MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Forty-five minutes after he won the biggest game of his career and cemented his (early) legacy as the brightest young star in NFL history, Patrick Mahomes was on the back of a golf cart with his longtime girlfriend, Brittany Matthews, reading the stat sheet from Super Bowl LIV.
His line from the 31-20 victory: 26-of-42 passing for 286 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with nine rushes for 29 yards and another score. Within that was captaining a fourth-quarter comeback that saw the Chiefs score 21 unanswered points, which was good enough for Mahomes to earn Super Bowl MVP and the reason for this current transportation.
He rode onto theat Hard Rock Stadium to chants of MVP from Chiefs fans who stuck around after the game — they’ve been sticking around for 50 years for this moment, anyway — to soak up every last bit of this.
Mahomes’s family made this ride with him, first to the FOX set and later to NFL Network. Pat Mahomes Sr. mostly stayed out of the way while gripping the game ball his son handed him for safe-keeping until he could get back to the locker room. Randi, his mother, wore her usual white Chiefs jersey with bedazzled “15” numbers and the custom nameplate reading “QB PRODUCER.” Kansas City fans were trying to get Patrick’s attention, but he was focused on the interview, so a man in a red Mahomes jersey turned his attention to Randi.
“Randi! I love you!” the man shouted to the mother standing behind her son’s left shoulder. “Thanks for bringing us back!”
The half-century climb back to the top of the NFL mountain could be traced back to a pre-draft meeting in 2017 when Andy Reid emerged from the room rather pleased with what the quarterback from Texas Tech did on the board. Or when then-general manager John Dorsey Alex Smith had just turned in a Pro Bowl season. Or when Brett Veach, the current general manager who Sunday night wore a Hank Stram-inspired Kansas City blazer, noticed veterans at the 2017 training camp actually paying attention to the third-string offense to watch what the rookie quarterback was doing.on draft day to rocket from 27th overall to 10th to nab Mahomes just months after starting quarterback
“That is the golden child,” said receiver Sammy Watkins, who came to Kansas City and shook off his “bust” label with Mahomes as his quarterback.
“You can do anything” with Mahomes, fullback Anthony Sherman said simply.
He is so good and his game so legendary that San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan ignored conventional (really, basic) football wisdom by opting to be passive after the two-minute warning in the first half. Shanahan could have called a timeout with 1:47 left on the clock to force a Chiefs punt, but instead let the clock tick and didn’t get the ball back until there was less than a minute remaining. The failure to have that time to get at least three points proved costly late in the fourth when the 49ers trailed 24-20.
“The last thing we’re going to do there is allow them to get the ball with three timeouts left, especially with their quarterback and the offensive speed, and go down and score before half,” Shanahan defiantly said after the game.
Yes, the Chiefs had to come back from double-digit deficits in their earlier two postseason matches. But there was never an extended period of time in those games where Mahomes looked objectively bad. With 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mahomes had put together the worst game of his career. He was 18-of-29 for just 172 yards, three sacks and two interceptions.
“The first one was kind of, I was supposed to sprint out to the right and when I sprint out to the right I kind of move that linebacker out of the way,” Mahomes said when I asked him to explain his two picks, the first of which was perhaps the worst throw from either quarterback Sunday night. “And so I tried to sprint out to the right and I think it was Dee Ford who set the edge really hard and I stopped. And when I stopped the linebacker stopped and I knew it right as I threw the ball that it wasn’t going to be a good thing. I hit him right between the 5 and the 4. That’s never good.
“The second one I just tried to force it. Tyreek was open early and I kind of got to him late. I tried to throw it behind him to slow him down because I saw that safety driving on the front. Really I just need to trust him, put it on his body and let him take the hit because it’s a tough game like that. He tried to make a play on it and it got tipped up and the guy made a good play. For me, I have the mindset that I’m going to keep firing it. Coach Reid tells me that after every interception. Keep firing.”
Mahomes was so bad for the first 18 minutes of the second half that he was just happy his teammates continued to believe in him. But that’s the sort of trust he’s earned already in his short time in the league. Punter Dustin Colquitt, a 15-year veteran, knew the team had something special in the regular season finale in 2017 when Mahomes started in place of a resting Alex Smith and shrugged off would-be tacklers like Ben Roethlisberger once did.
When Mahomes threw an interception seemingly at every training camp practice for a week in 2018, the team didn’t panic. Reid wanted him to get it out of his system in camp and know what he could and couldn’t do in the regular season. Then Mahomes went out and won the NFL MVP.
And, honestly, keeping the faith in Mahomes couldn’t be that tough for his teammates when, in the past two playoff games, the Chiefs had outscored opponents 37-14 in come-from-behind victories.
Though it’s been a fait accompli for at least six weeks, Lamar Jackson officially on Saturday night, ending Mahomes’s year-long reign as the most valuable player in the league. One day after he was dethroned, Mahomes became the first quarterback in NFL history to win an NFL MVP, a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP by the age of 25.
It cannot be questioned at this point that Mahomes is the best player in the National Football League. If Chiefs owner Clark Hunt knows what’s good for him, he’ll work to sign Mahomes to a long-term extension this offseason that will approach $40 million per year. It— by far — and it must be done this offseason before Mahomes has the chance to earn even more money with his 2020 season.
By the time Mahomes made it back into the locker room it had been more than an hour since he had won the game. He had just experienced a small scare as the overcrowded golf cart nearly toppled over as it turned the corner of at the northwest tunnel. He walked around the locker room hugging and dapping up his teammates, giving something between a grunt and a yell when bumping chests with his fellow champions as he gripped the game ball, now in his possession, in his left hand.
At 11:31 p.m., with his game jersey safely in his bag, Mahomes wrapped himself in a towel and finally headed for the showers. His ankles remained taped. His legacy, secured.