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Jauan Jennings Had The Best Game He’ll Ever Want To Forget

1:39 PM EST on February 12, 2024

Jauan Jennings celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

A bunch of people have tried to tell me that Super Bowl 58 didn't get good until the end was in sight, but the first two-thirds of the game were twisty and tense, with ball security issues and smart defense putting a premium on points that only increased with every tick of the clock. For those who needed some razzle to go with their field-position battles, we had Jauan Jennings's touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, which hung in the air for ages but somehow came down at the right moment for the Niners' running back to slice through the defenders still on his half of the field. The Super Bowl is often determined by which team has the more effective surprises, and when they entrusted Jennings with their big trick play, San Francisco seized temporary control of the game.

A seventh-round pick out of Tennessee in 2020, Jennings wasn't an obvious difference-maker heading into Sunday. He'd scored one touchdown all year, back in Week 13. His 265 receiving yards ranked fifth on the team. In the NFC Championship game, he caught just one ball for eight yards.

But Jennings was likely in line for MVP honors if his defense had figured out how to contain Patrick Mahomes at the game's climax, and not just because he channeled his inner Antwaan Randle El in the second quarter. On the Niners' other touchdown, Jennings again had a starring role. He caught a very simple short-yardage slant on second down in the red zone, but he wasn't satisfied with just producing a third-and-manageable. Jennings refused to yield to L'Jarius Sneed's wrap-up attempt, and as the KC defender slid off his man Jennings spun through another challenger, safety Mike Edwards, to cross the goal line. This touchdown, combined with the fourth-down conversion that helped set it up, again put the Niners in a position of strength.

Jennings stayed dangerous the rest of the night, particularly when he drew a critical holding call on third-and-13 in overtime, but his second touchdown was really the last of the San Francisco triumphs. Jake Moody's extra point was blocked, and in both of their follow-up drives the Niners were forced to settle for an ultimately inadequate three points. Mahomes reached the end zone in overtime, and that was the difference between Jauan Jennings: Legend and Jauan Jennings: Sad Dude.

After the game, a reporter asked the inevitable question about how much it hurt. “Anybody got a nail he can step on?" Jennings asked. "Probably about that much.”

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