchness of Patrick Mahomes, are one of the best teams at surmounting being behind in a game. In fact, in both their previous Super Bowl Wins under Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs overcame a 10-point deficit to win the game. With the field goal at the end of the half, it seemed like the Chiefs were finally warmed up and in the game, although star TE Travis Kelce was held to just one reception for one yard in the half.
The Chiefs started with the ball in the third quarter, looking to carry with them the momentum they gained at the end of the half. But things took a turn for the worst when Patrick Mahomes threw an easy interception to the 49ers attempting to salvage a deteriorating 3rd and 12. However, the 49ers were not able to capitalize on the potentially costly turnover and the ball returned to the Chiefs who drove down the field but were held at the 40-yard line. But Chiefs Kicker Harrison Butker launched a 57-yard field goal to make the game 10-6 and steal the record of the longest field goal in the Super Bowl that 49ers Kicker Jake Moody set just one-quarter previous.
In the ensuing kickoff, a chaotic turn of events returned the ball to the Chiefs. The kickoff bounced off the heels of one of the 49er blockers, therefore making it a live ball, and while the 49er returner attempted to recover the live ball, he was quickly thrown down by a Chiefs player allowing the Chiefs to recover the ball at the 16-yard line, where just one play later Patrick Mahomes connected with WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a touchdown and giving the Chiefs their first lead of the game at 13-10.
The 49ers, down now at the start of the 4th quarter needed to drive down the field to score. But faced with a 4th and 3, just 14 yards from the endzone, 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan decided to go for the 4th down and eventually a touchdown. A high effort play by TE George Kittle where he fully extended to the 1st down marker, and converted the 4th down. Then one play later a pass over the middle from QB Brock Purdy to WR Jauan Jennings, who refused to be tackled, resulted in a 49ers touchdown and a return to their lead making the game 16-13. The play resulted in Jauan Jennings joining Nick Foles as the only player to catch and throw a touchdown in a Superbowl. But even though things seemed to be going right for the 49ers a blocked extra-point attempt by Kicker Jake Moody made this just a three-point game and not a four-point game, meaning a field goal would be enough to tie it. An error that would end up severely hurting the 49ers.
On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs drove down the field and were held to a field goal on 4th down tying the game 16-16 with just under 6 minutes to go. The 49ers followed suit and, in turn, drove down the field to score a field goal of their own giving them the lead at 19-16 with less than two minutes left. But that was all Patrick Mahomes needed, as he led the Chiefs down the field allowing Harrison Butker to kick the tying field goal in the final seconds of the game to force overtime.
A strong defensive first half followed by a suspenseful score after score in the second half was the most entertaining thing any NFL fan could ask for. But, for only the second time in NFL history, having the Super Bowl be decided by overtime, felt like an ending that was too good to be true. After a recent outcry by NFL fans that the sudden-death overtime model was too unfair, the league changed the rules this season to allow both teams at least one opportunity to score, meaning if given the option it would now be more strategic to get the ball second in overtime and give your offense more time to rest.
However, this seemed to be completely unknown to the 49ers who won the overtime coin toss and decided to go on offense first. The 49ers quickly drove down the field and after a few close calls, ended up at the 8-yard line and were poised in position to score a touchdown. But a blitz on 3rd down forced a quick pass out of bounds by Brock Purdy, who completely missed an open receiver in the middle of the endzone. So the 49ers elected to kick a field goal making the game 22-19 and hoping to hold the Chiefs to just a field goal or stop them entirely. A decision that I still firmly believe was the incorrect one knowing that the Chiefs had the momentum in their favor and Patrick Mahomes thrives in these clutch win-or-go-home moments.
The Chiefs now with possession, similarly drove down the field, coupled with a few sneaky Patrick Mahomes scrambles for huge chunks to keep the drive alive and propel the Chiefs closer to the endzone. On the 3-yard line with just 10 seconds left in the first quarter of overtime, Patrick Mahomes found a wide-open Mecole Hardman at the front of the endzone for the game-winning touchdown, using a play now famously dubbed the “Corndog” which happened to be the same exact play the Chiefs used for their game-winning touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles the year previous. Just like that, the Chiefs had won their second Super Bowl in a row and their third in five years cementing a dynasty to which Patrick Mahomes, now a 3 time Super Bowl MVP winner, says “It’s the start of [a dynasty], but we’re not done”. 
As the Chiefs return to Kansas City and celebrate their Super Bowl Victory, we send our prayers to the unfortunate victims of the brutal gunfire that spilled over from a dispute during the Chiefs Super Bowl Parade. Especially the young children- as well as any who may not have been physically affected but were left traumatized or shaken up as a result. Even though sports come with extreme emotion and passion, events like these are bigger than sports and our communities should come together and support each other in the wake of disheartening events such as this.