Super Bowl: Receiver Jauan Jennings becomes unlikely passing star for 49ers in defensive 1st half

LAS VEGAS — Jauan Jennings has some history as a quarterback. He was a highly recruited dual-threat quarterback out of high school and Rivals' 13th-ranked dual-threat QB in his class.

His career then took a different path. He switched to receiver at Tennessee and has carved out a nice career at the position with the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers picked a heck of a time for Jennings to dust off his right arm and throw his first NFL pass.

In a defensive battle, the 49ers led 10-3 at halftime of Super Bowl LVIII. They got tricky for the first score of the game by throwing a backward pass to Jennings, who pivoted and passed to Christian McCaffrey across the field. The Kansas City Chiefs were fooled, and McCaffrey went in for a 21-yard score.

Jennings made a similar play while in college with the Volunteers, and became just the second receiver in Super Bowl history to throw a touchdown, joining Antwaan Randle El of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a former college quarterback who threw one in Super Bowl XL.

49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) threw a touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, and San Francisco led Super Bowl LVIII 10-3 at halftime. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

That play takes its spot among the famous trick plays in Super Bowl history, including Randle El's throw and the Philadelphia Eagles' "Philly Special." The 49ers knew Jennings could throw it and were waiting for the exact right moment to get tricky. It happened with more than 100 million people watching.

Defenses control the first half

It didn't look like a defensive first half right away, as the 49ers had 46 yards on their first four plays. But then McCaffrey fumbled, and the Chiefs recovered. That was a rare occurrence; McCaffrey has just four career regular-season fumbles on more than 1,800 touches.

That ended up being the best scoring chance either team had in the first quarter, which finished in a scoreless tie, marking just the 10th 0-0 first quarter in Super Bowl history.

The Chiefs in particular struggled to move the ball in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes hit a fantastic, 52-yard pass across the field to Mecole Hardman. But on the next play, Isiah Pacheco fumbled, and the 49ers recovered at the 8-yard line.

Other than that long pass to Hardman, Mahomes struggled to start the game. 49ers defensive end Chase Young got him for one sack in the first quarter, and in the second quarter, Young's pressure led to an intentional grounding penalty. The 49ers' midseason trade for Young paid off big on Sunday, and making plays in the Super Bowl certainly won't hurt Young, as he is about to hit free agency.

Four possessions into the game, Mahomes had 68 yards passing, and 52 of them came on one play.

49ers take a lead

The 49ers were better on offense than the Chiefs but still couldn't find the end zone. They were helped by a personal foul penalty on Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed that gave San Francisco a first down when it would've been facing third-and-2.

That set up the Jennings touchdown pass to McCaffrey. It came with 4:23 left in the second quarter and gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead.

The Chiefs finally found some life on offense late in the second quarter. But their long drive stalled, and they settled for a 28-yard field goal by Harrison Butker in the final seconds of the half. At least they got some points.