It was the Super Bowl matchup relatively few wanted to see, so of course we got a full extra period of it. And when the dust had settled, there was Patrick Mahomes leading the game-winning drive against San Francisco, again. The major takeaways I have...
New rule debuts. As the game headed to overtime, there was discussion in our gathering over whether a touchdown on the opening possession would win the game. I had a vague memory that there had been a rule change instituted for the playoffs where each team was guaranteed a possession no matter what. And that proved to be correct. It's a good rule, I think, because especially in a game of this magnitude, both defenses are totally gassed at this point. San Francisco moved down the field and nearly scored a touchdown, settling for a field goal. And to the surprise of no one, Kansas City came right back and scored to win. Yeah there was a fourth and short in there, but it seemed a given they'd get it done. The rule didn't matter in this case, since San Fran didn't get in anyway, but it's a welcome addition.
Niners come up short. Haven't read much about the game yet, but there are various candidates for the major reason. Jake Moody kicking a low extra point that was blocked is one candidate, although he did make a couple of clutch longer field goals. The game would have gone differently had he made the extra point (Kansas City obviously wouldn't have kicked a late short field goal to pull within 17-16, they've have gone for it), and maybe the Niners would have got the stop. The 49ers defense couldn't get many stops late, even Christian McCaffrey lost an early fumble, and of course there was a special teams breakdown on a punt. I don't want to pick on Mr. Irrelevant, but fair to say he came up short. Not enough good drives, too many of the decent ones ending in field goals. Not so much a lot of critical mistakes (he was fortunate on a couple of near interceptions), but just not quite good enough. Held the ball too long at times. That's a really good Kansas City pass defense, that got a lot of pressure on him, and completely took away George Kittle. (And Purdy didn't even have Kittle late, or Deebo Samuel for portions of the game.) But I think it's fair to wonder if Purdy -- granted, it's only his second season -- can elevate his game much more. The cold takeaway is that's it's the second Super Bowl loss in five years for this team where they had a major disadvantage at the most important position.
Mahomes MVP. Having that advantage is why you tend to feel Kansas City is going to win most of their close playoff games. If he can't make a key pass, he's going to be able to pick it up with his legs. I don't think this was a great coached game by Andy Reid, and it's not a great offensive Kansas City team at all. Lots of lesser lights at wide receiver, I love Isiah Pacheco but he's no McCaffrey, etc. But the edge at quarterback and of course Travis Kelce is why this team is hosting another Super Bowl trophy.
Some lesser lights stepping up. Mecole Hardman catching the game-winning touchdown pass (plus another long bomb) -- did not see that coming. Marques Valdes-Scantling scored, even Justin Watson had several catches. Jauan Jennings stepping up with a sweet touchdown throw on a trick play and a touchdown grab where he broke a tackle and got into the end zone. It happens a lot in Super Bowls that the main guys get contained somewhat and lower-level players step up. I don't have much to add to this, just good for them, kind of nice to see. I don't think there's any doubt Kansas City needs to get better at receiver behind Rashee Rice and the aging Kelce, but good for MVS and Hardman and company.
Coaching criticisms. Nothing too major. San Fran maybe should have run a little more. I'm sure they tried to get Kittle more involved, presumably he was just really well covered. I liked a couple of gambles by San Fran, including passing up one field goal to go for a touchdown, plus the trick play. I didn't like a 3rd and 4 pass play late in the game, in field goal range, that had no chance and gave KC the ball back with 2 minutes left down 3. Would have run McCaffrey and considered going for it on fourth down. That was their chance to win the game without giving the ball back to Mahomes at all, kicking a winning field goal with no time left, and it was their best chance to win the game. For Andy Reid, well, I'd have run one more play in regulation with 6 seconds left rather than kick the tying field goal. But I suppose he felt pretty good about his chances in OT with both teams guaranteed to touch the ball. And was right. I'm sure there were some other coaching choices I disagreed with but nothing leaps to mind right now. San Fran's last couple of offensive plays at the end of regulation are the big ones, I think.
Officials. Kudos to the NFL. I think they really did have the league's best officiating crew working. I can't think of any major calls missed, or game-changing penalties that were ticky-tack. It's nice for that to be the case in a huge game, and all too often it isn't.
Pools. That missed extra point certainly affected a square pool or two. I had the bad fortune of drawing 5 and 2 in a pool, which almost never hits, which turned out to be the final score -- unfortunately I was in a pool where the overtime period didn't count (it was written right on the sheet, I can't complain too much, even though it was wrong). Painful.
Prop bets. I believe I hit 9 of 11 prop best (1o of 12 if we want to count the Butker recommendation on Saturday. My actual parlays didn't hit, because I had George Kittle overs in them, but what are you gonna do. A good day. And yes KC won, I still don't understand why they were the underdog. Betting on the better quarterback, proven in huge games, seems like a good rule of thumb to me.
Commercials. I thought there were some really good ones during the game. Loved the Sunday Ticket one with the flying Eagles, Seahawks and Ravens players. Laughed at the Schwarzenegger one with a Twins callback. (Can't remember what it was actually for, not a plus, but that might just be me. Funny commercial.) Laughed at the Mayo one, and I'm not a cat guy. Really don't like the new Geico commercials -- not funny, the Caveman stuff is just odd (did anyone really need that resurrection?). But on the whole, lots of good commercials, feel free to discuss your favorites in the comments.
Usher halftime show. I thought it was great. Love a couple of old Usher songs, seeing Ludacris and Lil John and all. Would have been awesome to be there for it, I think. Alicia Keys too. I have no idea who Her is, but we had a nice Who's on First thing going at our gathering. "Who's she?" "Her." And so on.
Final thoughts.So another year has come to a close, and another Reid-Mahomes title. I'll leave the growing GOAT debate to others. All I'll say is it's hard to bet against Mahomes at least making a run at Brady's ring total at this point. Hard to bet against Kansas City being right back in this game next year. San Francisco....I don't know where they go from here. Great season, but not a great postseason or final month even, if dipping back to the Ravens game. I think all the league's best teams are in the AFC right now. We might just see them win a few more in a row.
Thanks for reading all year, we'll do it all again in the fall.