LAS VEGAS: If you are going to battle for a Super Bowl title in Sin City, the No. 1 path to that goal is to commit the fewest number of sins as possible.
The Kansas City Chiefs committed one less sin than the San Francisco 49ers, pulling out a flawed, but thrilling 25-22 win in overtime in front of 61,629 fans at Allegiant Stadium.
It was the fourth Super Bowl win for the Chiefs franchise and the third Vince Lombardi trophy for both head coach Andy Reid and MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Probably the biggest sin of the evening happened with the way the 49ers handled overtime but taking the ball first and not getting into the end zone when it had the opportunity
Still, San Francisco could have made the most of it when it had a first-and ten at the Chiefs 15-yard line and a real chance to win the Super Bowl, but somehow managed to beat themselves.
On first down, Brock Purdy handed off to Christian McCaffrey for a six-yard gain. On second down, another handoff to McCaffrey that gets stuffed for no gain.
Third-and-four – now they must score a touchdown, right? – Purdy was pressured the instant the ball was snapped by All Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones and the second-year signal caller out of Iowa State basically was forced to throw the ball way.
How was Jones able to break through the 49ers’ blockers with such ease?
“It looked like a protection bust up the middle,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. “We were going to Jauan [Jennings]. I know it looked like Jauan killed him and won pretty good, but Chris Jones got loose in the middle. I think there was a mistake, not sure, but he's a hard guy to block.”
Jake Moody – who had an extra point blocked earlier in the fourth quarter that allowed the Chiefs the opportunity to send the game into overtime – was sent out to boot a 27-yard field goal to give the 49ers a tenuous three-point lead. It didn't last long.
According to the new rules, even if the 49ers had scored a touchdown, the Chiefs would get a chance to tie the score, even win with a two-point conversion.
Shanahan was asked why he took the ball first. Why not defer and get a stop?
At this point, the only touchdown the Kansas City scored in the game was late in the third quarter after a muffed punt by Darrell Luter, Jr. that gave the Chiefs a first-and-ten at the 49ers 16-yard line.
Mahomes hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the first play for a touchdown that gave Kansas City a brief lead, 13-10.
“This is something we talked about,” Shanahan said. “You know that none of us have a ton of experience of it but we went through all the analytics and talked with those guys and we just thought it would be better, we just wanted the ball third. If both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones who had the chance to go in. We got that field goal, so we knew we had to hold them to at least a field goal. And if we did then we thought it was in our hands after that.”
Obviously that thought process did not work.
The Chiefs, led by Mahomes, marched 75 yards on 13 plays, ending with a three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman and a place on Super Bowl history.
Mahomes was 34 of 46 for 333 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked three times officially.
The 49ers defense hit Mahomes just beyond the line of scrimmage numerous times, in fact, he was hit seven other times by 49ers defenders.
He said once the 49ers were held to a field goal in overtime, he knew they had the game in hand.
“I mean that's a great football team." Mahomes said. "But once we got, they stopped and held him to a field goal our mindset was go win the game right here. Once we got that ball, we fell short in regulation, and we're not going to let it do it again. We're going to go out there and win the game defense got the stop and we were able to do that.”
Tight end Travis Kelce, who caught nine passes for 93 yards but did not get in the end zone, said he felt the same way.
“Never a doubt in my mind, baby,” Kelce said. "Never a doubt in my mind. We knew when they had to kick a field goal, that it was on us. We got the best quarterback in the league. We got the best offensive mind in the league. And we got the most determination out of any team in the NFL, and you saw all of that today, man.”
Brock Purdy 23 of 38 for 255 yards and a touchdown pass. He did not throw an interception and was sacked just once.
Christian McCaffrey rushed 22 times for 80 yards and lost a fumble deep in Chiefs territory on the game's opening drive.
After the game, the Offensive Player of the Year said the fumble was still on his mind.
“I don’t know,” He said. “First thing I think is I can’t put the ball on the ground on the first drive. It’s going to sting, put that on me.”
McCaffrey was asked if there was anything he would take away from his first Super Bowl appearance.
“Right now, I don’t know,” McCaffrey said. “I think we’re still a little numb and angry, and just kind of going through all the emotions, and just have to wake up tomorrow and try again.”
He was asked about the opportunities the 49ers let slip away.
“Definitely, one that keeps going in the back of my mind is that first drive,” McCaffrey said. “Can’t put the ball on the ground.”
McCaffrey was asked about his emotions after letting a 10-point lead slip away and a chance to earn the 49ers franchise its sixth Super Bowl title. A sixth title would have tied San Francisco with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots with the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history.
“Yeah, it hurts. It hurts deep. It’s something that you dream about as a kid. You’ve worked so hard for all year and come up short. I think you just have to go through all the emotions as they come, but each day just chip away getting back to normal. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. It’s still fresh and it still sucks.” *
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com