Five Extra Points: Super Bowl Edition | Mark Craig
Five things we learned from the Chiefs’ 25-22 overtime win in Super Bowl LVIII …
1. More evidence: Get a great QB over everything
Patrick Mahomes went 8-for-8 on Sunday’s game-winning drive. Travis Kelce caught one short pass. The other four with catches: Rashee Rice, Isiah Pacheco, Marques Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman. Rice is a rookie second-round pick making $750,000. Pacheco is a seventh-round running back (2022). Valdes-Scantling was a modest free-agent signing (2022) whose salary ranks 27th among receivers. Hardman signed with the Jets last March and was traded back to Kansas City for a sixth-round pick. The epic drive and K.C.’s entire dynasty-clinching season was a reminder that nothing — not even keeping Justin Jefferson — should stand in the way of the Vikings taking a blockbuster shot at quarterback if the right move presents itself.
2. Power, depth need not cost much
The Chiefs lost run-stopping tackle Derrick Nnadi in the wild-card game and edge rusher Charles Omenihu in the AFC Championship Game to injuries. Instead of excuses, they kept winning with quality cap-friendly depth. Mike Pennel, a 32-year-old journeyman run-stuffer in his second stint with the Chiefs, was a prime example Sunday with six tackles, including one for a loss on third-and-1 and one that helped create Christian McCaffrey’s drive-opening fumble. Pennel was out of football when the Chiefs signed him to their practice squad in late October. He played as a backup in three regular-season games. He then started in the postseason wins over Buffalo, Baltimore and San Francisco. Cost to the Chiefs: $289,800.
3. Don’t lose focus on special teams
The NFL has essentially eliminated the kickoff, but it can’t make punts disappear. There were 10 in 26 possessions Sunday. One Super Bowl-sized gaffe for the ages earned 49ers cornerback Darrell Luter the dubious distinction of being one of the more influential actors in the game’s outcome. The 49ers muffed a punt when the ball hit the rookie in the leg as he was setting up to block for Ray-Ray McCloud. The 49ers led 10-6 and had just forced their fifth three-and-out in nine possessions (four punts, one interception). The Chiefs had four possessions after Luter’s inexcusable mistake. They went touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown while compiling 224 yards on 37 plays.
4. Don’t miss the next McDuffie!
Rather than predict Mahomes to win his third Super Bowl MVP, which he did, this observer went with Chiefs All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie, one of the too-many stars the Vikings could have drafted had they not traded down for Lewis Cine in 2022. The eyeballs said McDuffie had a great game. Pro Football Focus concurred, saying McDuffie was targeted a team-high seven times but allowed only nine yards, no first downs, no touchdowns and a 39.6 passer rating on two catches. He had a game-high three passes defensed, including a textbook denial of Deebo Samuel in the end zone on third down. Samuel had only three catches for 33 yards on a game-high 11 targets.
5. Find a QB with fast feet, faster brain
Three years ago, Tom Brady’s Bucs denied Mahomes the first Super Bowl repeat since Brady’s Patriots in 2004. So it was only fitting that Mahomes repeated in Brady’s first year in retirement. Mahomes’ game-winning drive was vintage Brady — and then some. Running for eight yards on fourth-and-1 and 19 on third-and-1, Mahomes showed again that being the face of today’s elite quarterback comes with feet that are fleet enough to match a fast mind. Mahomes had a team-high 66 yards on nine carries, a 7.3 average that matched last year’s Super Bowl. In 18 playoff games, Mahomes has 90 carries for 524 yards (5.8). In 48 playoff games, Brady had 114 carries for 133 yards (1.2). Mahomes isn’t there yet, but he sure seems to be stalking Brady with an evolutionary weapon or two that may one day redefine what a G.O.A.T. looks like.