Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs never let history, outside noise or a double-digit deficit slow them get in the way of their ultimate goal this season.
Now, for the first time in 50 years, the Chiefs are Super Bowl champions. For the first time in 50 years, a Chiefs quarterback is the Super Bowl MVP.
It wasn’t easy for the vaunted Kansas City offense in Super Bowl LIV, with the San Francisco 49ers harassing the 24-year-old superstar constantly throughout the game. The pass rush got to Mahomes for four sacks, including 1.5 for DeForest Buckner and another one for Nick Bosa, the NFL defensive rookie of the year. The latter constantly was in the backfield, giving fits to Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher.
And the pass rush, combined with a well-rounded defense overall, forced Mahomes into one of the worst games of his career through three quarters. He rushed for a touchdown to give Kansas City a first-quarter lead, but after that struggled to get much going offensively.
With 11:57 to play, Mahomes threw his second interception of the game, a pass behind wide receiver Tyreek Hill that popped into the air and was picked off. Through that play, he was 18-of-30 for 172 yards with two picks.
The stress caused by the San Francisco defense never completely phased Mahomes, though.
“Just compete. Compete,” Mahomes said. “That’s the biggest thing. Just going to take it one play at a time. I believe in the guys I have around me, I believe that we’re going to go down there and find a way to score.”
And, on a dime, everything changed.
After the Chiefs’ defense forced a punt, Mahomes went to work. On a key third and long, he scrambled under pressure before unleashing a deep ball, one of few he threw the whole night, connecting with Hill for a 44-yard gain. A couple plays later, after a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone, Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce to cut it to a one-score game.
Neither unit was done.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the next 49ers drive, and a short punt gave the Chiefs good field position. It took seven plays and just 2:26 off the clock for Mahomes to get Kansas City back in the end zone, with running back Damien Williams reaching for the goal line and getting six. The play was reviewed but upheld.
Following the fourth-quarter interception, Mahomes finished the game 8-of-12 for 114 yards with two touchdowns.
“We never lost faith, I think that’s the biggest thing,” Mahomes said to Chris Myers of Fox after the game. “Everybody on this team, nobody has their head down, that’s what we preached all year long.”
The Chiefs are not new to playing from behind. In the divisional round they had to come back from a 24-point deficit before eventually blowing out the Houston Texans. They got down early against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game, too.
But Kansas City never let those slow starts or large gaps stop it from playing its game.
“The boys are resilient, you’ve seen that throughout the playoffs,” Reid said on ESPN’s SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt. “That is a good defense, they’ve got a good team … But I’m proud of my guys.”
After being carved up for a decent chunk of the game, Kansas City’s defense held strong when it mattered most. That includes turning San Francisco over on downs (thanks in large part to a sack from defensive end Frank Clark on fourth down) and intercepting 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on their final two drives.
In between those defensive stands, though, was one more exclamation point from Williams.
After the game defensive tackle Chris Jones explained what the mindset was for the defense down the stretch.
“We’re not leaving this place unless we have a ring, I’m not getting back on that bus unless we have a ring,” Jones said.
This is the second time in San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan’s career that he’s been a part of a blown lead in the Super Bowl of more than 10 points. The first time came in Super Bowl LI, when he was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
In this game there were several situations in which he made choices that will undoubtedly be scrutinized in the coming hours, days and weeks.
For example, at the end of the first half the Chiefs were forced to punt. But, instead of calling a timeout to save time, the 49ers ran the ball a couple times to start the drive, milking clock in the process. They couldn’t score going into halftime.
It was the opposite issue in the fourth quarter, though, eschewing their successful running game and a conservative approach with the lead for a heavier passing attack.
Garoppolo went 3-of-11 for 36 yards with an interception in the fourth quarter. The 49ers ran the ball just five times in the period, one of which was a Garoppolo scramble.
For all the criticism that can be levied against Shanahan and the 49ers for their late-game execution, the Chiefs deserve the credit for taking advantage and turning it around when they needed to make plays.
The significance of this win for Kansas City cannot be overstated, from the team as a whole on down. For the franchise, it snaps a 50-year drought. For the coach, one of the most beloved figures in the NFL, it’s his chance to finally stand atop the proverbial mountain after coming up short so many times.
“I love this guy right here, man,” Reid said on Fox, specifically referencing Mahomes. “And all those guys that came before, love you too, man. This is what it’s all about.”
And for the quarterback and his teammates, many of whom are young and remain under contract for the near future, it could be the start of even more.
Clark, who made one of the biggest plays of the game and had been one of the most vocal players on the roster entering the Super Bowl, affirmed that belief to Peter Schrager of Fox, saying “The dynasty just started.”
Those discussions will inevitably come up and it probably won’t take long to hear them. For now, though, the Chiefs are untouchable. Mahomes, Kelce, Hill, Reid and the rest of the team are all untouchable.
It’s something no football player or coach has experienced in Kansas City in half a century. There’s a parade and seemingly endless celebrating to come for the Chiefs kingdom, and that will be followed by incessant chatter about the future over the course of a long offseason.
That can wait, though. For now, today’s Chiefs are busy erasing a history of heartbreak with history of their own.