LAS VEGAS — Instant Analysis from the Chiefs’ 25-22 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII:
⋅ The comparisons between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are starting to get a little tired. But there’s a reason that Brady’s name comes up in seemingly every conversation about the Chiefs quarterback:
Mahomes, like Brady, simply refuses to be denied.
The 2023 edition of the Chiefs wasn’t the best version under Mahomes and Andy Reid. The offense finished in the middle of the pack. Frustrations were evident at different points of the season. The Chiefs had to go on the road in the playoffs for the first time. They trailed 10-0 in the second quarter of the Super Bowl.
Yet Mahomes didn’t blink, and once again willed his team to a championship. He threw for 154 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime. And Mahomes made play after play in overtime, including two huge scrambles to get the Chiefs in scoring range.
Mahomes finished with 333 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception — plus a team-high 66 rushing yards — to earn his third Super Bowl MVP award. Like Brady, Mahomes never falters in the fourth quarter and always has a knack for making the big play.
And that sound you heard late Sunday night was Brady starting to get nervous. His seven Super Bowl victories are still more than double those won by Mahomes (three). But Mahomes, only 28 years old, is coming hard after Brady.
Mahomes has three Lombardi Trophies after six seasons as a starter — same as Brady. Mahomes and the Chiefs erased Brady and the Patriots from the record books Sunday, as Kansas City is now the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls?”
And Mahomes isn’t slowing down. When asked after the game if the Chiefs are a dynasty, Mahomes answered, “It’s the start of one. We’re not done. We’ve got a young team, we’re going to keep this thing going.”
This Super Bowl was bad news for those who are sick of the Chiefs, and sick of Mahomes being compared to Brady. Mahomes and the Chiefs aren’t going anywhere, and simply refuse to be denied.
⋅ It’s hard not to feel for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who suffered yet another gut-wrenching loss in the Super Bowl, to go along with the 31-20 loss to the Chiefs four years ago and the 28-3 loss to the Patriots when he was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. The 49ers played admirably Sunday night and didn’t have any embarrassing breakdowns, unlike the other two games.
But Shanahan deserves to be put under the microscope for one decision that may have cost his team the game. The 49ers won the coin toss in overtime, yet elected to receive the ball first.
That strategy is sound with the overtime rules in the regular season, when a touchdown on the opening drive can win the game. But it was questionable at best Sunday night, when the NFL’s postseason rules required both teams to have a possession.
By choosing the ball first, Shanahan put the 49ers in a tougher spot, having only three downs to play with (since they would punt on fourth and long). Had they kicked and played defense first, the 49ers could have called their offense with all four downs, or called an offense knowing they only needed a field goal to win.
They ultimately kicked a short field goal on their overtime possession, which ensured the Chiefs would go for it on all four downs. That aggressive mind-set helped the Chiefs drive 75 yards for the winning score.
The decision to take the ball is probably going to eat at Shanahan for a while. He could use a do-over.
⋅ Brock Purdy didn’t complete his “Brady” story line, since he lost the Super Bowl in his second NFL season. But Purdy deserves credit for coming up big with the game on the line. He was just 14 of 25 for 148 yards through three quarters, with the 49ers needing a gimmick play to score their only touchdown. But Purdy finished 9 of 13 for 107 yards and a touchdown, leading his team to 13 points on their final three drives.
Purdy had a great postseason run, with two second-half comeback wins and a near-comeback win in the Super Bowl. He wasn’t overmatched on the big stage, and made some huge throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. There should be no more doubts that Purdy is a legitimate, top-tier NFL quarterback who should only improve.
⋅ The box score doesn’t reflect a standout game for Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who had just four tackles and two QB hits. But Jones essentially won the game for the Chiefs in overtime by breaking through the line and disrupting Purdy’s throw on third and 4 from the 9-yard line. Purdy had George Kittle wide open underneath, and Brandon Aiyuk wide open on a slant in the end zone, but Jones got in his face so quickly that Purdy threw the ball away. If Purdy had an extra half-second, he probably sees one of his open receivers and leads the 49ers to a touchdown. Instead, Jones saved the day.
⋅ Mahomes and Travis Kelce get all the ink, but the Chiefs defense was the backbone of this year’s championship. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit finished No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.3), and in the playoffs held the high-flying Dolphins to 7 points, the mighty Ravens to 10, and the well-oiled 49ers to 22 (and 382 yards) over five full quarters of football.
The defense took over in the third quarter, limiting the 49ers to nine plays, minus-2 yards and three punts.
⋅ Shanahan went down swinging. The analytical models actually recommended the 49ers kick a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Instead, Shanahan kept his offense on the field on fourth and 3, and Purdy rewarded his coach’s faith with a 4-yard pass to Kittle, the first catch of the game for the star tight end. Two plays later, Purdy hit Jauan Jennings for a 10-yard touchdown to put the 49ers ahead.
Whenever the anti-analytics crowd brings up the Lions’ failed fourth-down decisions from the NFC Championship game, Shanahan’s decisions are the perfect counterargument.
⋅ How unfortunate, but appropriate, that the game saw a torn Achilles’ tendon on a freak injury. The NFL season started that way with Aaron Rodgers crumpling to the ground in the first quarter of Week 1 in his Jets debut. And it ended that way with 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw tearing his Achilles’ tendon while jumping on the sideline as he prepared to enter the game. For what it’s worth, Greenlaw’s freak injury occurred on natural grass.
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.