GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Mahomes has been around long enough now to bring some vital perspective to his second Super Bowl win. This one was sweeter because of all the heartbreak that came from the previous two years. It was more special because of all the doubters who hovered around the Chiefs when this season began, the same skeptics who pointed to all the new faces on this roster and the departure of All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill as reasons for Kansas City’s likely demise. This title wasn’t just about the brilliance of Mahomes; it was about the way this team followed his lead.
The Chiefs won their second championship in four years with their 38-35 win over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. It’s now time to talk about a dynasty, repeat potential and all the fun things that come with sustained success. Just as importantly, it’s worth discussing how much Mahomes accomplished with a team that was supposed to be resetting itself this year. He wound up winning everything a player can win in a single season — including league MVP and Super Bowl MVP — and he delivered this latest championship while playing with a high ankle sprain against the league’s best pass rush.
There’s always been plenty of talk about the legacy Mahomes is creating every time he takes the field. What he did over the course of this season — and particularly in the postseason — may end up being the finest performance of his career.
“It hasn’t even sunk in,” Mahomes said after completing 21 of 27 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns and winning Super Bowl MVP honors for the second time. “I appreciate it because of the failure of losing the Super Bowl (in the 2020 campaign) and the AFC Championship Game (last season). It gives you greater appreciation for being a champion.”
Mahomes acknowledged that there was a huge difference between his reaction to winning this title and his first championship, a victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. Mahomes compared that first accomplishment to a wide-eyed kid taking home a prize from the fair. There was a whirlwind of success, accompanied by an offseason of celebrating and an attempt at a repeat that ended with that blowout loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV. Then came an overtime loss to Cincinnati in last year’s AFC Championship Game, a defeat that had plenty to do with Mahomes playing his worst half of football in a second-half meltdown against the Bengals.
Mahomes grew from all those moments in ways that weren’t that visible when this regular season began. There was so much attention paid to the trade that sent Hill to Miami and all the blockbuster personnel moves made by the rest of the AFC West that it seemed as if the Chiefs were more vulnerable than ever. That was the first mistake made by all the doubters. They couldn’t see that Mahomes is usually at his best when others are predicting his downfall.
Mahomes became a better quarterback this season. He trusted the offense more, melded a variety of new faces at the skill positions and became less dependent on his magical improvisational skills. He also listened to all the skepticism around him and used that as fuel. As Mahomes said, “I wouldn’t necessarily say we were counted out, but there were a lot more critics than there was from previous years of my being here. (But) I told them at the beginning of the year, as long as Andy Reid is coaching, we’re going to have success on offense. … To go from a team that wasn’t majority picked to win the AFC West to winning the Super Bowl, that speaks to the guys we have in that locker room.”
The Chiefs actually did claim their third championship in franchise history because of the players around Mahomes. He displayed the requisite grit — he aggravated that ankle sprain late in the second quarter but managed to continue playing in the second half — and his teammates rallied around him. Mahomes spent part of halftime imploring those younger players to enjoy the moment, to not get distracted by the enormity of this stage. The message he kept selling was that this team had worked all season for this opportunity, so they should go play with the same energy and passion that earned them the AFC championship in the first place.
This contest easily could’ve gotten away from Kansas City. The Eagles led 24-14 at halftime, and one of those Kansas City scores came after Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton returned a fumble by Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts 36 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles usually put teams away when they have that kind of momentum. This time, they learned that Mahomes has mastered the art of changing the entire tone of a game in a matter of minutes.
Mahomes opened the third quarter by leading Kansas City on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Pacheco. Mahomes also threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter — one to Kadarius Toney and the other to Skyy Moore — on plays that resulted from the Philadelphia defenders blowing coverages. Finally, it was a Mahomes 26-yard scramble that set up the game-winning points — a 27-yard field goal by Harrison Butker with 8 seconds remaining.
There were plenty of reasons for Mahomes to struggle in the second half, especially with that injury. Instead, he did what he’s done throughout his brief career — he delivered.
“He grew up in a locker room, he’s seen the greats, and he strives to be the greatest,” Reid said of Mahomes. “He wants to be the greatest player ever. That’s what he wants to do and he goes about it humbly. There’s no bragging. He could stand up here and give you these stats that are incredible, but he’s never going to do that. So we appreciate that. And when it’s time for the guys around him to raise their game, he helps them with that. The great quarterbacks make everyone around them better, including the head coach.”
Mahomes now becomes the only quarterback in NFL history to win two league MVPs and two Super Bowls in the first six years of his career. He’s also the first player to win MVP and a Super Bowl in the same year since Kurt Warner did it with the Rams back in 1999. There are literally so many feats Mahomes has accomplished that it’s becoming difficult to keep track. He now has a chance to join Troy Aikman and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to win three Super Bowls in their first seven years in the league.
We all know how hard it is for teams to repeat as champions, as no team has done that since the 2004 New England Patriots. The Chiefs learned this first-hand in the 2020 campaign with that loss to Tampa. However, if this season has proven us anything about Mahomes, it’s that it’s becoming foolish to bet against him doing anything. The more the odds are stacked against him, the more likely it is that he’ll keep blowing our minds.
Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter.