“Do we have time to run Wasp?”
It was the call of the year for the 2019 NFL season. In Kansas City, it was the most famous play call since 65 Toss Power Trap. Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 54, the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves down ten with seven minutes and thirteen seconds left to go on the clock. A huge third down and fifteen was on deck as a potential completion from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. What happened next was jaw dropping and turned the entire momentum of the game. It resulted in a play that would change the course of history in the NFL forever.
San Francisco dropped into a deep zone coverage with a high safety making sure nothing slipped over the top of him. The 49ers were playing to make sure Hill didn’t beat them deep for six, but also playing to make sure Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins didn’t have room to get open at the first down marker. The first time I broke down this play on my initial film review of the Super Bowl, I noticed that SF had been playing some loose zone coverage on third and long or long down situations. Their pass rush had been destroying the Chiefs for most of the second half and they would return to that formula on third and long.
They bring a DE and DT twist from the left which gets Eric Fisher and Stefen Wisniewski on different levels as a blocker. This also allows the 49er’s pass rush a chance to create separation and get to Mahomes.
In order to combat the pass rush and give Hill time to get free, Mahomes takes an 11 step drop and still doesn’t even have room to step into the pass. Being the true gunslinger he is, he sees Hill open up and lets it rip. He uses all arm strength and upper body torque. The high safety sees Hill head at him and turns to run to make sure he doesn’t get beat deep. However, the concept of the play is not to beat the deepest man underneath but get over the top of the lower zone coverage. As was heard in the NFL Films Breaking Point, Mahomes called for Jet Chip Wasp on the sideline during the timeout. The fact that Andy Reid would go ahead and let them run it shows his trust in Mahomes and Hill. It was the turning point of the game and ended up being the play that swung the momentum to lead the Chiefs to their first championship in 50 years.