At the conclusion of a centennial season for the N.F.L. defined by the ascent of outstanding African-American quarterbacks like Mahomes and this season’s league M.V.P., Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the retirements of three under-30 stars who retreated because of long-term health concerns, the showpiece of the N.F.L. calendar was played under a somber backdrop.
A week that began with players and coaches absorbing the death of Kobe Bryant, the N.B.A. star who perished with eight others in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash, ended with both teams assembling on the 24-yard line — for Bryant’s number — in a pregame moment of silence.
It was an atypical Super Bowl for other reasons. The halftime show was orchestrated by Jay-Z, summoned to allay concerns about managing social justice expressions. The New England Patriots, who had appeared in four of the last five, were conspicuously absent. The tight margin was expected, but not necessarily tight in this way.
The matchup of two of the N.F.L.’s five highest-scoring teams settled not into an offensive showcase but a taut affair that revolved around a singular philosophical quandary: Could the 49ers stifle Mahomes?
Through three quarters, the 49ers could stifle Mahomes.
But not in the fourth, when Mahomes tossed, in succession, touchdown passes to Kelce, with 6 minutes 13 seconds remaining and, after a critical defensive stop, Williams, with 2:44 left. Williams added a 38-yard scamper, and the crowd, heavy with Chiefs fans, lapsed into delirium.
Heading into that fourth quarter, Mahomes had thrown for only 145 yards with an interception — converted into Raheem Mostert’s 1-yard touchdown run, which extended San Francisco’s lead to 20-10 — and then it got worse, if briefly.