Where Does Kansas City Chiefs Win Over the 49ers Rank Among the Great Super Bowl Comebacks?

With their comeback to win Super Bowl LIV on Sunday night in Miami, Florida, the Kansas City Chiefs joined an exclusive NFL club.

Trailing the San Francisco 49ers 20-10 with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs won 31-20, becoming only the fifth team in Super Bowl history to erase a gap of 10 points or more.

Kansas City became the 18th team in Super Bowl history to win despite not scoring first and the 29th team to lift the Lombardi Trophy after trailing at some stage during the game.

So where does the Chiefs win on Sunday night rank among the greatest come-from-behind exploits in Super Bowl history?

Super Bowl LI—New England Patriots trail by 25 points vs. Atlanta Falcons

There can be no other place to begin than at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Coordinated by current San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons offense had been red hot throughout the season and, after a scoreless first quarter, it emphatically roared into life during the second period, taking a 21-3 lead at halftime.

Matt Ryan's second passing touchdown of the game put Atlanta 28-3 up midway through the third quarter, before the Patriots faced a fourth-and-3 at their own 46-yard line with 6:04 left in the quarter.

New England's dynasty looked to be crumbling and Pro Football Reference gave the Patriots a 0.5 percent chance of pulling off a comeback. Typically, Tom Brady had other ideas, hitting Danny Amendola for a crucial fourth down conversion.

He then led five consecutive scoring drives, which included two touchdown drives followed by successful two-point conversions, as the Patriots scored 25 points unanswered points to force the game into overtime.

Once New England won the coin toss in the extra period, the outcome never appeared in doubt. Brady led another scoring drive, which culminated with James White two-yard rushing touchdown.

Up until Super Bowl LI, teams had trailed by at least 17 points after three quarters in the playoffs on 133 occasions, losing every single one.

Super Bowl LIV—Kansas City Chiefs trail by 10 points vs. San Francisco 49ers

In the lead-up to Sunday, Kyle Shanahan was repeatedly asked whether the implosion in Super Bowl LI would play on his mind. He steadfastly insisted it did not. It may do now, as the 49ers head coach saw another double-digit lead evaporate down the stretch of the most important game of the season.

With 11:57 left in the game, San Francisco had possession and a 20—10 lead, but its offense stalled and gained just 59 yards over the 49ers' final four offensive possessions.

Meanwhile, inspired by Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs scored on three consecutive drives, putting up 21 unanswered points to clinch a first Super Bowl triumph in 50 years.

The comeback in Miami was the third time in as many playoff games this season Mahomes had engineered a win starting from a deficit of at least 10 points, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs raises the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 2 in Miami, Florida. Jamie Squire/Getty

Super Bowl XLIX—New England Patriots trail by 10 points vs. Seattle Seahawks

Before his heroics in Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady had inspired another memorable comeback on the biggest stage of all.

Entering the fourth quarter down by 10 points, the Patriots looked to have little chance to score against Seattle's Legion of Boom defense.

Brady, however, defied logic and odds yet again, embarking on a nine-play, 68-yard drive, which included two 21-yard completions to Julian Edelman and culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 7:55 left.

After the Patriots got the ball back, Brady kick-started a 64-yard drive, which spanned 10 plays and ended with him hitting Edelman for the go-ahead score with 2:02 left.

It was then left to Malcolm Butler to intercept Russell Wilson's pass to Ricardo Lockette from the one-yard line with 26 seconds left in the game to deny the Seahawks a second consecutive Super Bowl title.

Super Bowl XLIV—New Orleans Saints trail by 10 points vs. Indianapolis Colts

The last Super Bowl played in Miami until Sunday also featured a 10-point comeback, when the New Orleans Saints secured the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in history.

Inspired by Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts took a 10-lead in the first quarter, before Drew Brees led the Saints to 13 unanswered points. Manning replied and the Colts took a 17-13 lead, before New Orleans scored two touchdowns to retake the lead.

Manning marched the Colts down the field again but with 3:12 left his pass was intercepted by Tracy Porter, who returned it for a 74-yard touchdown to give the Saints a 31-17 win.

Super Bowl XXII—Washington Redskins trail by 10 points vs. Denver Broncos

The only other Super Bowl to feature a double-digit comeback saw the Broncos take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter in San Diego, California.

Denver's hopes of avoiding a repeat of the loss they had suffered a year earlier to the New York Giants quickly evaporated in the next 15 minutes.

John Elway threw two picks and the Redskins scored 35 points in the second quarter—still a Super Bowl record—before a further score in the final period, as Doug Williams became the first African American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl and the first to pass for four touchdowns in the same quarter.

The Broncos, meanwhile, failed to score a single point in the last three quarters and Elway would have to wait another 10 years to finally win a Super Bowl.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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