Because of Tik-Tok, Patrick Mahomes’ game-winning drive may be what history remembers most about Super Bowl LVIII. But special teams and the role that kickers played on Sunday night in Las Vegas were the real story. It’s called FOOTball for a reason.
The 18 total points created by six field goals that San Francisco kicker Jake Moody and Kansas City specialist Harrison Butker scored were the foundation of a game that was filled with miscues and minimal offense — until the fourth quarter and overtime — as the often-forgotten about third-side of the ball proved why special teams are so “special.”
Moody’s record-setting 55-yard field goal gave the 49ers an early 3-0 lead in the second quarter. The record wound up lasting all of one quarter, as Butker booted a 57-yarder in the third. He would add two more field goals in the fourth from shorter distances (24 and 29 yards). Moody was not to be outdone, though. He nailed a 53-yarder in the fourth, and a 27-yard score in overtime.
In a game that was supposed to be all about Mahomes adding to his legacy and Brock Purdy trying to prove that he could be a game-changer as well as a game-manager, much of the contest wound up being a duel between the kickers.
But field goals weren’t the only special teams’ plays that had a huge impact on the game. In the third quarter, the 49ers were sporting a 10-6 lead when a San Francisco punt hit 49ers defensive back Darrell Luter in the leg, setting the Chiefs up in scoring position after recovering the muffed punt. One play later, Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone, putting Kansas City up 13-10, and giving them their first lead of the game.
In the fourth, the importance of special teams was stressed again when San Francisco went on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:06 off the clock before Purdy found Jauan Jennings in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. With under 12 minutes to play in regulation, the 49ers were set to take a four-point lead. That was until Moody’s extra-point attempt was blocked, putting the score at 16-13.
The play from Leo Chenal might be the reason the confetti on the field after the game was red and yellow instead of red and gold.
Because of the missed extra point, the 49ers and Chiefs were able to trade goals until the end of regulation, as the 1-point cushion that San Francisco was supposed to have didn’t exist anymore. A final score of 20-19 was in play until it wasn’t. Mahomes’ game-winning pass to Mecole Hardman with three seconds left in overtime trumped the three points that the 49ers were able to score in the extra period due to Moody’s right foot.
Words like dynasty will be thrown around a lot this week, as Kansas City’s repeat was the first the NFL has seen since New England did it back in 2003 and 2004. Patrick Mahomes now has three rings, Taylor Swift got plenty of airtime, Usher gave us a legendary halftime show, and Beyonce dropped two new songs and revealed a release date for her new album on a night in which we experienced the Super Bowl going to overtime for only the second time in history. Everything included, it played out just like a Super Bowl in Las Vegas should. And most of it had to do with how “special” some players were on special teams.