MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Uncomfortable and under duress for much of the game, Patrick Mahomes suddenly recaptured his mojo and lifted Andy Reid and the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory, the team’s first NFL championship in a half-century.
All it took was falling behind by double digits in the postseason, again. Then Mahomes led the Chiefs to 21-straight points in the final 6:13, hitting two long passes on touchdown drives for a 31-20 victory Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.
"We never lost faith," Mahomes said. "That's the biggest thing. Everybody on this team, no one had their head down. We believed in each other. That's what we preached all year long."
The Chiefs (15-4) trailed 24-0 and 17-7 in their previous playoff games. This time, Kansas City nearly didn't have time for a comeback.
Kansas City's fans in the crowd of 62,417 at Hard Rock Stadium got little opportunity to chant and do the tomahawk chop as KC fell behind 20-10 in the third quarter. Mahomes even threw his second interception of the night after they fell behind.
But the vaunted 49ers defense wilted late and Mahomes brought the magic that makes him special.
He completed passes of 44 yards to Tyreek Hill and 38 to Sammy Watkins. The touchdowns came on short throws to Travis Kelce to cut the deficit to three and to Damien Williams for the lead. The first NFL title in Chiefs coach Reid's two-decade career was clinched by Williams' 38-yard TD run, sending red-clad Chiefs fans into chants of "Andy!" Andy!"
Reid, 61, won a Super Bowl ring with the 1996 Packers while in charge of tight ends. He's been seeking one as a head coach since being hired by Philadelphia in 1999. The Eagles lost in their only trip to the big game after the 2004 season.
"This is what it's all about," Reid said. "What a great team, great coaches. Appreciate every bit of it."
Mahomes found Hill, whose bobble led to the second San Francisco pick, for 44 yards on a third-and-15 — the first long pass completed by Kansas City. A 20-yard pass interference call on Tarvarius Moore, who had that earlier pick, put the ball at the 1 and Kelce was wide open for the score.
The Chiefs defense — confounded by the Niners’ misdirection much of the game — got stingy and forced a three-and-out. Mahomes soon hit Watkins down the right sideline behind Richard Sherman for a 38-yard gain, leading to Williams’ first score.
San Francisco (15-4) had nothing left in the fourth quarter, and its coach, Kyle Shanahan, saw yet another late-game meltdown by his team. Three years ago, as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, he was part of the Falcons’ Super Bowl collapse and loss in overtime to New England.
Kansas City, an original AFL franchise, won the final Super Bowl before the full merger, beating Minnesota in 1970. Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt even coined the phrase Super Bowl.
Now the Hunt family can add a Vince Lombardi Trophy to the Lamar Hunt Trophy earned with the AFC crown.
"It's a beautiful trophy," Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. "I'm so happy for our players, coaches and fans. And especially Andy Reid. Nobody deserves this trophy more than Andy Reid."
San Francisco went 4-12 in 2018 and Shanahan was on something of a hot seat this season. He came close to a ring once again, but down the stretch the Niners couldn't slow the no-huddle attack at which Mahomes, Hill, Kelce, Williams and all the other Chiefs excel.
“We have heart,” Mahomes said. “We never give up and those guys around us, the leaders on the team, have that mindset that we never give up.”
The fourth-quarter fireworks by the Chiefs were along the lines of the expected offensive explosion. Earlier, there were some strong drives but not a lot of huge plays.
The 49ers used up nearly six minutes on their opening drive, yet got only Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal. Kansas City took up 7:26 for its next march, including a fourth-and-1 run by Williams on a direct snap to the 49ers 1. All four Chiefs in the backfield spun around before the snap.
Mahomes took it in to end the 15-play series on a run option.
The 7-3 deficit was the first for San Francisco since Game 15. It soon became 10-3 after Jimmy Garoppolo's ill-advised lob under pressure was intercepted by Bashaud Breeland. Another fourth-down gamble paid off for KC, with Williams gaining 3 on a pitchout. But the Chiefs stalled and Harrison Butker kicked a 31-yard field goal.
San Francisco needed a spark and, as it often has this season, the running game provided it. Gouging the Chiefs in the trenches, the 49ers gained 53 yards on five straight rushes before Garoppolo hit on a pair of passes. The second completion, over the middle to Kyle Juszczyk, saw the fullback look like anything but with a nifty open-field move past safety Daniel Sorensen — perhaps Kansas City's best tackle. Juszczyk surged into the end zone for a 15-yard TD to tie it at 10.
Gould's 42-yarder gave the Niners their first lead, capping the opening drive of the second half. Again, their misdirection plays kept the Chiefs off-balance on defense.
As Garoppolo did in the first half, Mahomes then threw into heavy coverage trying to hit Hill and was picked by Fred Warner. It was the first interception of Mahomes in five postseason games.
And it paid off with another efficient series for the Niners, keyed by a 26-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne on third down. Raheem Mostert, the star of the NFC title game, surged in from the 1 for a 20-10 edge.
Hardly unfamiliar territory for Kansas City, which trailed Houston 24-0 and Tennessee 17-7 in the playoffs. Both of those holes were dug in the first half. This one came with 17 1-2 minutes remaining.
Mahomes, Reid and Company merely shrugged, rallied, and brought a first championship since 1970 to Kansas City.
Here’s how the game unfolded:
49ers strike first after 58-yard drive
The 49ers have struck first in Super Bowl 54.
Robbie Gould kicked a 38-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the opening quarter, and San Francisco has taken a quick 3-0 lead over Kansas City.
The Chiefs have now given up the first score in all three of their playoff games this season.
Kansas City took the game’s opening kickoff and went three-and-out, with Patrick Mahomes throwing a pair of incompletions. The 49ers avoided disaster when returner Richie James Jr. muffed the Chiefs’ ensuing punt but recovered.
The 49ers coolly went 58 yards in 10 plays, the big blow being a 32-yard run by Deebo Samuel.
Patrick Mahomes’ TD puts Chiefs ahead
The Chiefs took a risk and wound up with a touchdown.
After Damien Williams got 4 yards on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 5, quarterback Patrick Mahomes ran it in for the game’s first TD with 31 seconds left in the opening quarter as Kansas City took a 7-3 lead over the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers were stuffed on first-and-goal, and then Mahomes went to his right before finding a crease and getting into the end zone.
49ers safety Jimmie Ward was shaken up on a third-down play where Mahomes scrambled near the right sideline and came close to picking up a first down. Ward came in at full speed to dislodge the ball from Mahomes’ hands and it caromed out of bounds, but he remained down for about a minute after making the big hit.
Woman attempts to run onto field
A woman has apparently tried to get onto the field at Super Bowl LIV.
Security personnel stopped the woman's bid during the first quarter. An Associated Press photographer captured images of the woman being tackled by security before she made it onto the playing surface.
It was not immediately clear if the woman would be facing charges.
Fourth-down gamble pays off for Chiefs
Another fourth-and-1 call by Chiefs coach Andy Reid has paid off.
Harrison Butker's 31-yard field goal with 9:32 left in the first half was good, and Kansas City has pushed its lead over San Francisco to 10-3.
Damien Williams got 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 19 to keep the drive going.
Jimmy Garoppolo TD pass ties it 10-10
Jimmy Garoppolo connected with Kyle Juszczyk on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 5:05 left in the first half, and the Super Bowl 54 between San Francisco and Kansas City is tied at 10-10.
Garoppolo is now 8 for 10 for 69 yards and a score. He had been picked off on San Francisco’s preceding drive, which strangely means good things are going to happen: He’s now 39 for 42 for 461 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions this season in the drive immediately following an interception.
Robbie Gould puts Niners back in the lead
Robbie Gould connected again on the opening drive of the third quarter, and San Francisco has jumped out to a 13-10 lead over Kansas City.
The 49ers took the second-half kickoff and went 60 yards in nine plays, chewing up 5:31 of clock. Gould hit from 42 yards out.
Meanwhile, there were no shortage of reactions to the Super Bowl halftime show starring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.
Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks said the show “almost got me in trouble." Florida Sen. Rick Scott tweeted that he thought Pitbull should have been part of the show — “America was robbed" — he said.
Raheem Mostert puts Niners up 10
The 49ers cashed in on Patrick Mahomes' interception.
Raheem Mostert went in from a yard out, and San Francisco took a 20-10 lead over Kansas City with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
The 49ers needed just under three minutes to go 55 yards in six plays, with Jimmy Garoppolo connecting with Kendrick Bourne on a big 11-yard gain while facing third-and-8 to keep things going.
That’s now 17 unanswered points for the 49ers. They’re outgaining the Chiefs 292-185.
Patrick Mahomes hits Travis Kelce to pull Chiefs within 3
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are not done yet.
Mahomes connected with Travis Kelce for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 6:13 left, pulling the Chiefs within 20-17 of the San Francisco 49ers. The score snapped a run of 17 unanswered points by the 49ers.
Facing third-and-15 from his own 35 with about 7 minutes left, Mahomes spun away from heavy pressure and heaved the ball toward Tyreek Hill for what became a 44-yard gain down to the San Francisco 21 and essentially kept the Chiefs’ hopes alive.
They got some help on the next third down. Mahomes’ pass on third-and-10 toward Kelce in the end zone led to the 49ers getting flagged for pass interference. On the next snap, Mahomes and Kelce connected for the 1-yard touchdown pass.
Patrick Mahomes’ 3rd TD puts Chiefs back in the lead
Just like that, the Kansas City Chiefs have taken the lead.
Patrick Mahomes connected with Damien Williams on a 5-yard scoring pass with 2:44 left, and the Chiefs now lead the San Francisco 49ers 24-20. Mahomes connected with Sammy Watkins for a 38-yard gain down the right sideline, the biggest blow on the drive.
Williams is a former member of the Miami Dolphins, and now has a go-ahead score in the Super Bowl in his former home stadium. The play to the right pylon held up after a lengthy replay review.
The Chiefs have been masters of comebacks throughout this postseason, erasing double-digit deficits to beat Houston and Tennessee.
And now they’re on the cusp of doing it again for a Super Bowl title.
Damien Williams’ 2nd TD extends Chiefs’ lead
Damien Williams has scored again, a 38-yard run with 1:12 left and the Kansas City Chiefs are about to end their 50-year wait for another Super Bowl title.
They lead San Francisco 31-20, after ripping off 21 points in a span of about five minutes.