LAS VEGAS — The NFL has a repeat champion for the first time in 19 years, and 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 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,” tight end Travis 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.
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.
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.”
(Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)