Five Reasons Sports Network at Super Bowl 54
Rarely does a Super Bowl present such a study of contrasts as the No. LIV edition did Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
The AFC champion Chiefs with the thrill-a-minute pass-happy offense; the NFC champion 49ers with more of an old-school approach with a punishing running game and stout defense.
Which style would prevail?
More to the point, if you’re the Miami Dolphins in the early stages of rebuilding, which is the style to emulate?
The verdict: Defense and a robust running game are still solid building blocks. But the Chiefs’ 31-20 win confirmed that a quarterback with magic in his hands is the difference-maker in today’s NFL.
Like Patrick Mahomes did in willing the Chiefs from a 10-point deficit to seize the title with a Super Bowl-record 21-point fourth quarter.
“It’s magic Mahomes, it’s Showtime Mahomes,” said tight end Travis Kelce, who caught the touchdown pass that gave the comeback momentum. “He’s going to be himself no matter what the scenario, and you know what? I love him. He willed this team back into the game, had a lot of make plays.”
This is what winning looks like pic.twitter.com/IHmftESekm
— Five Reasons Sports Network (@5ReasonsSports) February 3, 2020
Another one that got away
It underscored what the Dolphins desperately need to do this offseason: get the next Damien Williams.
No, wait, they had Williams, the undrafted running back who they discarded after four seasons and is now a Super Bowl champion with Kansas City. Williams made a strong case for the MVP trophy that went to Mahomes by scoring two of the fourth-quarter touchdowns.
As soon as the Lombardi Trophy was presented to coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs, the offseason was underway and the Cincinnati Bengals were on the clock to make the first pick in the draft on April 23. And the Dolphins have to decide how to play their hand with the No. 5 pick and two more later in the first round.
There can be no doubt that quarterback has to be Priority 1 if the Dolphins are to generate the kind of excitement at Hard Rock Stadium that resounded there Sunday.
Chiefs fans had staked their claim to Miami’s home well before kickoff. When a field announcer asked for a showing of allegiance to each team, the K.C contingent rocked the place.
And each time Mahomes was shown on the giant video boards during pregame they made it clear he was the designated star attraction.
Unexpectedly, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo outplayed his high-profile counterpart for the first three quarters, completing 17-of-20 and registering a 100.6 passer rating.
Slow start for Mahomes
Mahomes had only 145 yards passing to that point, no touchdowns and uncharacteristically two interceptions, both in the third quarter.
“I just tried to fight, and obviously the third quarter didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I tried to force some things and had some turnovers,” said Mahomes, who brought the Chiefs back from deficits of 10 points or more in all three games this postseason. “I just had that same mindset, just to compete and compete.”
Curiously, the turning point came soon after Mahomes threw the second interception. San Francisco, with a 20-10 lead and 12 minutes to kill, managed only one first down and handed the ball back to Mahomes with 9 minutes remaining.
It took the Chiefs only 2:44 to go 83 yards and cut the deficit to three on the 1-yard pass to Kelce. Along the way Mahomes pulled off the play of the game on third-and-15 when he found Tyreek Hill open deep for a 44-yard completion to the 49ers’ 21.
After the 49ers went three-and-out, Mahomes took Kansas City 65 yards in seven plays for the lead on a 5-yard pass to Williams, who barely got the ball into the end zone before being shoved out of bounds.
Williams added the clincher with a 38-yard touchdown run, finishing with 104 yards rushing on 6.1 yards per carry.
“Damien Williams! Feed that man,” Kelce said. “Super Bowl champ, Damien Williams. Enough said.”
Williams returns a champion
The Dolphins didn’t feed Williams enough, and he became the latest in a long line of players to leave Miami and find glory elsewhere. Though, in this case, he found it here, where he started.
While making the point repeatedly that he plays with a chip on his shoulder as a player who came into the league as an undrafted free agent, Williams was charitable in recalling his time with the Dolphins.
“I built a lot of relationships here and still have a lot of relationships here,” he said. “When you get into the league, you think about the Super Bowl, you think about what you would do in it, and for it to be where I started my career at, undrafted, it means a lot.”
Recalling the last time the Super Bowl was staged in South Florida, in 2010, the setting was very different, then a stadium in decline. That’s why it has taken a decade for the big game to return. Incidentally, the MVP of that New Orleans Saints win was Drew Brees, a quarterback the Dolphins had passed on.
Owner Steve Ross did a commendable job in investing three-quarters of a billion dollars to reconstruct the facility that Joe Robbie originally built and the Dolphins once shared with the Florida Marlins, who won two World Series titles there.
The stadium that has had more names than a con man never looked better for football than it did Sunday. It never shook its booty with the energetic frenzy that Shakira and J-Lo provided in the halftime show.
Rebuilt the stadium, now the team?
And it’s never rocked with more impassioned joy than Chiefs followers in celebrating Mahomes’ magical comeback masterpiece.
Yes, Mr. Ross, you’ve built a venue worthy of staging America’s premier sporting event, and the NFL will likely return again soon for another round.
It’s way past time the Dolphins owner built a team worthy of it.
Perhaps coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier, beginning their second year together, can finally get it done. They are aided by assistant GM Marvin Allen, who was director of college scouting for the Chiefs when they drafted Mahomes, Hill and other members of the new champions.
They need to get Ross his long-elusive quarterback, one with a special touch and surround him with a worthy supporting cast. Perhaps then his stadium will finally be filled regularly with the sort of high-decibel excitement that is common in Kansas City, New England, Green Bay and other places where winning is a habit.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
More from Five Reasons Sports at Super Bowl 54:
Only photo I would take with a player or coach here tonight.
Sam Madison is a 2-time champ. pic.twitter.com/tqboAH1n5o
— Five Reasons Sports Network (@5ReasonsSports) February 3, 2020