Las Vegas • The NFL has a repeat champion for the first time in 19 years. The Kansas City Chiefs, with a third Super Bowl triumph in five seasons, cemented the league’s modern-day dynasty with a 25-22 overtime win against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
This one, the same as the last two for Kansas City and its superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, came with a stirring second-half comeback and, this time, with some late heroics in overtime.
Jake Moody’s 27-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime put the 49ers ahead 22-19, but the Chiefs responded with a 13-play, 75-yard drive and won it on 3-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Mecole Hardman.
It was but the latest must-have drive for Kansas City, a team that has built a reputation behind Mahomes as most dangerous when holding the ball last. The Chiefs trailed 19-16 with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter when they marched 75 yards in 11 plays and Harrison Butker kicked a 29-yard field goal. The key play on the drive came on a third-and-7 with 16 seconds left, when Mahomes hit Travis Kelce on a crosser for a 22-yard gain that set the Chiefs up for the easy kick.
It’s the fourth Super Bowl win for the Chiefs franchise and the third for the team under coach Andy Reid, who joins Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs in a tie for third-most all-time. Only Bill Belichick (six) and Chuck Noll (four) have more.
“The number three is a big number in terms of dynasties,” Kelce said this week, adding that he wanted to win this Super Bowl more than any of the previous three he’d played in. Three titles in a five-year window puts the Chiefs in a different conversation, one that includes some of the greatest runs in league history.
Mahomes earned his third Super Bowl MVP going 34-of-46 passing for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception resulting in a 99.3 passer rating.
The championship also elevates Mahomes — a remarkable 15-3 in the playoffs in his six-year career — into elite company: he’s now one of five quarterbacks in league history to win at least three Super Bowls, joining Tom Brady (seven), Joe Montana (four), Terry Bradshaw (four) and Troy Aikman (three). Aikman and Mahomes, 28, are the only ones of the group to win three before their 30th birthday. Across the last two postseasons, Mahomes has gone 7-0, throwing 13 touchdowns and just one interception.
When CBS announcer Jim Nantz mentioned on the winning podium about how the Chiefs were underdogs in the last three games of this postseason, Mahomes said, “Just know that the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs. Just know that.”
Kelce added: “We couldn’t have gotten here without having that target on our back all year. Now we got a chance to do it three times in a row.”
It’s a devastating defeat for the 49ers, and particularly coach Kyle Shanahan, who adds another chapter of Super Bowl heartache to what’s otherwise been a stellar career. As Atlanta’s offensive coordinator in 2017, Shanahan was on the wrong side of the biggest blown lead in Super Bowl history, when the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to stun the Falcons in the only other championship game to go to overtime. Sunday’s loss is Shanahan’s second as a head coach in the Super Bowl; four years ago, the 49ers blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, eventually losing 31-20.
San Francisco’s championship drought is now at 29 seasons. After winning five Lombardi Trophies within a 13-year window from 1982 to 1995, the 49ers have lost in all three of their trips to the Super Bowl since (after the 2012, 2019 and 2023 seasons).
Prior to this year’s Chiefs, the last Super Bowl champion to successfully defend its title was the 2004 Patriots. What had become routine in the first few decades of the Super Bowl era — there were eight repeat winners across the first 39 editions of the game — became nonexistent, a byproduct of increased parity across the league and an indication of just how taxing Super Bowl runs can.
The title caps a stunning late-season surge from Kansas City, which slogged through its worst regular season since Mahomes became the starter in 2018. Plagued by an uncharacteristically inconsistent offense, including a league-worst 44 drops by its receivers, the Chiefs were just 9-6 after a loss to the Raiders at home on Christmas Day. It looked dire enough that Kansas City general manager Brett Veach was left wondering if his team would even make the postseason.
“You see it every year,” Veach said this week, “a team gets off to a hot start and doesn’t make the playoffs.”
But the Chiefs wouldn’t lose again all year, finishing the regular season with a pair of victories before ripping off four straight wins in the playoffs. What started in frigid temperatures in Kansas City, a wild-card win over the Dolphins in the fourth-coldest game in NFL history, continued with two gutsy road wins in Buffalo and Baltimore — the first true road wins of Mahomes’ playoff career — and culminated with Sunday’s comeback in Las Vegas.
It’s the most improbable title of the Chiefs’ current run, not simply due to their regular season struggles but because of the intense spotlight that’s trailed the team for most of the year. Kelce’s relationship with pop superstar Taylor Swift became its own phenomenon, and her appearances at games during the regular season and playoffs — she made it to all four during Kansas City’s postseason run, including Sunday’s Super Bowl after a Saturday show in Tokyo — became one of the biggest stories in sports.
Asked what he’s learned about the crush of celebrity over the past few months, Kelce smiled and offered this in the week leading up to the game: “That being famous worldwide is a lot different than being famous in Kansas City.”
On Sunday, the 49ers controlled the first half by owning the trenches, particularly when the Chiefs had the ball. San Francisco’s punishing defensive line constantly had Mahomes scrambling from the pocket, sacking him twice and regularly forcing hurried throws. In turn, the Chiefs’ offense never got in sync, managing just a late field goal to cut into San Francisco’s 10-0 lead.
The Chiefs finished with just 16 first-quarter yards — compared with 125 for San Francisco — and couldn’t get Kelce involved. Kelce caught an early bubble screen for one yard, his only target over the first 30 minutes of the game.
After kicker Moody drilled what was then the longest field goal in Super Bowl history — a 55-yarder in the first quarter — the 49ers scored the game’s first touchdown with 4:23 left in the second quarter when wideout Jauan Jennings, off a pitch from Purdy, hit McCaffrey for a 21-yard catch-and-run score. It was a gutsy and creative play-call from Shanahan, and the first touchdown pass of Jennings’ three-year career.
San Francisco led 10-3 at the break, and had Kansas City frustrated. CBS cameras caught Kelce bumping into Reid on the sideline during a tense exchange.
Their chances didn’t look any more promising after the opening drive of the third quarter, when Mahomes threw his first interception of the last two postseasons.
But the game swung after a critical 49ers’ mistake in the third quarter, when returner Darrell Luter Jr. fumbled a punt on San Francisco’s 35-yard line. The Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson recovered, and it took Mahomes all of one play to capitalize: he hit receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 16-yard touchdown a moment later.
Suddenly, after being outplayed all game long, the Chiefs were in front.
History was repeating itself.
Jennings caught the 49ers’ second touchdown of the night with 11:22 early in the fourth quarter, but after a blocked extra point, the Chiefs were able to tie the game on an ensuing field goal that capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive, before winning it in overtime.