In a city where the house always wins, Patrick Mahomes is starting to make his case for such reliability.
The Kansas City quarterback worked through early struggles, yet another deficit at halftime of a Super Bowl, an awful interception to start the third quarter, and all of the rest of the pressures and pitfalls that seemed to be standing between him and his march toward becoming the greatest of all time this entire season.
Then he easily tossed a football 3 yards to Mecole Hardman Jr. for a touchdown with three seconds left in overtime to beat San Francisco, 25-22, in Super Bowl LVIII.
Hardman was asked how much confidence he and his teammates have in Mahomes.
“How much confidence is there in the world?” he asked back.
The win gave six-year starter Mahomes a third title in the last five years and made him the first to go back-to-back since Tom Brady did it after the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Mahomes said last week that we should check with him in 15 years to see if he was getting close to Brady’s record of seven titles. At this rate, by then, he might have zipped past him.
As for now, he he’ll have to settle for a residency as the game’s best quarterback. There are no understudies.
The game lived up to the star power and glitz that this city and the peripheral characters around the contest brought to it. With 1:53 remaining in regulation, Jake Moody kicked a 53-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 19-16 lead, but Mahomes simply brought Kansas City down the field — thanks in part to a 23-yard pass to Travis Kelce — to allow his kicker, Harrison Butker, to bang in a 20-yarder with three seconds left in the fourth quarter.
That set up the second overtime Super Bowl in history, but the first with new rules that dictate that both teams would get a chance to possess the football.
San Francisco won the toss, elected to receive and went ahead 22-19 on a 27-yard field goal with 7:22 left. That gave the ball back to Mahomes with a chance to win the game. Tough odds for the 49ers.
He converted a fourth-and-1 with an 8-yard run that, had he come up short, would have ended the game. He scrambled 19 yards on third-and-1 to reach the 13. He hit Kelce with a short pass that went 7 yards to the 3 and then found Hardman — the receiver the Jets couldn’t find a use for and traded back to Kansas City this season — for the game-winner.
It will stand as Mahomes’ most amazing feat. For another year, anyway.
He’s already making plans for his next act.
“I’m gonna celebrate tonight, I’m gonna celebrate at the parade, and then I’m gonna do whatever I can to be back in this game next year and try to go for that three-peat,” Mahomes said. “It’s an ongoing thing in the NFL. I think Tom said it best: Once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you’re not the champion anymore. You have to come back with that same mentality. I learned from guys like that that have been the greatest of all time at the top of the level, and so that’s my mindset.”
Like most Vegas successes, this one took some luck. A late third-quarter punt by Kansas City glanced off the heel of 49ers blocker Darrell Luter Jr., forcing returner Ray-Ray McCloud to try to scoop it up. He failed, and Kansas City’s Jaylen Watson was there to recover it at the 16. On the very next play, Mahomes hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a touchdown to give KC its first lead, 13-10.
Then, early in the fourth quarter, after San Francisco went ahead on a 10-yard pass from Brock Purdy to Jauan Jennings, Kansas City’s Leo Chenal blocked the extra point. The 49ers led 16-13, but that point wound up being the difference between a regulation decision and overtime.
“I know you get fatigue of the team sometimes, of one team winning, but we try to enjoy it and just enjoy the moment that we have together and enjoy just kind of what we can do every single day to bring the best out of each other,” Mahomes said.
In other words, tough. Get used to it. As if we aren’t already.
The way the teams came out of their locker rooms told the early story.
First the doors swung open and the 49ers walked through as if they’d just made it past the bouncers at the club. With their trademark boombox laying down a path for them through the tunnel toward the field, they were bopping, grooving, strutting and having a grand old time, with offensive tackle Trent Williams and wide receiver Deebo Samuel leading the way. They looked as if they were heading someplace fun.
They looked ready for Vegas.
Then the 49ers’ opponent made its way from the other corner of Allegiant Stadium. Kansas City was stone-faced. Somber. KC would have called it an “all-business” approach, but it seemed a little too stiff for the occasion. Almost miserable.
And as the game progressed, the eventual champions started to lose their cool, especially in the first quarter, when Kelce shoved coach Andy Reid on the sideline after Isiah Pacheco’s fumble in the red zone. It seemed as if all that pressure to repeat, all the weight from the millions of new fans they had found in the past few months thanks to Kelce’s relationship with Taylor Swift, were weighing them down.
Mahomes threw an ugly interception, his first of this postseason, and very few things seemed to be going the way of the defending champs.
But luck can change quickly in this sport and in this city.
So Viva Kansas City.
Viva the sport of football for putting on a show that won’t be forgotten.
What happened in Vegas on Sunday night isn’t staying here. It’s going to be remembered and retold everywhere for a very long time.
Players with multiple Super Bowl MVPs:
Tom Brady 5
Patrick Mahomes 3
Joe Montana 3
Eli Manning 2
Terry Bradshaw 2
Bart Starr 2