Posted by: Mike Cornelius | February 2, 2020

A Super Sunday For Mahomes And Reid

Now this was a Sunday with something for everyone. For traditionalists and anyone partial to rodents, there was the annual early morning spectacle in Punxsutawney, a ceremony dating back to the 19th century in the western Pennsylvania borough. On this February morning the locals charged with translating the groundhog’s observations predicted an early spring in our future. If correct, those of us in northern climes will promise to stop referring to this member of the marmot family as an overgrown rat, at least until this time next year.

Then there was the date itself, presented digitally as 02022020. That made Sunday a rare eight-digit palindrome date across the various conventions of writing dates (month-day-year or day-month-year). The last such date was November 11 early in the 12th century, during the reign of Henry I. Surely a date that’s the same written either forward or backward had to be very special for the tinfoil hat crowd. It’s amazing we weren’t all bombarded by predictions of the end of the world, or the arrival of aliens, or aliens ending the world, in the days leading up to the weekend.

Then again, perhaps not even space invaders would dare interfere with Sunday’s centerpiece, the Super Bowl. Fans old enough to remember the first edition of the spectacle in 1967, then known by the more unwieldy title of AFL-NFL World Championship Game, understandably marvel at what the contest has become. All those years ago there were thousands of empty seats at the cavernous Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. The season-ending showdown between the Green Bay Packers and an earlier edition of the Kansas City franchise that took the field in Miami Sunday evening was the product of the nascent merger between the established NFL and its upstart competitor, the AFL. The Coliseum site wasn’t picked until seven weeks before kickoff, and while there were 300 pigeons and 10,000 balloons released during the halftime show, the midgame entertainment also featured that age-old football game staple, marching bands.

More than half a century later, the $7,500 which each Kansas City player received as the losing team’s share for what eventually came to be called Super Bowl I would barely cover the average resale market price of a ticket to Sunday’s contest. As dramatic as that is, the change in the price of admission is merely a reflection of the evolution of the Super Bowl from the championship game of a professional sports league to a major cultural event and unofficial American holiday. Television coverage begins hours before kickoff, prices for 30-second advertisements are measured in millions, which is likely also the number of chicken wings consumed at viewing parties across the country, and the halftime show is treated as a career-defining gig, with marching bands definitely not invited. No surprise then that across the country this week men, women and children who pay no attention to football the other fifty-one weeks of the year and who would be hard-pressed to tell Patrick Mahomes and Jimmy Garoppolo apart even when they’re both in uniform offered up thoughtful opinions on the chances for Mahomes and the dynamic Kansas City offense to overcome the shutdown capability of San Francisco’s vaunted defense.

Those casual fans reflected conventional wisdom, which as is often the case was not entirely accurate about this year’s Super Bowl contestants. While the game was widely touted as K.C.’s offense versus S.F.’s defense, it was the 49ers that put more points on the scoreboard during the regular season, and Kansas City that allowed fewer. In truth both franchises made it to Miami by being well-balanced teams, able to soundly defeat inferior opponents and overcome adversity when it inevitably came calling. Kansas City in particular showed that tenacity during the playoffs, rallying from a 24-0 deficit against Houston to win 51-31 in the divisional round, and then climbing out of a 10-0 hole to beat Tennessee in the AFC Championship.

Sunday evening Mahomes and company had to come from behind once again. The 49ers drove for a field goal on their first possession, before Kansas City answered with a touchdown drive and a field goal of its own for a 10-3 lead. But over the second period and much of the third, San Francisco had the edge on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points to move ahead 20-10 with one quarter to play.

First Kansas City drove 83 yards to cut the lead to a field goal, helped by poor San Francisco defense that allowed a 44-yard reception by a wide open Tyreek Hill on a 3rd and 15 play, and a sloppy pass interference call that set up first and goal. Then the defense stopped the 49ers on a three-and-out, giving the offense the ball once again with just over five minutes remaining. That of course is an eon for almost any NFL quarterback, and certainly for Mahomes. He needed less than half the time to march to the lead against a tiring 49ers defensive unit.

With all the momentum now on the side of the team in the red jerseys, the outcome of San Francisco’s final efforts seemed a foregone conclusion. Garoppolo got his team to midfield but no further, and fans in Kansas City began celebrating their franchise’s first championship in fifty years, in its third Super Bowl appearance overall and first since that 23-7 victory over Minnesota in number IV. The final 31-20 score was set when the gassed San Francisco defense watched as Damien Williams raced 38 yards for another score on a play that was designed to merely help run out the clock.

Kansas City’s third straight playoff comeback cemented the reputation of Mahomes as a big-game quarterback, at the age of just 24. He isn’t old enough to remember his franchise’s previous Super Bowl appearances, but his head coach, 61-year-old Andy Reid is. In his 366th game as an NFL head coach, the widely admired Reid is finally a champion. Coach and quarterback rallied their team to victory in a memorable game, which is not a word that describes any of those expensive ads. Aliens wanting to put an end to those are welcome, on this or any date.

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