From the Bleachers: Younger Brothers Shouldn’t Gamble, and Other Lessons from Super Bowl LIV
Through this column, I’ve been fortunate enough to teach my faithful readers some life lessons. A few weeks ago, I went straight to my social psychology textbook and discussed the power of the situation. Last week, I gave my East Coast audience an introduction to California culture — and probably shocked any investment banker readers by proposing the notion of going to work in khaki shorts and polo shirts. I don’t need to check the records to know that my dad rocked such a combination Monday morning. Or he might have hit the gym in the morning to blow off steam and then gone straight to the office in workout clothes. Those are the only two possibilities.
After experiencing Super Bowl LIV, I have a new lesson for this week: Gambling is bad. Unless you’re very good at it. But my younger brother Logan is not very good at it. He is also not good at it at all. In fact, he is terrible at it. Thanks to his incompetence, I was able to profit off the Chiefs (at his expense) for a third straight week. Kansas City’s 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers marked the Chiefs’ third straight comeback of 10 or more points, and marked the third straight Sunday of soul-searching for Logan.
I’m sure my dad lectured him about the dangers of gambling, but Logan probably couldn’t take him seriously because he was wearing a polo shirt and khaki shorts to work. Hopefully, I finally got through to the kid. If you’re going to gamble, at least bet on the best quarterback in the game over the J Crew model who completed three of 11 passes in the final quarter.
Also, my sister was mad that I haven’t given her a shout-out yet, so I want to give her some props for not placing any ill-advised bets on the Super Bowl. While I was going all in on Mecole Hardman for Super Bowl MVP before watching him finish the game with –4 yards, she was probably doing her math homework like a champion. Stay the path, Skylar.
Now let’s get to the action. The strange thing about the game was that its best player didn’t look the part until the last few minutes. Patrick Mahomes has started 36 games in his career, and according to Pro Football Focus individual game grades, the Super Bowl was his fifth-worst career performance and by far his worst in the postseason. He missed throws all night, threw two second half interceptions, and had no passing touchdowns until late in the game.
Meanwhile, while the Bay Area’s golden boy never had to make any heroic throws, he was doing his job effectively during the game’s first three quarters. After an ugly interception, he responded with a methodical touchdown drive, finding Kyle Juszczyk for a touchdown that made Spelling Bee contestants around the world grin. By the end of the third quarter, he was 17-of-20 for 183 passing yards, a touchdown and a 10-point lead. Mahomes was 16-of-26 for 145 yards and an interception, and he was about to throw another five minutes later.
But the Chiefs have been known to score in waves, and once they opened the floodgates, there was no stopping them. To prop said gates open, it took one heroic play: a 44-yard completion from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill on 3rd and 15. The play’s greatness wasn’t obvious to me upon watching it in real time, but after further review, it put Mahomes’ greatness on full display and completely changed the script of the game.
The play called for a double move from Hill, and while he may be the fastest receiver in the game, the route took about four seconds to develop. That meant Mahomes needed his offensive line to keep him upright for four seconds, which was no small task against Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and a ferocious San Francisco pass rush. So Mahomes, who was already in the shotgun, took a whopping nine-step drop to buy himself time, ending up 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage when he unloaded the pass. Off his back foot and with Buckner rapidly approaching, he somehow unleashed a 57-yard bomb before Hill had even made his second break, knowing exactly where his star receiver was going to end up. In a game chock full of mediocrity, the Chiefs quarterback sprinkled in a dose of Mahomes magic.
Kansas City capped off the drive with a Travis Kelce touchdown reception, which shifted the momentum drastically. Once the Chiefs got the ball back, a second touchdown felt inevitable. Sammy Watkins burning Richard Sherman to make it happen, however, was not inevitable. The oft-injured receiver was clutch throughout the playoffs, and he used a nifty inside release to burn Sherman for a 38-yard gain and set up shop in the red zone. Damien Williams’ receiving touchdown put Kansas City on top, and after the Chiefs defense held once again, Williams’ second touchdown put the icing on the cake — or the cheeseburger if you’re Andy Reid.
Once the Chiefs were crowned kings, the overreactions came flooding in. Kyle Shanahan was chastised for blowing another double-digit lead in the Super Bowl, which was ridiculous. He should’ve called a timeout at the end of the first half, but he also had a great fourth-quarter challenge and stellar play designs all game, especially the ones that got the ball in Deebo Samuel’s hands. He turned a 4-12 doormat into an NFC champion in 12 months, and deserves enormous praise for a tremendous season.
On the flip side, Mahomes got heaps of praise for willing his team to victory with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes. His deep completions to Hill and Watkins were phenomenal, but if it weren’t for those drives and great late-game defense from the Chiefs, we might be calling him a choker for his turnovers (plus two fumbles that the Chiefs recovered) and his inaccuracy throughout the game. Mahomes has the potential to be the greatest quarterback the league has ever seen, and he may walk away with a ring for each finger on his throwing hand by the time all is said and done. But he was far from his elite self on Sunday.
Overall, it was a solid game, a great comeback and a good way to ease my never-ending pain of picking a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl. With the NFL season in the books, this column has reached a crossroads. We’re going to be shifting gears to the offseason plus some NBA and college basketball action, which will keep February exciting before March will hit us with an NFL free agent frenzy and March Madness.
I can’t tell you exactly what next week’s column will offer, but I can tell you that I will be following my own lesson and will not be gambling on any basketball in the meantime. Unless my brother wants to make some more bets.