49ers cough up lead, Chiefs roar back to claim Super Bowl 54


After two weeks of speculation, anticipation and hype, the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs squared off in Miami for Super Bowl 54. The 2018 MVP versus one of the best defenses this decade, a matchup suited for the biggest stage in professional sports.

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Jimmy Garoppolo was sharp, the 49ers defense forced two turnovers, and the 49ers running game was dynamic, but late heroics of Patrick Mahomes (26-for-41 passing, 286 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), Tyreek Hill (9 rec, 105 yards), and Damien Williams (17 carries, 104 yards, 2 total TDs) propelled the Chiefs to a fourth-quarter comeback and a Super Bowl 54 title with a 31-20 win.

SFBay 49ers beat writer Taylor Wirth will report all week from Miami including Super Bowl 54 at Hard Rock Stadium.

They say “defense wins championships,” but Super Bowl 54 was expected to be an offensive shootout. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs speedy receivers versus Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, and the 49ers seemingly unstoppable running game.

The atmosphere at Hard Rock Stadium was electric. As well as 49ers fans have traveled this season, Chiefs fans greatly outnumbered the 49er faithful.

San Francisco won the coin toss and deferred. Mahomes and the Chiefs got the ball first, and just like that, Super Bowl 54 was underway.

Kansas City began the game’s opening drive on the 26-yard line. A pitch to running back Damien Williams gained seven yards. An incomplete screen pass brought up 3rd-and-3 for the Chiefs. Mahomes’ third-down pass was incomplete, and the Chiefs with a quick three-and-out to begin the game.

Richie James bobbled the punt return before recovering at the 49ers 17-yard line. Garoppolo and the 49ers offense onto the field. The pitch to Tevin Coleman lost a yard, 2nd-and-11. The very next play was a dump-off pass to George Kittle, good for a 49ers first down to the 28-yard line.

Deebo Samuel caused an eruption on the 49ers next play. An end-around run for 32 yards into Chiefs territory. Coleman followed with a run for seven yards, giving the 49ers a 2nd-and-3 from the Chiefs 33-yard line.

A 3rd-and-2 for the 49ers resulted in a pitch to Samuel, good for seven yards and a first down. Garoppolo was pressured up the middle before getting the pass off to Raheem Mostert over the middle for two yards. On 2nd-and-8 Garoppolo completed a screen pass to Samuel, who was tackled for a loss.

Now, 3rd-and-10 for the 49ers, resulted in a Chiefs offsides penalty. 3rd-and-5 for the 49ers from the Chiefs 20-yard line. An incomplete pass to Kittle brought out Robbie Gould and the field goal unit.

Gould’s field goal attempt was good, and the 49ers led 3-0 early in the first.

Mahomes and the Chiefs began their second drive at their own 25-yard line. Rolling out to his right, Mahomes completed a pass to Tyreek Hill, good for nine yards. Williams carried for the first down, a gain of two yards. Hill caught a second pass for eight yards to the Chiefs 43-yard line. On 2nd-and-3 Mahomes threw out of bounds to avoid a sack. Williams carried once more for a first down to midfield.

From their own 49-yard line, Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce over then middle for nine yards. Williams carried for a third-straight first down to the 49ers 28-yard line. Hill took the direct-snap carry to the left for three yards. A 2nd-and-7 for the Chiefs and another catch for Kelce before the 49ers were called for a penalty.

49ers defensive lineman Earl Mitchell recorded the first sack on Mahomes. A loss of one yard, and a 2nd-and-11 from the 49ers 15-yard line. An incomplete pass to Hill brought up 3rd-and-11 for the Chiefs. Mahomes used his legs to run for a Chiefs first down while fumbling out of bounds. Faced with 4th-and-1, the Chiefs elected to kick a field goal.

Faced with 4th-and-1, the Chiefs decided to go for it from the 5-yard line. Direct snap to Williams was down at the 1-yard line, good for a first down. Two plays later, Mahomes scrambled into the end zone for a Chiefs touchdown. 7-3 Chiefs with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Garoppolo and the 49ers began their second drive from the 25-yard line after moving the ball well on their first drive.

On the first play of the drive, Garoppolo found Emmanuel Sanders over the middle for 18 yards and a quick first down. The final play of the first quarter.

The first play of the second quarter was a pass to Samuel that resulted in a loss of two yards. On 2nd-and-12, Garoppolo’s pass was intercepted by Bashaud Breeland as he was hit behind the line of scrimmage. Chiefs took over at their own 45-yard line.

Mahomes was hit as he threw on the first play of the Chiefs drive, although it resulted in a deep completion to Sammy Watkins. The Chiefs were all of a sudden at the 49ers 28-yard line before a false start penalty on the offense. 1st-and-15 for the Chiefs from the 33-yard line.

Following the penalty, the 49ers were called for a neutral zone infraction. 1st-and-10 from the 28-yard line. A short pass to Mecole Hardman gained a yard. The 2nd-and-9 run from Williams brought up 3rd-and-5. A pass to Watkins was a yard short of the first down, and the Chiefs went for it on 4th down once more.

Williams received the pitch from Mahomes, good for three yards and a first down. From the 49ers 16-yard line, Mahomes pass to Williams in the end zone was incomplete. A three-yard carry for Williams brought up a Chiefs 3rd-and-7. Fantastic coverage by the 49ers resulted in a pass broken up by Tarvarius Moore.

On 4th-and-7, Harrison Butker‘s field goal attempt was good. 10-3 Chiefs after the Garoppolo interception.

James returned the Chiefs punt to the 49ers 20-yard line. Mostert carried for the first time, a gain of a yard. Mostert’s second run went for nine yards, good for a 49ers first down. Samuel received a pitch from Garoppolo, taking it to the 49ers 46-yard line. Mostert carried for a third time, a gain of 11 yards and a third-straight first down.

In Chiefs territory at the 43-yard line, Coleman carried for a big gain of 17 yards to the Chiefs 26-yard line. Garoppolo’s first-down pass complete to Samuel, a gain of 11 yards and a fourth-straight first down. The 49ers were moving the ball with ease.

Garoppolo rolled out on the next play and found fullback Kyle Juszczyk, for a 15-yard touchdown pass. This game was tied at 10-10.

Kansas City began their following drive from their own 19-yard line. Mahomes rolled out, finding Williams for a completion and a first down. Mahomes found backup tight end Blake Bell for a gain of nine yards to the Chiefs 38-yard line. The 2nd-and-1 run by Williams went for a first down.

Mahomes found Hill across mid-field to the 49ers 49-yard line. A run from Williams was swallowed up, a gain of two yards and the two-minute warning as the first half quickly came to a close.

Hardman carried for a loss of six yards. The 3rd-and-14 was a screen pass, read well by the 49ers. A Chiefs punt gave the 49ers the ball back with 59 seconds left, starting from their own 20-yard line.

A run from Mostert for three yards brought up 2nd-and-7. Kyle Shanahan had no interest in marching down the field. With 19 seconds left, the 49ers 3rd-and-5 play resulted in a big completion to running back Jeff Wilson, good for 20 yards. From the 45-yard line, Garoppolo dropped a beautiful pass to Kittle inside the Chiefs 20-yard line, except it was called back due to a penalty on Kittle. A huge blow to a drive that quickly took shape.

Garoppolo kneeled down and the 49ers went to half time tied 10-10.

Before the 49ers got the ball back, Kyle Shanahan let the clock run as the Chiefs were set to punt. A questionable decision, given that the clock drained almost an entire minute. Even General Manager John Lynch was seen yelling to call a timeout from his booth.

Shanahan explained the questionable decision after the game:

“They had three timeouts and it was 10 to 10. The last thing we’re going to do there is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts left, especially with their quarterback and the offensive speed, and go down and score before half. Felt real good at 10-10, especially with us starting with the ball. I thought it played out alright. I thought we should have got points, but they end up calling that PI on (George) Kittle.”

Halftime stats

  • Garoppolo: 9-for-11 passing, 89 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • Samuel: 2 carries, 29 yards rushing; 4 receptions, 23 yards
  • Juszczyk: 1 reception, 15 yards, 1 TD
  • Mahomes: 12-for-18 passing, 104 yards, 1 rushing TD
  • Williams: 10 carries, 47 yards rushing

Garoppolo and the 49ers received the second half kick. James returned the kickoff to the 49ers 17-yard line. Another drive with poor field position for the 49ers offense.

Sanders hauled in a five-yard pass to the 49ers 21-yard line. On 2nd-and-5, Garoppolo found Sanders once more, this time over the middle for 15 yards. An end-around to Samuel, his third rush of the game, went for 14 yards and a first down to midfield.

Coleman carried for four yards into Chiefs territory. Juszczyk hauled in a second pass from Garoppolo, good for a first down to the Chiefs 32-yard line. A screen pass to Kittle moved the 49ers to the 27-yard line. Mostert carried for no gain, bringing up a 3rd-and-5 for the 49ers. Garoppolo’s third-down pass to Coleman gained three yards, bringing out the field goal unit.

Gould’s field goal attempt was good, and the 49ers led 13-10.

Kansas City began their drive from the 9-yard line following a holding penalty called on the Chiefs. Mahomes escaped pressure, finding Watkins over the middle for a quick Chiefs first down to the 28-yard line. Kelce followed with a short reception of four yards to the 32.

A run from Williams stuffed by the 49ers brought up 3rd-and-6 for the Chiefs. A leaping catch from Watkins gave the Chiefs a first down at their own 41-yard line. Williams carried for five yards to the 46.

Mahomes dropped back on the next play and fumbled, recovered by the Chiefs. Faced with 3rd-and-12, Mahomes’ pass was intercepted by Fred Warner. The 49ers took over at their own 45-yard line. A massive turnover for the 49ers defense.

With great field position for the first time all evening, Garoppolo and the 49ers looked to capitalize on the rare turnover from Mahomes. Who else? Samuel. The 49ers rookie hauled in a 16-yard reception on the. 49ers first play. Mostert carried for two yards to the Chiefs 37-yard line.

An incomplete pass to Sanders brought up 3rd-and-8, where Garoppolo found Kendrick Bourne over the middle for a huge gain of 26 yards to the Chiefs 11-yard line. A side-arm throw from Garoppolo to Juszczyk for 10 yards brought the 49ers within inches of the goal line.

The carry from Mostert resulted in a 49ers touchdown from one yard out. The NFC Championship game hero gave the 49ers a 20-10 lead after the extra point by Gould.

Mahomes and the Chiefs began at the 25-yard line. Escaping heavy pressure on the first play, Mahomes threw out of bounds. Williams took a handoff up the middle for five yards. 3rd-and-5 for the Chiefs from their 30-yard line.

Escaping pressure once more, Mahomes scrambled for a first down. Mahomes’ agility has allowed him to evade multiple sacks thus far. The following play was an incomplete pass to Watkins over the middle. A completion to Kelce brought the Chiefs within a yard of a first down. The 3rd-and-1 resulted in a direct snap carry to Kelce, good for a Chiefs first down.

The third quarter came to a close, and the 49ers carried their 10-point lead into the final quarter. Fifteen minutes away from a Super Bowl championship — if they were to hold on.

On the first play of the 4th quarter, Mahomes’ pass was nearly intercepted by Kwon Alexander. 2nd-and-10 from the 46-yard line, Mahomes found Hill for a gain of 14 yards and a Chiefs first down into 49ers territory. Mahomes found Williams towards the sideline for a second-straight first down to the 27-yard line.

On the very next play, DeForest Buckner introduced himself. Sacking Mahomes for a loss of nine yards set up the Chiefs with a 2nd-and-19 from the 36-yard line. Mahomes scrambled to avoid pressure once more, short of a first down, to the 23-yard line.

The 3rd-and-6 pass from Mahomes was intercepted by Moore, Mahomes’ second interception of the night. The 49ers took over at their own 20-yard line.

11:57 remained on the clock, and the 49ers looked to jump out to a very commanding lead if they were to. march down the. field and score once more.

Mostert carried for six yards to the 49ers 26-yard line. A completion to Kittle gave the 49ers a first down at the 38-yard line. A second run from Mostert gained just a yard. Garoppolo’s 2nd down pass to Samuel was incomplete, bringing up 3rd-and-9 for the 49ers.

A false-start penalty called on Joe Staley backed the 49ers up to the 34-yard line. The 3rd-and-14 play resulted in a scramble from Garoppolo, short of a first down. A 4th-and-10 resulted in a 49ers punt.

Kansas City took over at their own 17-yard line with 8:53 left in the game.

Williams rushed to the outside, a run of three yards to the 20-yard line. Mahomes scrambled for a first down, evading pressure once more. The next play, a completion to Hill moved the Chiefs to the 38-yard line. A run by Williams to the 40 gave the Chiefs a first down.

Kansas City was called for a false start, backing them up to the 35-yard line. An incomplete pass, broken up by Emmanuel Moseley, gave the Chiefs a 2nd-and-15. An incomplete pass to Hill brought up 3rd-and-15 for the Chiefs.

The 3rd-and-15 resulted in a huge, deep completion to Hill. A 43-yard gain moved the Chiefs into the red zone and an inexcusable play from the 49ers defense.

Mahomes pass to Hill in the end zone was incomplete. On 2nd-and-10 Mahomes scrambled, throwing out of bounds. 3rd-and-10 for the Chiefs.

A pass to Kelce in the end zone was incomplete before flags were thrown on a pass interference call on Moore. On the very next play, Mahomes threw a touchdown pass to Kelce. The extra point was good, and the 49ers now led 20-17 with 6:13 left in the game. A bad end to the drive for the 49ers defense.

After the game, tight end George Kittle was asked where the turning point was in the 4th quarter, to which he identified this Chiefs scoring drive:

“I think the turning point was when we got a turnover and then we didn’t execute on offense, and they got the ball right back and drove it 87 yards. As an offese we have to end the game right, and we didn’t.”

Garoppolo and the 49ers looked to drain the clock and ice this game. James returned to the 20-yard line with 6:06 remaining.

A run from Mostert gained five yards to the 25-yard line. A pass batted down by Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones brought up 3rd-and-5. Garoppolo’s third-down pass was incomplete, bringing up 4th down and a 49ers punt with 5:18 left.

Kansas City took over at their own 25-yard line down by just a field goal. Mahomes found Hill on a screen pass good for four yards. On the next play, Mahomes escaped pressure and found Kelce at midfield for a first down. Another pass to Hill for three yards moved the Chiefs into 49ers territory.

Mahomes and the Chiefs were back in business. A rainbow pass to Watkins, good for 38 yards to the 49ers 10-yard line. Mahomes followed with a scramble, good for six yards to the 49ers 4-yard line. Mahomes was hit behind the line of scrimmage, a loss of a yard. 3rd-and-5 for the Chiefs from the 49ers 5-yard line.

Touchdown Chiefs. A five-yard pass to Williams gave the Chiefs the lead with 2:44 remaining. The extra-point good, and Kansas City led 24-20.

Jimmy Garoppolo, with the Super Bowl on the line, had a chance to silence his critics. Here we go.

James returned to the 49ers 15-yard line, where the 49ers took over. A big run from Mostert for 17 yards moved San Francisco to the 32-yard line. A second-straight run from Mostert was called back. False-start penalty on Sanders. From the 27-yard line, a pass to Kittle for eight yards moved the 49ers to the 35-yard line. Then came the two-minute warning.

The 2nd-and-7 pass complete to Bourne, a first down out of bounds at the 49-yard line. Another batted pass by the Chief’s defensive line brought up 2nd-and-10. Incomplete to. Bourne over the middle and it was 3rd-and-10 for Garoppolo and the 49ers.

Garoppolo hurled a pass deep for Sanders, incomplete. It was 4th-and-10 and the 49ers had no choice but to go for it. Super Bowl on the line.

Garoppolo sacked and the Chiefs took over.

With 1:25 remaining, Williams carried for a gain of four yards. The very next play, Kansas City ended it. Williams broke off a run of 38 yards, for a Chiefs touchdown to. seal it. 31-20 Chiefs led with 1:12 remaining.

Garpoppolo and the 49ers got the ball back, needing nothing short of a miracle. An incomplete pass from Garoppolo was followed by an interception by Kendall Fuller. Chiefs ball.

A couple of kneel-downs and the Chiefs were Super Bowl 54 champions.

The 49ers carried a 10-point lead into the 4th quarter, before Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Damien Williams propelled the Chiefs to victory over San Francisco 31-20.

The celebration commenced, as the 49ers were left heartbroken.

Kyle Shanahan was asked after the game how he will remember this season despite the sour taste left behind from the Super Bowl 54 loss:

“Yeah, it was a tough loss and it hurts everybody in that room losing the Super Bowl. We had opportunities to win that and came up short. Win or lose, it doesn’t change how I feel about our team. I’m proud of all of the guys for what they did all year, and I’m proud of what they did today. Kansas City played a good game. They were better than us today. We can deal with that, but we’re obviously disappointed.”


  • After losing the second Super Bowl of his career, 49ers veteran tackle Joe Staley was very emotional after the game.

George Kittle was obviously not happy with the outcome.

  • One silver lining for the 49ers is that they are built to return to the Super Bowl. One of the NFL’s youngest teams, San Francisco is built for the long haul. Jimmy Garoppolo echoed that sentiment after the game:

“You could see it in guys’ eyes in there. It means something to guys. That means you’ve got guys that care about what they’re doing, guys who care about each other. We’re a young team and we’ve got a very bright future. We’ve got to take this in stride and remember this feeling and let it fuel us in the offseason.”

  • George Kittle reflected on the 49ers season:

“I mean we went from 4-12 to 13-3. Playing in the Super Bowl is insane. One thing that sticks with me is just being part of the Coach (Kyle) Shanahan and John Lynch first draft class. How we are kind of the foundation and helped built it up. We had a great draft class, and we have a lot of good guys with us. Just the success we had all season, being able to rely on each other – whether it’s the defense making plays, special teams making plays, offense making plays. I think we did that well this year.”

  • If you needed a laugh…

Taylor Wirth

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