LAS VEGAS — With the thinnest supporting cast he has ever had on offense, in what has been the least impressive season of his career, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was still great enough to stand atop the NFL.
Mahomes overcame the many deficiencies around him to beat the 49ers 25-22 in overtime in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. It’s his third championship, making him one of just five quarterbacks in NFL history to do that.
He gutted out a game in which the Chiefs struggled throughout to lead them to a game-tying field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter and lift them to victory on their first possession of overtime.
The 49ers got the ball first in overtime and made it to the Chiefs’ 9-yard line before kicking a field goal, which set up an always scary scenario: Mahomes with the ball and a chance to win.
In the first overtime Super Bowl since new the rules were implemented, the Chiefs needed a field goal to prolong the game or a touchdown to take it.
When they needed it most, Mahomes caught fire. He bailed them out of a must-have fourth-and-one from their own 34 by scrambling for a first down. He picked up another third-and-six. Soon enough, the Chiefs were in field-goal range and playing with house money.
Mahomes wouldn’t settle. He scrambled again on third-and-one, this time getting 19 yards and pushing the Chiefs to the cusp of a championship at the 49ers’ 13-yard line.
Nothing was going to stop him then. Mahomes ended the game on a three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman with three seconds left in overtime as the Chiefs’ sideline poured onto the field and confetti flurried from the rafters.
That’s what an elite quarterback does. He doesn’t need everything around him to be perfect. His team will have a shot as long as he’s standing.
It’s the most painful part of the Bears regretfully bypassing him in the 2017 draft when they took Mitch Trubisky.
Mahomes finished 34 of 46 for 333 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception for a 99.1 passer rating.
The 49ers threatened him as much as they could, led by a brilliant performance from running back Christian McCaffrey. He ran 22 times for 80 yards and caught eight passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Brock Purdy was underwhelming, but played a clean game with 22-for-38 passing, 255 yards and a touchdown.
It didn’t matter that one of Mahomes’ most dependable teammates, tight end Travis Kelce, melted down on the sideline and bumped coach Andy Reid. It didn’t matter that running back Isaiah Pacheco fumbled away a scoring opportunity at the 9-yard line. It didn’t matter that, as they have all season, his receivers dropped passes.
Mahomes offset all of that.
Very little went his way until late in the third quarter, when his offensive line lapsed again and he threw incomplete as he scrambled for space. The Chiefs punted from their own 35-yard line on the next play, but the ball deflected off 49ers special teamer Darrell Luter’s foot as he was blocking to set up the return, and the Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson recovered it at the 49ers’ 16-yard line.
Mahomes wasn’t about to waste the chance. He promptly hit Marquez Valdez-Scantling in the end zone on an effortless pass to give the Chiefs their first lead at 13-10.
At that point, it was difficult to imagine Mahomes letting victory slip away. He’s done this too many times, rallying from 10 down in the third quarter for his first Super Bowl win against the 49ers five years ago and coming back from a 10-point deficit at halftime to beat the Eagles last year. There’s always this sense of inevitability with him, regardless of how bleak it looks.
The 49ers answered with a touchdown to retake the lead at 16-13 — Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal blocked the extra point — early in the fourth quarter, but there was no stopping Mahomes. He drove the Chiefs to the 6-yard line for a field goal on the next drive to tie it and remained relentless
Kelce came around eventually and had a big second half and overtime with eight catches for 92 yards in the second half after a one-yard catch and nothing else in the first. He made one of the biggest plays of the game with a 22-yard catch on third-and-seven to get the Chiefs to the 49ers’ 11-yard line with 10 seconds left and give them a chance to go for the win in regulation.
But he’ll have some explaining to do for getting physical with his 65-year-old head coach after Pacheco’s fumble.
This went beyond a heat-of-the-moment outburst. It was inexcusable.
Reid wasn’t looking when Kelce made contact and wobbled before regaining his balance and telling Kelce to get away as running back Jerick McKinnon redirected him toward the bench. Kelce paced the sideline angrily before going back to hug Reid.
Like the game itself, it wasn’t pretty but ended well for the Chiefs.
Mahomes carried them yet again. And this won’t be the last time.
This piece is reprinted from the original by our partner, The Chicago Sun-Times.