The first two Super Bowls that Jim Nantz and Tony Romo worked together for CBS lacked drama.
Now, both get to say they broadcast one of the best finishes in the game’s history.
“What a thrill to be able to say that we witnessed 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 after the Kansas City Chiefs 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers. “I’m thrilled for our team and thrilled for the sport. It was an unbelievably fitting finish to a remarkable season.”
Nantz and producer Jim Rikhoff immediately felt they could be in store for the second overtime game in Super Bowl history after San Francisco kicker Jake Moody had his extra point blocked early in the fourth quarter, which kept it at 16-13 lead.
That set the stage for Kansas City to come back twice — first to tie it in regulation and then win in overtime when Patrick Mahomes threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman to make the Chiefs the first repeat winner in 19 years.
Nantz and Romo have had many great finishes in the playoffs since teaming up together in 2016, but their first two Super Bowls were duds. They had New England’s 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 and Tampa Bay’s 31-9 rout of Kansas City two years later.
And even though San Francisco had a 10-3 lead in an underwhelming first half, Nantz was hopeful that the action would pick up in the second half.
“I felt like there were going to be adjustments. Mahomes had to keep answering all these situations and scenarios. This type of game is what legends are made of,” Nantz said. “If tension is the meter and the barometer of excitement and suspense, this one is up there in record territory.”
Despite the high stakes in overtime, Nantz and Romo did not get overwhelmed 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 the most, and Kansas City was trying to repeat, there were also reminders about the postseason overtime rules, where both teams each got a possession.
Coincidentally, Nantz and Romo had the Buffalo-Kansas City AFC divisional round game two years ago, where the Chiefs won the toss and scored on the opening possession of OT without the Bills getting the ball that mandated the changes.
“You keep resetting for the audience, but other than that, you’re lost in a bubble,” Nantz said. “In terms of just the concentration and the focus level, it’s why you do so many games. During the season, you have a routine and a team that’s working in concert together. I’m proud of our team. Sure, there was excitement, 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 full story on its own.”
Rikhoff and director Mike Arnold complemented the coverage in the booth by quickly showing the freak Achilles injury to 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw as he ran on the field during the first half. With 165 cameras at their disposal, CBS also had reverse angle views of Jauan Jennings’ TD pass to Christian McCaffrey in the first half and Travis Kelce’s 22-yard gain late in regulation to set up the tying field goal.
They also updated fans about San Francisco George Kittle going into the locker room during overtime with a shoulder injury but quickly returning to the field.
“You don’t change anything in overtime. The nice thing is most of the advertising obligations are out of the way, so sometimes it’s just pure coverage, which I love, and we were able to do that,” Rikhoff said. “You can stay on the field. We were able to capture a lot of really cool moments in overtime, which was nice.”
The game also marked a fitting sendoff 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 NFL rights in 1998. CBS did not have games from 1994 through 1997 after Fox got the NFC package in 1993.
This was CBS’ ninth Super Bowl with McManus in charge. Nantz acknowledged McManus’ retirement late in the third quarter.
“The first half, I thought maybe this is not going to be as compelling as we would like, but that second half and the overtime, it doesn’t get any better than that,” McManus said. “Jim and Tony up at the booth deserved an exciting Super Bowl. They stepped up big time and did a stellar job.”
When Nielsen releases the ratings Monday afternoon, it should go down as the most-watched Super Bowl, surpassing the 115.1 million for the Kansas City’ 38-35 victory over Philadelphia a year ago on Fox.
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