MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – One of the great joys of being Patrick Mahomes is that, at every moment of the day, you expect to be Patrick Mahomes. All the hype, all the pregame chatter, all the talent on the field, all the film study, all those millions of people watching, and the Super Bowl really came down to one man and what he assumed he would do. Even when his Chiefs trailed the 49ers 20-10 in the fourth quarter, Mahomes expected to be Mahomes, and then he was, and that was that: Chiefs 31, 49ers 20.
Sure, it looked like Nick Bosa and the 49ers' defensive front rattled Mahomes, forcing him into a fumble and two interceptions. But that’s not how Mahomes saw it. He processes plays instantly and applies fixes immediately.
When he threw the first interception, he made a bad decision and he knew it. When he threw the second, on a pass that was behind Tyreek Hill, he went to the sideline and explained that he knew Hill would get drilled as soon as the ball arrived, and so he threw it a little behind him to protect him. When the Chiefs had only 10 points at halftime of the Super Bowl, Mahomes was calmly in coach Andy Reid’s ear, asking for certain plays to get the offense in a rhythm—nothing that different, just a few tweaks to get the machine humming.
And one of the great joys of having Patrick Mahomes on your team is that, at every moment of a game, you expect him to be Patrick Mahomes. With 7:13 remaining, the Chiefs faced third-and-15 on their own 35. They trailed by 10. The situation was dire. But in his seat at Hard Rock Stadium, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach thought: The 49ers will sit back in coverage, and Patrick will find somebody. They did, and Mahomes did: He threw one of those deep missiles that only he seems to throw, right to a waiting Hill. The Chiefs scored the next 21 points.
Afterward, Hill talked about the Chiefs’ loaded receiving corps before adding, “Our job is so easy, man. We got the MVP quarterback.” Fellow receiver Sammy Watkins said, “That’s the golden child, man. My job is easy. My job is to run routes and be in the right place, and let Pat do everything.” Veach said, “It doesn’t hurt to have the best player in the NFL. I mean, he’s special. It’s what he does. It’s expected now.”
And Mahomes? He said from the moment he was drafted that he wanted to win the Lamar Hunt trophy as AFC champion for the Hunt family that owns the team, and he wanted to win a Super Bowl for Reid. Imagine winning your first Super Bowl and saying that. Imagine saying that and having everybody in your organization believe it is genuine. Mahomes speaks like he plays: quickly but calmly, a pitter-patter of exactly what you want from your quarterback.
Reid has been a fantastic head coach for 21 years. He would have won a Super Bowl years ago if he had Mahomes, and he would not have won this one if he didn’t. The position matters that much, and Mahomes is just so breathtakingly good.
This entire game was about Mahomes, even before he decided it. With 1:45 left in the first half, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan refused to use one of his three timeouts before a Chiefs punt, a mistake he made because Mahomes spooked him: “The last thing we were going to do was allow them to get the ball with three timeouts, especially with their quarterback and offensive speed, to go in there and score before the half.”
Shanahan tried to shorten the game to keep the ball from Mahomes because he knew how quickly the Chiefs can score. Eventually, the Chiefs did just that. Yes, Shanahan made mistakes. But he was trying to build a Super Bowl win around a good-but-not-great quarterback. Reid did that for most of his career. He will never have to do it again.
Veach said afterward, “I said this before the first game of the season last year: 'If we had the No. 1 pick, we would have taken him No. 1.' "
And if you had every quarterback in NFL history, you would … should we say that? Is it fair? Probably not. So let’s say this: Three years after he turned pro, Mahomes has an NFL MVP award, a Super Bowl win and a Super Bowl MVP. No other quarterback in history accomplished so much, so soon. Mahomes now gets to play the rest of his career without anybody asking when he will win the Super Bowl. He will probably win a second before anybody can ask when he will win a second.
We are going to watch Mahomes the way we watched Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for all those years. He will be appointment television, year after year, except Mahomes is just a more visually appealing player. Some things will change. His receivers won’t always be this good. He probably won’t always be quite so gracious with the media. Stardom changes everybody at least a little, and Mahomes is going to be the biggest star in the NFL.
As Mahomes’s mom watched his press conference in a sparkling custom jersey and his family rode in a golf cart, the quarterback who had never been here before acted like he expected to be here again. The 49ers hit Mahomes a lot but never really got to him; the accomplishment hit him but didn’t get to him, either. Mahomes went through the locker room, hugging teammates and smiling. He got to be Patrick Mahomes for them, and now they’re all champions.
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