MIAMI (Reuters) – Five stoylines to watch when the Kansas City Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in Miami on Sunday:
1 – Will Andy Reid will earn redemption for previous questionable Super Bowl clock management?
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is seeking redemption in Sunday’s Super Bowl, even if he is reluctant to admit it.
Reid guided the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2005, but he was widely accused of mismanaging the clock in a 24-21 defeat by the New England Patriots, the equivalent of one field goal.
Down by 10 points with less than six minutes left, the Eagles got the ball back, needing a minimum of two scores.
If time was of an essence, you wouldn’t have known it from the way Philadelphia ate up nearly four minutes on a 13-play, 79-yard drive before finally scoring a touchdown.
It was too little too late, and Reid took the brunt of the blame for the way it unfolded.
Of course, clock management is an inexact science and all coaches have been second-guessed at one time or another, but make no mistake Reid will be under the microscope on Sunday.
2 – Will Kyle Shanahan atone for his role in Atlanta Falcons debacle?
Kyle Shanahan was offensive co-ordinator for a Falcons team on the wrong side of an historic collapse in the Super Bowl three years ago.
He was criticised for his play-calling after the Falcons, having established a huge lead over the New England Patriots, continued their passing game instead of going with a safer running game.
Perhaps the most costly decision came with eight minutes left on a 3rd&1 — meaning the Falcons had to gain only one more yard to earn another first down — when Atlanta opted for a risky pass play.
But quarterback Matt Ryan was caught as he cocked his arm to throw, the ball fell loose, the Patriots got it back trailing by 16 points and the rest is history.
In an ironic twist, Shanahan was named 49ers head coach the next day and now presides over a team that has been questioned for running the ball too much.
3 – Will the Super Bowl draw a record American TV audience?
In a fragmented and rapidly-changing media industry, the NFL remains a gold mine to traditional network television, the only sport that can still pull in a massive live audience weekly.
Ratings in the regular season were up for the second straight year, with NFL games accounting for no fewer than 47 of the 50 top-rated programmes.
The Super Bowl remains the most watched program in the U.S. year in and out. But that doesn’t mean it is immune from cultural trends.
Last year’s showdown had the lowest audience in a decade, though it still lured in 98 million viewers to a low-scoring affair.
Though his year’s game features one of the league’s smallest-market teams in the Chiefs, the presence of electrifying quarterback Patrick Mahomes should more than make up for that.
4 – Speaking of which, is this the start of the Mahomes era?
At 24, Mahomes, in his second full season as a starter, is on his way to becoming one of the league’s great quarterbacks.
The son of a former Major League Baseball pitcher, Mahomes was blessed with impeccable genes and a model example of what it took to reach the top.
No matter where he is on the field, he has an uncanny ability to make pretty much any throw.
Telegenic and articulate, Mahomes is ready to take over the mantle from 42-year-old Tom Brady as the face of the NFL.
A Super Bowl ring would speed up the process.
5 – Will a Super Bowl without the Patriots be a more joyful national occasion?
After playing in the Super Bowl nine times in the past 18 years, the Patriots will miss the party this year, and pretty much everyone outside of New England is delighted.
From their grumpy head coach Bill Belichick, to the well documented allegations of bending the rules — Google ‘spygate’ and ‘deflategate’ for more — the team has become reviled in most of the country.
Of course, part of the reason the Patriots became so disliked was because they were so good, but dynasties end sooner or later, and with Brady to turn 43 this year, and his future uncertain, New England might be in for a few cold winters.
That will be celebrated by many on a balmy Miami night.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge)