The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs played for it all on Sunday during Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The first half whizzed by at warp speed, as both teams combined on just 56 plays with just four accepted penalties. The two teams punched and counterpunched, feeling one another out throughout the first two quarters.
At halftime, Super Bowl LIV was all knotted up, 10-10.
The second half was a bit different. The 49ers took advantage of two mistakes by Patrick Mahomes and jumped out to a 20-10 lead. Then, the Chiefs bounced back like they have throughout the playoffs and roared back in the fourth quarter to win it, 31-20.
These were the biggest studs and duds from Super Bowl LIV.
Stud: Patrick Mahomes
During the playoffs, no one player electrified the masses with jaw-dropping highlights like Patrick Mahomes. He led the Chiefs to blowout wins in both playoff games despite his team falling into big holes, putting up 721 yards and nine touchdowns from scrimmage.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the 49ers started getting under Mahomes’ skin in the second quarter. Then in the third quarter, he threw two interceptions. Both of them were his fault — he never saw Fred Warner on the first, and his second was behind his receiver, who tipped it to Tarvarius Moore.
Then, with the game on the line, down by 10 points, Mahomes came alive. He made clutch throw after clutch throw — under intense pressure no less — and engineered a comeback victory.
The Chiefs were favored to win Super Bowl LIV mainly because of Mahomes’ brilliance. On Sunday, he once again put his team on his shoulders and played like the superstar he is.
Dud: Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo actually outplayed Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV.
Until it mattered most, that is.
Garoppolo tossed a bad interception (with his eyes closed) early but then bounced back with some very efficient play as the 49ers imposed their will in the third quarter. But when the 49ers needed big plays in the passing game late, with the game on the line, Garoppolo withered. All told, he finished with 219 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions on 20-of-31 passing.
After being a part of two championships as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, Garoppolo will have to wait a while longer to win one of his own.
Stud: Deebo Samuel
Leading up to Super Bowl LIV, we put a spotlight on Deebo Samuel and openly wondered if he would have a bigger game than superstar Tyreek Hill. The rookie was electric. He came through with big play after big play to spark the 49ers offense on multiple occasions.
On the first drive of the game for the 49ers, Samuel set a new record with the longest run by a receiver in Super Bowl history. He continued to be heavily featured, both as a runner and a receiver, throughout the game.
Whenever the 49ers needed a big play, it seemed Samuel was the one making it. The rookie finished Super Bowl LIV with 92 yards on eight touches from scrimmage.
Dud: Richie James
Second-year receiver Richie James very nearly had his own Kyle Williams moment in the first quarter when he muffed a punt and barely recovered it deep in his own territory. It was so close to being disastrous, and he deserves credit for getting the ball back.
Though, James also struggled to haul in another punt and was quite honestly a liability on kickoff returns, averaging just 15.3 yards per return. Special teams can swing a Super Bowl and has done so many times before. The 49ers were behind the 8 ball due to James’ issues.
Studs: Sammy Watkins, Tyreek Hill were superb
It’s been insanely hard for opposing receivers to find success against the 49ers this season. The San Francisco defense was the best in the NFL against the pass, allowing just 169.2 yards per game through the air.
During Super Bowl LIV, the dynamic duo of Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill eclipsed that number easily all by themselves.
Hill did a lot of work underneath but finally broke through with a 44-yard gain in the fourth quarter that ended up leading to a key touchdown.
Watkins was also a key contributor who made big plays in important situations — none more crucial than his 38-yard catch down the right sideline late in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead score.
These two receivers finished the game with a combined 14 catches for 203 yards. Just superb.
Dud: Richard Sherman
Undeniably one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Richard Sherman has been a driving foce for the 49ers all year long — both on the field with his play and as a leading voice. During Super Bowl LIV, Sherman failed to make the type of impact plays we’ve gotten used to seeing from him in big situations.
Even worse, he was roasted more than once.
Sherman was also the victim of Sammy Watkins’ 38-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead score for the Chiefs. The 49ers had to play perfect defense to beat Kansas City. They did not. And their leader had a lot to do with that.
Stud: Damien Williams
The Chiefs don’t run the ball a ton, but in the biggest game of the year, Damien Williams was heavily involved. Even better, he made his carries count, going for 104 yards. And with the Chiefs needing to keep the clock going late in the fourth, Williams iced it with a touchdown.
Williams also caught four passes for 29 yards and the go-ahead score. He came up so clutch for the Chiefs late in the game and proved his worth time and time again.
Dud: Kyle Shanahan
Even though the final score showed a double-digit win for the Chiefs, the 49ers were right there in this thing until the very end. In such a close game, coaching makes all the difference in the world. And while Kyle Shanahan is an incredible offensive coach, his decision making in Super Bowl LIV could have cost his team the game.
The big thing that stands out as a huge mistake by Shanahn was his baffling decision to run the clock out with roughly 1:30 left and three timeouts remaining in the second quarter. The game was tied at that point, the 49ers were getting the ball back in the third quarter, and the Chiefs were frustrated.
Not going for the jugular there was something that may haunt Shanahan for a long time. He was part of the Atlanta Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead, after all, and the outcome of Sunday’s game may have been quite a bit different if the 49ers had taken a halftime lead, rather than settling for the tie.