It’s simply not possible for Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes to be merely mortal for an entire 60 minutes. At some point, he has to rip open his jersey and reveal that big “S” for Superman.
The wunderkind Chiefs quarterback, on the grandest of all stages, was on his way to perhaps the worst game of his brief career. His team’s offense had produced only 10 points through 3 1/2 quarters as San Francisco’s fierce pass rush was piercing what appeared to be an overmatched Chiefs offensive line and proving to be Mahomes’ kryptonite.
The Chiefs, of course, had been in this position before. They were down 24 to the Houston Texans and by double digits against Tennessee in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
But never were they down this big, this late. The Super Bowl is a different animal.
Mahomes was short-hopping pass after pass to open receivers, who were making like shortstops picking hot grounders. Kansas City fans, unaccustomed to this, were getting nervous. This was the Chiefs’ first trip to the Super Bowl in 50 years and it was going down the drain. Criticism of Andy Reid was already beginning to boil, though tactically he had done little wrong.
Finally in the fourth quarter, when desperation set in, Mahomes rose like the phoenix from the ashes as the Chiefs were staring at a 20-10 deficit.
Going to a hurry-up offense that started to tire out the 49ers’ front four, Mahomes finally hit on some big plays. He guided the Chiefs on a scoring drive of 10 plays and 83 yards that took only 2:40 off the clock. He flipped a 1-yarder to Travis Kelce with 6:13 to go to make it 20-17.
All year it had been asked, “can the defense win a game?”
It emphatically answered “yes.”
The Chiefs got a quick stop and you could feel the tidal wave of momentum from the very pro-Kansas City crowd. Mahomes directed another quick 7-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was capped by unsung Damien Williams catching a 5-yarder out of the backfield, a play the Chiefs have run to perfection all season. That put them up 24-20, but not yet out of the woods.
After another defensive gem, though, the Chiefs put it away on a 38-yard Williams run and the party was on.
Of course much of the attention was on game MVP Mahomes, who finished fast to complete 26 of 42 for 286 yards and a couple of scores, but also threw two uncharacteristic interceptions. It wasn’t vintage Mahomes, for sure, but the kid has “it.” I really believe every Chiefs fan knew that when they got the ball back and down 20-17, Mahomes would make some magic and get the Chiefs the lead.
But I know I was nervous that San Francisco would come right back down the field and break their heart, just as has been the case so many times in recent years if you’re a KC fan. Reid has suffered some brutally tough losses in his career and this would have been his most epic collapse.
But the defense wouldn’t let it happen, that same defense that was nothing more than tissue paper during that 2-4 stretch starting in Week 5 that took the Chiefs out of the Super Bowl conversation for about a month.
But new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hung tough and his unit responded after that last-minute loss to Tennessee in Week 10. The Chiefs would never lose again and the defense raged up the charts of defensive stats.
A few players might have been overlooked by the all the glare on Mahomes. Williams rushed for 104 yards and totaled two scores. Tyreek Hill had 9 catches for 105 yards and Sammy Watkins had 5 for 98, including some clutch first-down catches.
And give much-maligned Bashaud Breeland some props. He has scraped off his burnt toast and turned into a quality defender. He had 6 tackles and a pick.
In McPherson, the revelation of the Chiefs’ victory wasn’t lost on the fans. I could hear fireworks going off outside of my house and cars honking in the streets. Fifty years is a long time and many weren’t born the last time they won the Super Bowl.
For me, I wasn’t even a teen-ager when they defeated Minnesota in Super Bowl IV and now I’m eligible for Social Security. I can cross a Chiefs’ championship off my bucket list as I did the Royals winning one more World Series in my lifetime when they were champs in 2015.
The Chiefs, like any Super Bowl team, won’t return intact. Because of the salary cap, they won’t be able to pay everybody what they want and a players’ worth is inflated because they played for a champion.
Mahomes will be given a blank check. I have a feeling, though, being the team guy he is, he realizes he can’t eat up most of the cap space and needs his weapons around him if the Chiefs are to get back here next year. I think he’ll earn a king’s ransom, but not so much that some of the other stars aren’t re-signed.
I look for the Chiefs to invest in their tattered offensive line and at linebacker, where they need more speed. Secondary help wouldn’t hurt.
There’s talk that Watkins might take next year off for some reason. If he doesn’t come back, though, Mecole Hardman can step right in and not miss a beat. Watkins comes with a heavy price tag and while he was oft-injured, he came up big when it mattered.
I’m happy for all of Chiefs Kingdome, but especially Reid. Critics have been harsh on Big Red for years, but he always gets his team in position. There’s a lot of franchises that would like to be in the hunt as often as the Chiefs.
Hopefully there won’t be too much of a Super Bowl hangover next season. As long as Mahomes is healthy, though, the Chiefs are never out of a game.