Observant Seahawks fans may have noticed a little something familiar in the Kansas City Chiefs’ blistering comeback in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night.
It looked a lot like what the Seahawks did to the 49ers in the the second half of the Dec. 29 game at the Clink.
Granted, QB Patrick Mahomes, the game’s most valuable player, was a little more efficient, directing a 21-point burst in five minutes of the fourth quarter to bring down 50 years of pent-up Midwestern reticence upon the heads of the bewildered 49ers.
The Chiefs’ 31-20 triumph (box), after being down 20-10, wasn’t as scalding to the losers as the Seahawks’ Super Bowl defeat five years ago to New England. But don’t try telling that to the Niners, who looked to have the game locked down with the lead and seven minutes to go, the Chiefs facing third-and-15 and their own 35-yard line.
Then began a series of unfortunate events for the NFC West champs, starting with a 44-yard completion from Mahomes to WR Tyreek Hill that was the game’s turning point. A few plays later, Mahomes hit TE Travis Kelce for a one-yard touchdown pass, and the walls began closing in on the Niners.
As happened, or nearly so, in Seattle five weeks earlier.
Down 13-0 at the half, QB Russell Wilson led the Seahawks on touchdown drives of 62, 75 and 60 yards against the backpedaling Niners defense. His 21 points took 15 minutes, but there was also an additional 41 yards on the final Seattle possession.
It just needed to be 42 yards.
As Seahawks fans will remember to their graves, Wilson’s fourth-down, four-yard completion to fifth-string TE Jacob Hollister ended up about an inch short of the end zone. The subsequent difference in playoff fates, to put it in golf terms, was the Seahawks road to the Super Bowl went through Augusta National, while the Niners drew the neighborhood muni with rubber-mat tee boxes.
But there was a distinct difference in the storylines: Against Seattle, the 49ers managed a couple of counter-punches — 75 yards on five plays for a touchdown and a 19-7 third-quarter lead, and another 75-yarder in seven plays for a 26-14 with six minutes left. Against the Chiefs, the 49ers faltered on their final three possessions, which concluded with punt/loss on downs/interception.
So from a Seattle post-Super Bowl perspective, what can be deduced from these major NFL games? Here’s five thoughts.
*Good as were the 15-4 Niners, Garoppolo is not a Wilson-class dreadnaught, and the defense is vulnerable. The Seahawks put up 27 points in the teams’ first meeting, and would have had 28, but for an inch, in the second, and that was after missing three running backs, two linemen and four tight ends. Much can change in the NFC West, but for 2019, Seattle and San Francisco were good, not great, teams in a dead heat.
*The Seahawks managed to get to 12 wins despite a brutal penchant for surrendering explosive plays, a function of a miserable pass rush and weak play at cornerback, and earlier at safety. In those two combined drives Dec. 29, San Francisco spooled out plays of 49, 25, 13, 16, 21 and 13 yards. With a 26th-ranked defense, the Seahawks may have been the NFL’s luckiest mediocre team. Nearly every draft pick and free agent dollar in 2020 needs to go to defense.
*Mahomes, the first QB to win an MVP award and a Super Bowl before age 25, proved again that really good quarterbacks can suck sometimes for long stretches of games and still possess the wherewithal to win, particularly when they have the freedom to break off and run.
Mahomes and Garoppolo were aided by playcalling that includes lots of pre-snap motion and early-down passing. Note to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and coach Brian Schottenheimer: Ahem.
*Kansas City became the first team in NFL history to win three playoff games in a row in which it was down by 10 or more points each. It’s easy to say that it was because the Chiefs have Mahomes and really fast receivers. The better argument is premium coaching. Simply put, smart, experienced guys like Carroll, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick have seen and done it all. The 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan and the Rams’ Sean McVay have not. No insult intended, but NFL bosses’ infatuation with young, bright innovators overlooks the virtues of managing people better after learning from mistakes.
*Our good friend CB Richard Sherman had a down game. Inside four minutes, Mahomes went over Sherman’s head for 38 yards to WR Sammy Watkins for a first down at the SF 10. Two plays later, RB Damien Williams out-ran Sherman to the pylon for the go-ahead touchdown. At 31, he wasn’t playing the way he did in his first two Super Bowls with Seattle, which is entirely expectable. But when the off-season assessments begin about why the 49ers’ defense is prone to acute fades, he might be a starting point.
And one last thought, underscoring what I wrote last week.
Let us all link arms together and say: You’re a good man, Andy Reid.
“My heart’s racing,” he said, beaming, during the Lombardi Trophy presentation. “I’m older; I can’t let it race too much.”
The hell you can’t.