MIAMI TO BOSTON — Putting a bow on Super Bowl LIV …
• In MMQB, I detailed the texts I got from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Redskins coach Ron Rivera, Bills coach Sean McDermott and Bears coach Matt Nagy about their old boss Andy Reid winning a Super Bowl title. While in the Chiefs’ locker room, I showed them to some of the players, to show them just how far-reaching the whole “win it for Andy” thing was.
Not surprisingly, they weren’t surprised.
“He's such a good guy, he's such a good coach,” Tyrann Mathieu said, after getting a good look at the texts. “He gives us our space, he lets us be ourselves. We have a lot of personality in this locker room. We got a lot of personality in this locker room. He lets us believe in that. Hats off to him. He does a lot not only for the players but the coaches as well. He's created this coaching tree. We're proud all the way around."
"My coach, being a fan of his before I came here and now, the fact that he's able to have a championship … It's just an honor to bring coach a championship,” Frank Clark added. “He's been doing this for years man, that man finally got him one."
• In October 2018, I first saw in Patrick Mahomes what we saw on Sunday night—and it has nothing to do with no-look throws or darts from impossible arm angles. It’s his ability to compartmentalize, something I don’t think can be taught. The Chiefs trailed 24-9 at the half against the Patriots, and Mahomes, who’d rolled virtually unchallenged to a 5-0 start, had thrown two picks and looked a little rattled.
For the first time as an NFL starter, Mahomes took a shot between the eyes. From that coach. With that quarterback on the other sideline. In that stadium. On the Sunday Night Football stage. That’d be where most young quarterbacks would fold. But not Mahomes—he went toe-to-toe with the legends across the field. Mahomes lifted his team, leaving the field for the final time tied at 40, having thrown for four touchdowns after the break.
The Chiefs lost that night on a walk-off field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, but I’ll never forget what I saw—the rare quarterback that can get absolutely bludgeoned physically and mentally for a period of time, put his foot in the ground and erase all of that on the fly. Tom Brady’s like that. I can think of many others that are. But Mahomes most certainly is, and what I saw on that night in Foxboro, I again saw last night in Miami.
Mahomes had a 49.8 passer rating in the first 50 minutes of Super Bowl LIV, and the Chiefs had 10 points. He then had a 130.1 rating and led the Chiefs to 21 points in the game’s final 10 minutes, which is absolutely mind-blowing.
• In the spirit of that thought, I asked Mathieu when he first knew what he had in the quarterback after he signed up to play alongside him last March.
“Probably in the spring, right?” Mathieu said. “I can just remember us not getting our hands on any balls, him throwing the ball over our head every play. Spags thinks we can't cover. I was trying to explain to him what kind of animal Pat is. He's so special. He's a great leader. He knows what to say when to say it. He's composed, too.”
The Honey Badger then reinforced the point I made, saying, “That was a pretty good defense he was playing against and for him to be able to keep his confidence throughout the game is hard to do when you're dealing with a defense like that. They can kill that confidence. He made some plays for us tonight, and that's what we expect of him."
Meanwhile, the GM who was his biggest champion as one of John Dorsey’s top lieutenants in 2017, Brett Veach, smiled when I asked him about the quality to do that. For the second time in a couple of weeks, he raised Texas Tech’s bowl game during Mahomes’ sophomore year, during which Mahomes kept a severely overmatched Red Raider group in it.
"To sit here and say that's the first time I saw it would be tough because it's really every time he plays,” Veach said. “I think in his college career he was certainly undergunned a few times, outmatched. He always found a way to elevate his play and the players around him. He's tough, he's resilient. He's certainly a good pairing with Andy Reid."
• I think it’s going to take a while for Kyle Shanahan to live this one down, and he’s probably in for another offseason like the one he had after Super Bowl LI. That’s just what happens when a big lead slips away on the biggest stage—it absolutely leaves a mark.
I also know that he’s a brilliant football coach who’ll learn from it, and keep evolving. And that brilliance was on display at points on Sunday night. Midway through the second quarter, when things seemed to be getting away from the Niners, he faced a second-and-nine. That’s a spot where a lot of coaches abandon who they are. Instead, Shanahan dialed up an outside zone run to Raheem Mostert that went for nine yards.
He followed it with a jet sweep to Deebo Samuel (16 yards), an inside handoff to Mostert (11 yards) and a stretch run that Tevin Coleman cut back for a big gain (17 yards) That, really, is who the Niners were all year, and Shanahan knew it perfectly set them up to neutralize Mahomes by keeping him on the sideline—which explains why he played the final possession of the first half as he did with his timeouts.
To me, the most valid criticism today might actually be that he threw it too much late in the game. Over the two possessions sandwiched by the Chiefs’ three fourth-quarter scores, the Niners ran 10 offensive plays, only two of which were runs. On their last set of downs, they had three incompletions, followed by a sack, which signaled a little panic from a team that was at midfield and still had all its timeouts.
• When the score was 20-10, I was torn over whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Nick Bosa deserved to be Super Bowl MVP. The tie was broken pretty quick when I got in the Kansas City locker room, with two staffers mentioning to me, independent of one another and without prompting, how they had no answer for Bosa, who made former first-overall pick/veteran Eric Fisher look like a rookie undrafted free agent all night.
“The guy is a freaking truck,” said one of the staffers on Bosa.
It’s a moot point now, but in a game that would’ve been about the Niners' defensive line winning it for the team, Bosa, as the best player on the field through 53 minutes or so, would’ve been the best choice for MVP. And it’s interesting, too, if you go back and look at it, that it sure seemed like Fisher held Bosa on the 44-yarder to Hill that changed everything with about seven minutes left.
Thing is, if Fisher doesn’t, Bosa might well get to Mahomes (he was right there), the Chiefs probably have to punt, and it’d have been much harder to pull off what they did. So credit to Fisher for getting away with one.
• Reid tells the story of the direct-snap play to Damien Williams—it came from tape of the 1948 Rose Bowl, between Michigan and USC—was a perfect way to cap a game in which the coaching creativity was off the charts. And really, it felt like both coaches, illustrated for everyone where NFL coaching has gone, with an array of concepts cribbed from different levels of football that would’ve been derided as “college” years ago.
Williams’ conversion of that fourth down was a perfect example. The Chiefs initially lined up in what looked like an inverted wishbone, then the four guys in the backfield spun and wound up in a modified single-wing. The Chiefs’ other first-half fourth-down conversion came on a speed option pitch to Williams. And Williams’ one-yard touchdown in the first quarter looked like an old wing-T belly option play.
I, for one, think it’s pretty cool that NFL coaches are so much more open-minded to this stuff than they used to be.
• Mahomes is slightly younger now than Tom Brady was when he won Super Bowl XXXVI. Which means, crazily enough, he has a championship and a league MVP to his name at a younger age than Brady was when the Patriots went on that first Cinderella run.
• If I’m Mahomes or a player with a contract negotiation coming up soon (especially those who starred in the Super Bowl—like Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Chris Jones—I’m only signing a short-term extension. The new CBA could be done soon, with the players likely to get a better deal fiscally in exchange for going to 17 games, and a new broadcast deal will follow that. The NFL truly working to monetize gambling comes after that.
Bottom line: If I’m those guys, I don’t want to be stuck in a five- or six-year extension, knowing the financial landscape could change significantly in the years to come.
• Teams can start cutting vets again on Monday, and there are a few guys that, because of their financials, will be examined by the two Super Bowl teams as they dig out from underneath the 2019 season. For the 49ers, both Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin are likely to be cap casualties because of their injury situations, and Sammy Watkins is a decent bet to be in a similar boat because of his price tag.
Watkins is a fascinating case. He made $34 million the last two years, and he’s due $14 million this year. And if the Chiefs decide not to give it to him, he gets another shot at being a free agent at the ripe old age of 26.
• Three weeks from today, I’ll be on a plane to Indianapolis for the NFL combine. Free agency starts in a month and 15 days. And given a fascinating offseason ahead for both veteran quarterbacks and quarterbacks in the draft, you’ll want to keep it locked here. We’ll have you covered start-to-finish on all of it.
For now? Thanks to everyone for riding through the 2019 season with us from start to that standout finish!
Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More SI Super Bowl LIV Coverage
• Michael Rosenberg: Patrick Mahomes Is Here To Stay
• Conor Orr: After Years of Heartbreak, Chiefs Are Champions
• Conor Orr: Shanahan Absorbs Gut-Punch Super Bowl Loss
• Kalyn Kahler: Reaction From the Niners' Stunned Locker Room
• Charlotte Wilder: Super Bowl LIV Was One Giant Spectacle
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