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Cover 3: Lessons learned from Super Bowl LIV


Because it's a copycat league, we asked the crew what can the 30 other clubs learn from the Super Bowl LIV participants, especially the champion Kansas City Chiefs.

John Schmeelk: This is a tough question to answer after a game like the one last night because 50 minutes into the game, the San Francisco 49ers were in control with a 10-point lead and had the football at their own 38-yard line. In the final 6:30, the Chiefs outscored San Francisco, 21-0, to win by a couple of scores. Patrick Mahomes played poorly for nearly three and half quarters before leading two critical late touchdown drives.

The lesson, to me, is the importance of having a quarterback who can make the plays late in big games to win a championship. The Chiefs scored three touchdowns on their last three drives, while the Niners managed just 49 yards and three first downs on their final three. In the end, even with Mahomes playing poorly for most of the game, quarterback play made the difference.

On the other side, Jimmy Garoppolo had an open Emmanuel Sanders on a deep post that would have given the 49ers the lead with 1:40 to play and the pass was overthrown.

There were a lot of important plays throughout the game, but Mahomes was able to make three big throws late. He hit Tyreek Hill while under pressure for a 44-yard gain to complete a 3rd and 15 and then helped draw a defensive pass interference penalty on a deep pass to Travis Kelce that led to the Chiefs' first fourth quarter touchdown. On the go-ahead drive, he hit Sammy Watkins for a 38-yard gain over Richard Sherman to set up another score.

Obviously, not every team is going to have someone as freakishly talented as Patrick Mahomes, but every team does need a quarterback capable of making big-time throws and plays to win big. The 49ers pressured and hit Mahomes throughout the game, he played poorly for much of the game, but still did enough to score 31 points against a good defense. That's what big-time quarterbacks do.

Dan Salomone: The lesson here is what worked in 1948 can be successful in 2020. The Chiefs' fourth-and-one conversion near the goal line late in the first quarter was ripped from the 1948 Rose Bowl between Michigan and USC, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy divulged after the game.

While we wait five years for them to induct that play in the Copycat Hall of Fame, it speaks to a larger theme: what wins football games does not change. For every new bell and whistle in today's NFL, there are 100 axioms that have held true since the days of leather helmets. And guess what? Your new head coach gets it.

"The same things win football games that have always won football games," Joe Judge said at his introductory press conference. "It's fundamentals."

This is where fans who have seen just 12 wins in the past three seasons might roll their eyes. It's understandable. But coachspeak is coachspeak for a reason. Judge learned this major lesson from Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, two of the most successful coaches in all of sports. He also said it starts in the classroom and the practice field, where you can bet Kansas City studied and rehearsed that play for hours.

Lance Medow: Is "wishing they had Patrick Mahomes" an acceptable answer? In all seriousness, the biggest takeaway from this year's Super Bowl participants is balance. I think the Niners were the most balanced team in the NFL this season. They won games thanks to their rushing attack, explosive plays through the air and a relentless defense. San Francisco didn't rely on just one facet to get to the big game and the Chiefs can say the same thing. Although the quarterback position is extremely important and most will credit Mahomes with orchestrating a ten-point comeback, there are a number of other factors being overlooked.

Running back Damien Williams played a significant role for the Chiefs during their entire postseason run and posted over 130 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, including the go-ahead and game-sealing scores. Tyreek Hill made a huge 44-yard catch on a third and 15 from the Kansas City 35-yard line with 7:13 to go to keep a drive alive and help set up a crucial touchdown to pull the Chiefs within three. His speed and big play making ability was on full display all season. How about the defense? Chris Jones batted down a Jimmy Garoppolo pass on a second and five from the Niners 25-yard line with 5:26 left in the game and Kansas City trailing by three. Two plays later, that drive resulted in a punt. After the Chiefs took the lead, on a fourth and 10 from the Kansas City 49-yard line, Frank Clark sacked Garoppolo with 1:25 to go to essentially end the game.

Why are all those plays significant? Well, if the Chiefs didn't create some semblance of a run game to complement Mahomes throughout the season, Kansas City isn't as dangerous and versatile on offense, and if the defense didn't turn things around in the second half of the season, the Chiefs would have had to rely on more shootouts to win games. If there's anything to take away from both teams in Super Bowl LIV, it's that one element of a team doesn't get the job done. Being aggressive is also a big component. The Chiefs went for it on three fourth downs and converted two of them. It helps when you have a guy named Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback, but good luck finding a duplicate.


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