Super Bowl LIV: Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes hit rock bottom, then bounce back for 31-20 victory
At the Chiefs’ low point, quarterback Patrick Mahomes woke up.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Chiefs trailed by 10 points with about nine minutes to go in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday when star quarterback Patrick Mahomes spotted receiver Tyreek Hill on the sideline and told him to keep the faith.
Hill wasn’t having it.
‘‘I’m like, ‘Come on, bro,’ ’’ Hill said. ‘‘[But] he was able to get my mind right. He was able to calm me down and tell me, ‘Just believe, man.’ ’’
Two minutes later, the two would connect on a long pass to pull the Chiefs out of their doldrums and spark a rally that led to a 31-20 victory against the 49ers and the end of their 50-year Super Bowl drought.
The Chiefs scored three touchdowns in a 5:01 span of the fourth quarter, but the most crucial play didn’t result in any points. With 7:13 left, Mahomes slung a high-arching pass to Hill on third-and-15 from the Chiefs’ 35. As the ball fell from the sky, Hill emerged behind the 49ers’ defenders, ran under the ball and gained 44 yards.
That led to a one-yard touchdown catch by Travis Kelce with 6:13 left that pulled the Chiefs to 20-17.
After the 49ers went three-and-out on their next possession, the Chiefs’ ensuing seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive — which ended when Damien Williams stretched the ball across the front right pylon with 2:44 left — seemed preordained. All of a sudden, the Chiefs led 24-21.
‘‘I believe that we’re gonna find a way to go down there and score,’’ Mahomes said.
There was some deja vu on both sides. The Chiefs trailed by 24 points in the divisional round of the playoffs and by 10 in the AFC Championship Game and won both times. Meanwhile, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator when they infamously blew a 28-3 Super Bowl lead and lost to the Patriots in overtime three years ago.
Williams’ 38-yard touchdown sprint with 1:12 left, when the Chiefs were trying to run the clock out, was gravy.
‘‘When you’ve got Pat Mahomes and that offense and coach [Andy] Reid, how can you ever lose faith?’’ Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones said.
Reid and the Chiefs started strong but fizzled under the weight of the 49ers’ dominant defense. Reid thought they were one spark away — ‘‘If we found that accelerator for a series or two, we’d be OK,’’ he said — and Hill’s catch provided just that.
Rolling Meadows High School alum Jimmy Garoppolo was unable to answer. Trailing 24-20, the 49ers got the ball back with 2:39 left. They started their drive with a 17-yard run by Raheem Mostert but promptly drew a penalty for a false start. On first-and-15, Garoppolo found George Kittle for an eight-yard gain. On second-and-seven, he threw a 16-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne to cross midfield.
He then threw three incompletions in a row before being sacked on fourth-and-10.
‘‘Those are moments you dream of and everything,’’ Garoppolo said. ‘‘We got rolling on the right note. We just couldn’t finish it off.’’
After Williams’ touchdown run gave the Chiefs a 31-20 lead, cornerback Kendall Fuller — the little brother of Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller — sealed the victory with an interception of Garoppolo.
The last few minutes of the game turned Garoppolo’s solid performance into a mess. His final stat line reflected it: 20-for-31 for 219 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 69.2 passer rating.
Mahomes’ line was better — but only slightly: 26-for-42 for 286 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 78.1 passer rating.
The 49ers struck first on a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, the Bears’ all-time leading scorer, about seven minutes into the game.
The Chiefs responded with their trademark flash. After Mahomes scrambled 12 yards for what seemed to be a first down at the 49ers’ 5 — Northern Illinois alum Jimmie Ward popped the ball out, sending it back behind the first-down marker — the Chiefs sent their field-goal team out during an injury timeout. But Reid changed his mind and sent the offense back on the field. The Chiefs then pulled off one of the most over-the-top plays in recent Super Bowl history.
On fourth-and-one, Mahomes lined up in a pistol formation with a running back behind him and upbacks on either side. When the offensive linemen got set to go into their stances, Mahomes and the three backs each did a full turn to take one step to the right. That put Williams behind the center. He took the direct snap up the middle for four yards and a first down. Two plays later, Mahomes ran option right and scored himself to give the Chiefs a 7-3 lead.
Three plays later, Garoppolo’s wounded-duck pass — intended to go out of bounds — landed in cornerback Bashaud Breeland’s arms. The Chiefs settled for a 31-yard field goal by Harrison Butker and a 10-3 lead.
After the pick, it took Garoppolo seven plays to drive the 49ers 80 yards. They scored on a 15-yard pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to tie the score at 10.
A 42-yard field goal by Gould early in the third quarter gave the 49ers a 13-10 lead, and a one-yard touchdown run by Mostert put them ahead by 10 later in the quarter.
Then the comeback began.
‘‘Doesn’t matter what the score is,’’ Kelce said. ‘‘We’ve got Pat Mahomes.’’