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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Super Bowl 2024 had one historical kickoff oddity

Super Bowl 2024 between the Chiefs and the 49ers is in a category of its own.

While it marked the first Super Bowl for Taylor Swift, it also was the first time in which neither team returned a kickoff in the big game.

There were opportunities — a total of 13 kickoffs in the game — but all 13 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

It’s due in part to the new fair catch rule on kickoffs, which was approved by NFL owners last May for “player safety” in the 2023-24 season.

The rule allows players to fair catch on kickoffs with the resulting possession beginning at the team’s own 25-yard line.

The NFL came to the resolution in an effort to limit high-speed collisions and decrease the concussions rate.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after the Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl 58 Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. AP
Chiefs’ punter #05 Tommy Townsend kicks the ball during Super Bowl 2024 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. AFP via Getty Images

Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, and NFL executive Jeff Miller said their data determined the rate will decrease from 38 to 31 percent, and the concussion rate will drop 15 percent due to the approved proposal.

At the time, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that special teams coordinators unanimously opposed the rule change.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. (12) after Hardman scored the game-winning touchdown against the 49ers in overtime during Super Bowl 2024 on Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. AP
Harrison Butker #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs kicks the ball to start Super Bowl 2024 against the San Francisco 49ers. Getty Images
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) throws during the first half on Super Bowl 2024 against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. AP

“The kickoff play for us has been a play that has had a lot of changes for us over the years, all really driven by health and safety,” McKay told NFL Network’s Judy Battista. “The concussion rate on the play has gone up.

“It’s gone up because the ball is being returned more by kicks that are being hung inside the 5-yard line. College made this rule change in maybe 2018 or 2019. We looked at their data and said, you know what, this is the right thing to do now.”

Taylor Swift celebrates with Ashley Avignone, Ice Spice and Blake Lively during the second half of Super Bowl 2024 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. AP

There could be more rule changes ahead, as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that the league needs to “find a way to keep the kickoff” in the game.

“It’s an exciting play, it’s important for us, the same as punts, but when you see a higher injury rate for that play, you can’t ignore that,” he said.

The league is reportedly considering the XFL rule for low-impact kickoffs.

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