MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Maybe Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes goes on to play in many Super Bowls, which at this point seems a sure thing. But, it’s unlikely any of those will top Super Bowl LIV.
Mahomes, after having a most frustrating game for three-plus quarters, rallied the Chiefs with two touchdowns in the last half of the fourth period to give the Chiefs a lead. They would go on to a 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers for their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
Mahomes was pressured much of the game, and the 49ers, until the latter portion of the game, neutralized Kansas City’s speed at wide receiver. But the 49ers could only contain Mahomes for so long, and the quarterback’s burgeoning reputation as perhaps the best quarterback ever received a major boost. He finished 26-of-42 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Mahomes also had a rushing TD on his way to winning MVP.
"He kept firing, that's what he did," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "The guys around him just believed in him. We all did, all the coaches likewise. ... We knew it would be a close game and it felt that way. We knew there would be challenges to battle through and nobody lost their poise, they just kept rolling so I was proud of everybody there."
Mahomes’ season seemed lost one other time this season, on the night of Oct. 17. While successfully executing a quarterback sneak on a fourth-down play in a Thursday night game against the Broncos in Denver, Mahomes’ right kneecap was dislocated. Tight end Travis Kelce described the gruesome nature of the injury: “His knee didn't even look like a knee. It was all out of whack. I couldn't even describe it."
Mahomes’ injury led the Chiefs to think the worst about where their season was headed without the NFL’s reigning MVP.
But the dislocated kneecap was quickly popped back into place by the Chiefs’ medical staff, the speed of that procedure perhaps shaving weeks off the time Mahomes would have to miss.
The Chiefs beat the Broncos that night and won one of their two subsequent games with veteran journeyman Matt Moore replacing the injured Mahomes.
Mahomes returned as good as ever in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs lost, but they would go on from that point to win nine consecutive games, including three in the playoffs, as they advanced to and won the Super Bowl.
Mahomes had two spectacular playoff games. His 27-yard touchdown run late in the first half to give the Chiefs the lead for good in the AFC Championship Game against the Titans will be remembered for generations in Kansas City. He led the Chiefs in rushing both games and passed for 615 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
His regular season wasn’t as spectacular as 2018, when Mahomes became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 50 touchdown passes and more than 5,000 yards. But he still threw for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns and he cut his interceptions from 12 in 2018 to five this past regular season.
The Chiefs scored about one touchdown per game less than they did last season, but the reasons were many. Mahomes dealt with injuries all season: In addition to the dislocated knee cap, he sprained an ankle early in the year and bruised his passing hand later. The Chiefs went through a rash of offensive injuries that kept star wide receiver Tyreek Hill out for four games and forced the Chiefs to start five different offensive line combinations.
“It really put in perspective how hard it is to go out there week by week and put up numbers and get wins,” Mahomes said. “You know it’s a struggle in this league. Teams are coming with their best effort, playing us really hard.
“I realized this year that it’s better just to find ways to win rather than try to put up all these numbers.”
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy listed some ways Mahomes was a better player this season than last.
“He’s learning how to win when things aren’t perfect," Bieniemy said. “He’s making plays with his feet in the pocket. He’s making a call at the line of scrimmage and giving us an opportunity to pick up pressure from a late-rotating safety.
“Don’t get me wrong: You always want to see those games where we can have 400, 500 yards passing and a lot of points. But you have to know how to win when things aren’t perfect.”
Mahomes won’t be 25 until September, after the 2020 season has started. That’s one reason the Chiefs could just be starting their run of Super Bowl appearances.
All are under contract at least through 2021, except Jones, who is a potential unrestricted free agent this year. The Chiefs could keep him off the free-agent market by naming him as their franchise player.
Mahomes, having finished his third NFL season, is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. He will likely emerge as the NFL’s highest-paid player, but that’s a price the Chiefs would happily pay.