The first two Super Bowls that Jim Nantz and Tony Romo worked together for CBS were devoid of drama.
Now, both have to say they broadcast one of the best finishes in the history of the game.
“What a thrill to be able to say that we saw an overtime Super Bowl game and what will go down in history as one of the greatest games of all time and the longest Super Bowl game of all time. That’s what I’m trying to process right now,” Nantz said afterward The Kansas City Chiefs won 25-22 in overtime over the San Francisco 49ers. “I’m excited for our team and excited for the sport. It was an incredible and fitting end to an outstanding football season.”
Nantz and producer Jim Rikhoff immediately thought they might be ready for the second overtime game in Super Bowl history after San Francisco kicker Jake Moody had the extra point blocked at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which kept it in the lead 16-13.
That set the stage for Kansas City to come back twice — first to tie it in regulation and then to win in overtime when Patrick Mahomes threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman to make the Chiefs their first repeat winner in 19 years. The game-winning TD was punctuated by Nantz saying, “Jackpot, Kansas City.”
Nantz and Romo have had plenty of great playoff finishes since teaming up in 2016, but their first two Super Bowls were odd. They had New England’s 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 and Tampa Bay’s 31-9 rout of Kansas City two years later.
Although San Francisco had a 10-3 lead in a crushing first half, Nantz hoped the action would pick up in the second half.
“I felt like there would be adjustments. Mahomes had to continue to respond to all of these situations and scenarios. This type of game is what legends are made of,” said Nantz. “If tension is the gauge and barometer of excitement and suspense, this one is up there in record territory.”
Despite the high stakes in overtime, Nantz and Romo weren’t fazed in the moment. Nantz routinely let fans know that San Francisco was playing for a sixth Lombardi Trophy, which would have tied New England for most, and Kansas City was trying to repeat it, there were also reminders of the extra season rules postseason, where both teams got one possession.
Coincidentally, Nantz and Romo had the Buffalo-Kansas City AFC Divisional Round game two years ago where the Chiefs won the kickoff and scored on the opening OT possession without the Bills getting the ball that ordered the turnovers.
“You keep resetting for the audience, but other than that, you’re lost in a bubble,” Nantz said. “In terms of concentration and level of focus, that’s why you make so many plays. During the season, you have a routine and a team that is working together. I am proud of our team. Of course, there were emotions, but you try to have the perfect tone. And also try not to get in the way, because the pictures and the visuals were telling a pretty complete story on their own.”
Rikhoff and director Mike Arnold completed the coverage in the booth quickly showing fear 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw’s Achilles injury as he ran onto the field during the first half. With 165 cameras available, CBS also had reverse footage of Jauan Jennings’ TD pass to Christian McCaffrey in the first half and Travis Kelce’s 22-yarder late in regulation to set up the game-tying field goal.
They also informed fans about San Francisco’s George Kittle entering the locker room during overtime with a shoulder injury but quickly returned to the field.
“Nothing changes in overtime. The nice thing is most of the advertising obligations are out of the way, so sometimes it’s just pure football coverage, which I like and we were able to do that,” Rikhoff said. “You can stay on the field. We were we were able to get a lot of really good moments in overtime, which was nice.”
The game also marked a fitting departure for CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, who will retire in April after the Masters. McManus was the driving force behind the network’s reacquisition of the NFL rights in 1998. CBS had no games from 1994 to 1997 after Fox acquired the NFC package in 1993.
This was CBS’ ninth Super Bowl with McManus at the helm. Nantz acknowledged McManus’ retirement late in the third quarter.
“The first half, I thought maybe it wasn’t going to be as convincing as we would have liked, but the second half and overtime, it’s not going to go any better than that,” McManus said. “Jim and Tony in the booth deserved an exciting Super Bowl. They stepped up a lot and did a great job.”
When Nielsen releases ratings Monday afternoon, it should go down as the most-watched Super Bowl, topping 115.1 million for Kansas City win 38-35 over Philadelphia a year ago on Fox.
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