Super Bowl 58 winners and losers: Patrick Mahomes sparks dynasty, 49ers falter late

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The dynasty otherwise known as the Kansas City Chiefs is here.

The Chiefs toppled the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 58 on Sunday night in Las Vegas, 25-22, to become the first team in 19 seasons to repeat as Super Bowl champions. They have won three titles in the last half decade. And behind it all are the constants, coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who took home his third career Super Bowl MVP award, becoming only the third player in NFL history to do so.

For the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan, it’s yet another heartbreak. There’s plenty of blame to allocate, but one thing the 49ers should take comfort in is that quarterback Brock Purdy shined on the sport’s biggest stage.

CHIEFS FANS: Here’s where you can buy the Super Bowl 58 commemorative cover

Here are the winners and losers from Super Bowl 58.

WINNERS

Legendary Patrick Mahomes

If he hadn’t already made his greatness undeniable, go ahead and crown Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who erased any doubt whatsoever that he’s among the best to have ever done it. His uncanny feel for the game and pocket presence, his taking stock of the open spaces on the field, his dual-threat ability to run and throw any pass demanded of him — this is what has allowed the Chiefs to be the first team to win consecutive Super Bowls in 19 seasons. In each of Kansas City’s three Super Bowl victories, he has brought his team back from deficits of 10 points.

Against the 49ers, Mahomes was in complete control, aside from the errant interception into double coverage. He avoided forcing plays. He surveyed the field and was happy to strafe the 49ers with underneath passes that were available because the Niners dropped into zone. He is Michael Jordan, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Serena Williams. The scary part — for the rest of the NFL, at least — is that Mahomes is only 28 and entering his prime.

Let’s expound on Mahomes’ mobility

With San Francisco dictating the line of scrimmage in the first half, Mahomes made a slight tweak to his game to generate some more momentum for Kansas City in the third quarter: he used his legs more. In the first half, he ran the ball just twice for seven yards. In the third quarter alone, he rushed three times for 26 yards, including a 22-yarder on a third down that set up a field goal.

Mahomes actually finished as Kansas City’s leading rusher with 66 yards on nine attempts. When he becomes a threat to rush, he compromises defenses because he’s still a threat to throw the ball down the field, even when on the move. Frankly, it’s a Herculean task to defend.

Kansas City’s ability to work through blowups, penalties and turnovers

This Chiefs team, arguably the least talented in the Reid-Mahomes era (at least on offense), faced trials throughout the regular season. In the first half alone, tight end Travis Kelce blew up at Reid and bumped him on the sideline, star cornerback L’Jarius Sneed committed a completely avoidable unnecessary roughness penalty and running back Isiah Pacheco fumbled in the red zone.

Despite all that, a series of events that would almost certainly cause many teams to implode, the Chiefs course-corrected and returned to their strengths. They rallied behind their leaders like defensive tackle Chris Jones, who gathered the entire defense on the sideline for a meeting. And, most of all, they focused on football. Call it championship mettle, call it whatever you want, but Kansas City’s ability to work through all that set up the prolific second half.

Brock Purdy

He was not the winning quarterback, but Purdy’s play (23-of-38 for 255 yards and a touchdown) should answer any questions San Francisco might have about his ability to win at the highest level. Now, Purdy is a player who certainly needs a certain level of talent around him to thrive. He’s not the type to elevate average receivers like Mahomes is, but he’s more than capable of winning a Super Bowl when in the right system.

In particular, Purdy excelled when facing pressure. He completed 12-of-19 passes for 131 yards and the score when the Chiefs blitzed and he faced blitzes on more than half (51.2%) of his dropbacks. He was measured, played with poise and he took care of the ball. He’s a polarizing player, but whatever you might think of his ability, he has showed he can handle the game’s toughest tests.

Kansas City’s O-line

Though they had been controlled for the majority of the game, Kansas City’s offensive line parried away the 49ers’ pass rushers in second half. Mahomes’ increased mobility certainly helped neutralize the bite of some of the San Francisco pressure, but Kansas City’s front protected Mahomes plenty on Kansas City’s 13-play, 75-yard game-winning drive.

The Chiefs gained 208 of their 455 yards — 45.7% of their entire offensive output — in the fourth quarter and overtime alone. It’s no coincidence that this is the time when the Chiefs’ offensive line took over.

LOSERS

Kyle Shanahan

The reasons for the Niners’ collapse are many, but the person ultimately bearing most of the weight is the head coach. As the offensive play caller, he did orchestrate a decent game at times, but he also had some glaring mistakes. Namely, the 49ers completely ignored star running back and AP Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey in the first three drives of the third quarter.

San Francisco recorded three consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half. Shanahan’s 49ers also struggled on third downs, failing to adjust to the pressures Chiefs coordinator Steve Spagnuolo dialed up. San Francisco converted just three-of-12 (25%) third down attempts. One coming out of the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter and then one on their overtime possession set up field goals when touchdowns were necessary. In all three Super Bowls in which Shanahan has been a head coach or offensive coordinator, his team has held at least a 10-point lead. His teams are 0-3 in those games.

Not to pile on … but: his decision to receive first in OT

This might be splitting hairs, but it still gave the Chiefs an unintended advantage. With the altered overtime rules, both teams had the chance to possess the ball and Shanahan opted to receive first. He said in postgame comments that he wanted the ball if the game got down to a sudden death situation, on the potential third possession of overtime.

The problem: when facing a team like the Chiefs who have a quarterback like Mahomes, allowing that offense to go second essentially gave it the freedom to be in four-down situations for the entire possession. It’s difficult enough to face Mahomes when he has three downs. Giving him one more, when he thrives in stages like the Super Bowl, inadvertently placed an unnecessary burden on his defense, which — by this point — was already gassed. To that point, the 49ers defense had just been on the field prior to the start of overtime. Still, it’s deeply flawed logic to offer that offense — one that had seized all momentum — the chance to score a game-winning touchdown.

Steve Wilks and zone coverage

This is tricky, because, how exactly do you stop a player like Mahomes? San Francisco controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half, rushing Mahomes and hemming him in the pocket.

Once San Francisco’s defense appeared to be battling fatigue late in the game, however, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks relied far too much on zone coverages that had 49ers players lined up too far from the line, leaving a comfortable cushion for Mahomes to exploit. This was most apparent in overtime. Making matters worse, when those defenders dropped back, it often created a vacuum that Mahomes exploited with his rushing. Wilks, overall, called a solid game and losing Dre Greenlaw was a massive blow. Frankly, most of the blame here should be applied to an offense that left points on the field and stalled entirely in the third quarter. But, when the game started to turn late in the fourth, the 49ers could’ve made defensive adjustments in the form of more pressure to slow the avalanche of Mahomes and the Chiefs.

You simply cannot gift points to the Reid-Mahomes Chiefs

Yet, late in the third quarter, that’s exactly what the 49ers did. It’s so demoralizing for a defense to get a stop, especially against a quarterback like Mahomes, only for the special teams unit to botch the punt return. When Tommy Townsend‘s punt glanced off the foot of rookie corner Darrell Luter Jr. and ended up in the hands of Chiefs corner Jaylen Watson.

The Chiefs thrive when teams gift them opportunities like this, and, on the following play, Kansas City scored its first touchdown of the Super Bowl. It gave them momentum, too; the Chiefs would go on to score on every possession following the botched return.

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