How did Chiefs’ special teams help win Super Bowl LVIII? Let us count the ways

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Late in the third quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers still seemed to be in control.

To that point they hadn’t trailed, and although they led by just four points, the Chiefs’ offense was struggling to keep momentum on the other sideline.

That is, until the Chiefs’ special teams turned the game, starting with a punt by Tommy Townsend.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. never saw the ball glance off his heel. It bounded away, and Jaylen Watson won the scramble for it. The fumble recovery set up KC at the 16, and on the next play, Patrick Mahomes found Marques Valdez-Scantling in the end zone for the Chiefs’ first touchdown.

The path to the Chiefs’ 25-22 overtime victory was paved with many big plays — including several by coordinator Dave Toub’s special teams unit, which had an outstanding all-around game.

“That play changed the game, changed the momentum” Toub said. “The whole sideline felt it. We were energized.”

It’s been very good year for the Chiefs’ special teams. Kicker Harrison Butker had his best season, missing only two field goals and no extra points. Townsend and the coverage teams were solid.

According to one analytical measure, the Chiefs had the fifth-best special teams in the NFL.

Here’s what else happened on a special Super Bowl Sunday for the Chiefs’ special teams:

Harrison Butker with a record kick

Butker smashed a Super Bowl-record 57-yard field goal. Earlier, the 49ers’ Jake Moody had set a record with a 55-yarder. Moody’s record lasted one quarter.

The game-tying field goal kicked by Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker (7) that sends the game into overtime is nearly blocked by San Francisco 49ers safety Logan Ryan (33) in the final seconds of regulation in Super Bowl LVIII, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas.
The game-tying field goal kicked by Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker (7) that sends the game into overtime is nearly blocked by San Francisco 49ers safety Logan Ryan (33) in the final seconds of regulation in Super Bowl LVIII, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas.

“I hit a lot of ground, so I hit a line drive,” Butker said. “Glad it went through with enough distance.”

Butker finished with four field goals, making him perfect on 11 field goals and eight extra points in the postseason.

The blocked PAT

In the third quarter, the 49ers lined up for the extra point after grabbing a 16-13 lead.

But Chiefs linebacker Leo Chanel got his arm in the right position to bat the ball away, so the margin was three points — a field goal — with 11 minutes, 27 seconds remaining.

Decisions for the remainder of the game were based on a three-point, and not a four-point, lead.

Praise for Townsend

Toub called Townsend “the unsung hero” of the game for flipping the field with his punts.

Townsend finished with a net average of 50.8 with two downed inside the 20.

When the Chiefs couldn’t get much going on offense, Townsend made sure the 49ers didn’t start drives with good field position.

“A good night all around,” Toub said.