In two weeks in Miami, Chiefs will play San Francisco as Patrick Mahomes high-wired the Kansas City Chiefs into their first Super Bowl since 1970.
Mahomes did his usual superb job passing, but it was his 27-yard tap dance down the left sideline late in the first half that gave the Chiefs their first lead. From there, they outran the run-oriented Tennessee Titans and star back Derrick Henry for a 35-24 victory Sunday in the AFC championship.
At last, for the third time overall, the Chiefs (14-4) are Super Bowl bound.
The Chiefs lost in 1967 in the first AFL-NFL Championship Game — nope, it wasn’t called the Super Bowl yet — to the Lombardi Packers 35-10. Three years later, one year after the New York Jets shocked Baltimore to lay claim to the AFL being equal to the long-established NFL, Kansas City was back. This time, it was known as the Super Bowl — indeed, Lamar Hunt is credited with coming up with the name — and his Chiefs hammered Minnesota 23-7 with the typical Wild West offensive flair and a staunch defense. Those are characteristics that helped carry KC this season.
Meanwhile, in the NFC championship match, a sack and fumble one series, a muffed snap he couldn’t handle the next, then an interception grounded Green Bay for good.
Aaron Rodgers’ latest failure in the NFC championship game kept him out of the Super Bowl once again, the Packers’ season ending just short with another forgettable playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, 37-20 on Sunday.
The 49ers (15-3) advanced to their first Super Bowl in seven years and will play the Kansas City Chiefs in two weeks in Miami for the championship.
The Niners won just 10 games in the first two seasons under coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, going 4-12 last season after Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the San Francisco 49ers who are are the third team to make it to the Super Bowl a year after winning four or fewer games, joining Cincinnati (1988) and the Rams (1999).
A little more than two years ago, Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers gambled on quarterbacks who had all kinds of potential but they were far from a sure thing. Both teams guessed right.
The Niners will try to win a record-tying sixth Lombardi Trophy against another, the Chiefs, making their first appearance in the big game in 50 years.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid gave up a first-round pick in the following year’s draft to move up to select Mahomes in 2017. Now, in his third season, Mahomes is a Super Bowl quarterback.
He has 11 postseason touchdown passes, not a single interception, and has even led the Chiefs in rushing the last two weeks. With its 35-24 win over Tennessee on Sunday in the AFC title game, Kansas City became the first team in NFL history to go from trailing by double digits to winning by double digits in consecutive playoff games.
Garoppolo, a second-round pick by the Patriots in 2014, was considered the quarterback-in-waiting in New England, despite a limited resume as Tom Brady’s backup. But with the Patriots not ready to part ways with their franchise cornerstone, and with Garoppolo’s contract running out, the quarterback became expendable. San Francisco acquired him in the middle of the 2017 season for a second-round pick.
Garoppolo won his first five starts in San Francisco and, before the season was out, he had a five-year contract extension that, at the time, included the highest average yearly salary in NFL history.
Now, in a season filled with celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the NFL, the 49ers return to the Super Bowl for the first time since Colin Kaepernick took them in 2013 with Kyle Shanahan — the son of two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan. On the other corner, Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s 14 postseason wins compiled over 20 seasons do not include a ‘W’ in the biggest game of all. So, when it comes to Super Bowl droughts — outside of the Jets and a handful of teams who have never been, nobody has waited longer to get to the title game than the Chiefs.