Inevitable Mahomes proves he’s the NFL’s brightest star
Las Vegas – The very best quarterbacks in National Football League history have carried a sense of inevitability, a rare quality Patrick Mahomes once again proved he definitely possesses.
Mahomes didn’t play the greatest game in Super Bowl history on Sunday, just like he wasn’t the best quarterback in the NFL this past regular season.
But the Kansas City Chiefs star always found a way in those moments when his team absolutely needed him to make a play, and once again wound up standing on a stage holding both the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl MVP award.
It felt, for most of the night, inevitable.
In so many ways the 58th Super Bowl game that ended in a 25-22 overtime win for Kanas City was a microcosm of the Chiefs’ season as a whole.
There were stages during the game when they appeared to be dominated by the San Francisco 49ers and a whole bunch of the game where it felt like a saw-off.
But when the Chiefs went to the locker room at halftime trailing in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, there was no sense that the game was slipping away from them.
Nor was there any when the Chiefs started the second half with Mahomes throwing his first interception of the playoffs on their opening drive, and then going three-and-out on their second.
The 49ers can rightly look back on the third quarter of this game as the period when they should have put the Chiefs away, up seven points and having Kansas City start three consecutive drives from deep inside their own territory.
The Chiefs, however, got stellar play from their defence to keep the 49ers off the scoreboard on consecutive possessions, just as they did during the regular season during those periods when the offence wasn’t always in sync.
And by the time the two teams began exchanging scores during the fourth quarter, you could feel this was the type of game that always follows Mahomes.
There were two plays in particular where the feeling of inevitability hung in the air as Mahomes walked toward the line of scrimmage.
One occurred during overtime when the Chiefs were facing fourth-and-1 trailing 22-19 just beyond field-goal range. A stop wins the game for San Francisco.
The Chiefs wisely put the ball in Mahomes’ hands, and he read the play to perfection and ran for eight yards and a slide.
The other such moment was on the three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman that won the game.
You just knew.
While this may have been Mahomes’ worst season statistically since becoming a starter back in 2018, it could be argued that it was otherwise his best.
In response, Mahomes funnelled the majority of his passes to those two targets while shortening his throws.
The fact that Mahomes threw the winning score to Hardman, one of those receivers often criticized during the regular season for letting down his quarterback, seemed oddly fitting. The Chiefs so often won games where its secondary receivers played well and lost them when they didn’t. The Super Bowl ended up fitting that script.
So ends the season when it seemed the Chiefs could be had but the rest of the AFC couldn’t find a way to get in their way.
Kansas City beat exactly one playoff team all regular season, and at one point in December lost three of four games, failing in all three to score 20 points.
But the Dolphins, Bills and Ravens – who all owned the banner “hottest team in the NFL” at one point during the regular season – couldn’t get past the Chiefs at playoff time.
In a down year where Mahomes was forced to play playoff games on the road for the first time in his career, the Chiefs still achieved what has remained out of reach for the rest of the conference.
No AFC team besides Kansas City has won the Super Bowl since New England at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Which raises the question: What is it going to take to knock Kansas City off its perch atop the AFC?
Mahomes will be 29 next season, which puts in in the midst of his prime of a career that’s been remarkably free of injuries.
Kelce is signed for next season and, even at 34, still led all tight ends in receiving this season. Rice, on his rookie deal, is a bargain for at least two more seasons.
They’ve got to come up with new contracts for two key defenders – defensive tackle Chris Jones and corner L’Jarius Sneed – but have a decent amount of cap space to try and do so.
The Chiefs may also have the advantage of attracting players looking for a short road to the Super Bowl, which right now is a highway with Mahomes’ name all over it.
Football is a sport rife with surprises and unexpected turns that change things quickly. But there’s nothing in the first seven years of Mahomes’ career to make anyone think his success doesn’t have a long way to go, especially as long as Andy Reid wants to keep coaching.
In a city known for its love of stars, Mahomes proved in Super Bowl 58 that he is indeed the NFL’s brightest.