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NFL Championship review: Kansas City Chiefs beat San Francisco 49ers for third title in five years

The Kansas City Chiefs are NFL champions for the third time in five seasons after beating the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime on Sunday.

The Chiefs became the first team to win back-to-back championships since the New England Patriots 19 years ago.

The victory also gave the combination of head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes their third title win together following last year's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and their 2020 victory which was also over the 49ers.

Mahomes threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns to win the NFL Championship MVP Award for the third time, joining Tom Brady (five) and Joe Montana as the only other players to win it at least three times.

The Chiefs were slight underdogs for the game but defied the odds again, as they had in their Divisional Round win over the Buffalo Bills and their AFC Championship victory against the Baltimore Ravens.

For much of the first three quarters, it did not look likely to be a matchup that would be recalled fondly in years to come, but the close finish and drama of the fourth quarter and overtime went some way to enhancing its status.

It was the third successive NFL Championship game to be decided by a three-point winning margin.

Defenses on top for most of the game

The first half was not much of a spectacle for the fans at Allegiant Stadium in Nevada as there were no points scored in the first quarter. Both defensive coordinators - after two full weeks to prepare for the game - seemed to have planned well for what the opposing team wanted to do.

There were mistakes by both teams, most notably Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco fumbling in the red zone.

The 49ers put the first points on the board with a huge 55-yard field goal from rookie kicker Jake Moody. It took a trick play for the first touchdown of the game to be scored: 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings threw a 21-yard pass to running back Christian McCaffrey, who powered into the end zone.

Special teams blunders cost 49ers

Two key special teams errors had a major impact for the 49ers in the game. First, a Chiefs punt hit the leg of the 49ers' Darrell Luter Jr. and returner Ray-Ray McCloud failed to secure the ball, which was pounced on by Kansas City's Jaylen Watson.

That set up a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as the Chiefs went ahead for the first time in the game at 13-10.

The 49ers responded well as Jennings followed Eagles QB Nick Foles to become the second player with a passing and receiving touchdown in the same NFL Championship game, bringing in a 10-yard pass from Brock Purdy, but then the special teams bug bit again.

Moody's extra-point attempt was blocked and that changed the shape of the rest of the game.

Trailing by only three instead of four, the Chiefs were not forced to risk everything in pursuit of a touchdown and the teams traded field goals until Harrison Butker converted a 29-yarder with three seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime with the score tied at 19 each.

Kelce and Mahomes provide spark for Chiefs

Kansas City's star tight end Travis Kelce, who had been expected to be a ball-magnet, was limited to just one reception for one yard in the first half.

However, he came to life in the second half, ending up with nine receptions for 93 yards while Mahomes led the Chiefs in rushing with 66 yards after some fantastic scrambles late in the game.

There were still one or two drops that had been a feature of the Chiefs' season, but Mahomes got the ball where it needed to go on the crucial drive.

McCaffrey had 80 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards, but no 49ers wide receiver reached 50 yards and tight end George Kittle caught just two passes for four yards.

Chiefs need more offense for three-peat

The motivation of trying to become the first team to win three successive NFL Championships should be enough to make Chiefs head coach Andy Reid shelve any retirement plans he may have been making.

The champions are +360 to win the AFC again next season, but they are not favorites to retain the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The 49ers are +500 favorites, with the Chiefs at +700.

Read more: NFL outright odds

The Chiefs did not have the easiest of rides this season. They won the AFC West for an eighth successive season, but with their worst record since 2017 and giving Mahomes more receivers he can trust other than Kelce and Rashee Rice should be top of their to-do list. 

Retaining defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is a huge boost after the rapid improvement of that unit this season, but bettors need to bear in mind that the competition in the AFC West should be tougher next season, with Jim Harbaugh now coaching the Chargers and the Raiders and Broncos appearing to be over the worst of their struggles.

As for the 49ers, head coach Kyle Shanahan must shake off a second NFL Championship defeat after his team held a healthy lead - he was also the Falcons' offensive coordinator when they collapsed from 28-3 ahead against the Patriots in another overtime loss in 2017.

The Achilles injury to key linebacker Dre Greenlaw not only hampered their chances in this game but could affect their plans for next season.

Meanwhile, QB Purdy made some decent throws, he was clearly not the same driving force for his team that Mahomes was for the Chiefs.

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