For much of Sunday's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs appeared on the verge of defeat.
A sluggish offense failed to produce a touchdown in the first half then turned the ball over on the first drive of the second to keep the San Francisco 49ers in control of the game. But Kansas City's defense kept San Francisco in check, allowing just enough room for Patrick Mahomes to mount a comeback.
The Chiefs faced a narrow path to victory that required execution in critical moments and a few breaks to go their way. In the end, the Chiefs made the plays that mattered most en route to a 25-22 win. Here are the five key plays that fueled Kansas City to victory:
Chiefs recover muffed punt
With 2:42 remaining in the third quarter, the 49ers led, 10-6 and forced a punt on a Chiefs drive that ended with a three-and-out. Kansas City lined up to punt, still in search of its first touchdown. That touchdown would arrive one play later.
The 49ers muffed the punt, and the Chiefs special teamer Jaylen Watson jumped on the ball for a recovery deep in San Francisco territory.
Replay showed that the ball hit 49ers special teamer Darrell Luter Jr. on the leg before it hit the turf. Return man Ray-Ray McCloud realized that the ball was live and tried to recover it. But he couldn't grab it off the turf, and Watson jumped on it for the recovery.
One play later, Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for Kansas City's first touchdown of the game and a 13-10 lead.
Chiefs block Jake Moody's extra point
The 49ers weren't fazed. They answered on their next possession with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Brock Purdy touchdown pass to Jauan Jennings. But the 49ers didn't take full advantage of the score.
Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal blocked Jake Moody's kick on the ensuing extra-point attempt, limiting the 49ers to a 16-13 lead and keeping the margin within a field goal.
The block was the second big play of the game for Chenal, who also forced a Christian McCaffrey fumble on the game's opening drive. It proved critical in Kansas City's win.
The Chiefs kicked a game-tying field goal on their next possession, then tied the game again at 19-19 with three seconds remaining in regulation another Harrison Butker field goal to force overtime. Without the blocked extra point, the Chiefs couldn't have tied the game with field goals, and they might not be Super Bowl champions.
Trent McDuffie gets 3rd-down pressure on Brock Purdy in regulation
The Chiefs might not have had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation if not for a defensive stop by All-Pro cornerback Trent McDuffie. Coming out of the 2-minute warning, the 49ers faced third-and-4 at the Kansas City 35-yard line with the game tied at 16-16.
A first down would have given the 49ers a chance to run more clock before setting up a potential go-ahead or even game-winning field goal. A Chiefs stop would give Mahomes the ball back with roughly two minutes remaining. Kansas City got the stop.
McDuffie blitzed and immediately got pressure on Purdy, and Purdy threw a desperate pass that stood now chance of connecting with his target.
The 49ers still scored on a 53-yard field goal by Moody. But there was plenty of time remaining for Mahomes to lead the game-tying scoring drive.
Chris Jones gets 3rd-down pressure on Purdy in OT
In a decision that will long be debated, the 49ers opted to receive the ball first in overtime under new playoff rules that guarantee possession of the ball for each team.
The 49ers came close to capitalizing on the decision with a touchdown, but came up short after Chris Jones got pressure on Purdy to force a third-down incompletion in the red zone. On third-and-four from the Kansas City 9-yard line, Purdy took a shotgun snap and faced immediate pressure up the middle from Jones. He got rid of the ball with a desperate pass that his intended target Jennings had no chance of catching.
Jennings had beat his defender and would have had a good chance of catching a pass that was thrown on target. Brandon Aiyuk was also streaking wide open across the middle of the end zone after his defender fell down. But Purdy didn't have time to connect with either of them, and the 49ers settled for a field goal to take a 22-19 lead.
Aggression by Steve Spagnuolo's defense again paid off at a critical moment. The pressure was Jones' team-high sixth of the game on a night where he repeatedly made Purdy's life difficult.
Mahomes converts on 4th down in OT
All of this would have been for naught if the Chiefs didn't score when they got the ball in overtime. That prospect faced immediate peril when Isaiah Pacheco's run on third-and-1 at the Kansas City 34-yard line failed to produce a first down.
On fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, the Chiefs opted to keep the ball in their best players' hands. Mahomes took a shotgun snap, then faked a handoff to Pacheco. But he didn't pass it. Mahomes followed Travis Kelce around the right end and easily picked up a first down with an eight-yard scramble.
Ten plays and 58 yards later, Mahomes found Mecole Hardman for the game-winning walk-off touchdown.
In the end, Sunday's Super Bowl was won that evolved from a first-half slog to an overtime thriller that would have swung one way or another on any of a number of plays. In the end, as they almost always do, the Chiefs came up with the plays that mattered most.