Just because a copperhead looks asleep, doesn't mean it actually is. Time and again, opponents of the Kansas City Chiefs have discovered this the hard way, finding themselves confident after silencing Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid's offense on a drive or several, only to eventually be victimized with a single strike -- then two, and then three. And so it went, as per usual, the Chiefs hung around with the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV just long enough to buy themselves time to bite, in what rapidly escalated from a 20-10 deficit to a 31-20 victory.
The first injection of venom seemed mostly innocuous at the time, but it wasn't. Following a quick three-and-out by the Chiefs offense to start the game, the 49ers felt great. Jimmy Garoppolo answered with a long drive that ended in a field goal, but equally as important was the fact Mahomes was on the sideline for much of the first quarter. Ultimately, he did return to the field before the second quarter though, and the Chiefs had a reply of their own.
They'd dig deep into the playbook and pull out all the stops, knowing points would be at a premium against the stifling 49ers defense.
With San Francisco nursing an early 3-0 lead, Mahomes took possession with seven minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the first session and mounted a drive that devoured seven minutes and 27 seconds of playing time, and ended with a touchdown run off of a QB read option. That wasn't the biggest play of that 15-play drive, though. That honor belonged to running back Damien Williams -- converting on fourth-and-1 on a direct snap trick play that spun everyone's head around.
And if you football historians think you've seen it before somewhere, you have.
"You know what game that play comes from? If I'm not mistaken -- the 1949 Rose Bowl," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said after the game, via NFL Network. "I probably shouldn't be giving this away. The Rose Bowl -- Michigan vs. USC. And so, it's just a play that we've been working and wondering when we can polish it off. It was fun to watch. And those guys did a great job of executing it. I mean, all that hard work and practicing that play for the entire season, it just worked and it paid off."
That particularly Rose Bowl having an impact on the outcome of Super Bowl LIV is no happenstance, by the way. As Reid explained on Monday morning, there's a direct connection between his family and what happened in the Wolverines blowout over the Trojans 70 years ago.
"My brother's high school coach was actually in that game for USC," he said, via Pro Football Talk. "So I had a little bit of tape I went back through and pulled that out."
And he's not worried about Bieniemy spilling the beans, because there's apparently a pantry's worth in Kansas City.
"We actually have a whole package of it," Reid said. "So you have to wait to wait until next year to see the rest. There's some good stuff."
You heard it here, opposing defensive coordinators: your job stopping the most prolific offense in the NFL just got harder.
"We've worked on that play since the first day of OTAs phase two -- just working on that play," Mahomes said of the play. "Like coach Reid said, we have a whole package that we were working on. We kept working on it every single week and kept working on it and executing it and doing it the right way, and waiting for the perfect time to call it."
With everything on the line and desperately needing a conversion, there was no more perfect of a moment to unveil it.
"When we were there and coach said it, I was like, 'It's time. Let's do it,'" Mahomes explained. "We all spun around. Everybody did it the right way. Damien had a great catch on the snap and then he hit up the middle.
"I think just that practice. You never know when those plays are going to get called, but you just keep working and trying to perfect them every single time you get an opportunity to."
That was the first bite, but not the last.
Three more in rapid succession in the fourth quarter sent the 49ers reeling into the offseason wondering where it all went wrong, now forced to detox and hope head coach Kyle Shanahan is correct. Meanwhile, Mahomes and the Chiefs went from spinning in the first quarter to standing on the podium after the game -- hoisting the team's first Lombardi trophy in 50 years.
And it began with a play 20 years older than their first one.