By Peter Brennan
It’s been 50 years since the Kansas City Chiefs last won a Super Bowl.
The Chiefs unleashed that half-century of frustration in a frenetic fourth quarter that finally expunged their fans; frustration.
Patrick Mahomes was ordinary for the game’s first 50 minutes but once again magical in the last 10, leading three touchdown drives in the final 6 minutes 32 seconds, to deliver the Chiefs their first championship since the 1969 season.
Just as he did three weeks ago, when they trailed the Houston Texans by 24 points, and two weeks ago, when they trailed the Tennessee Titans by 10, Mahomes spun a double-digit deficit into a double-digit victory.
“He seen it in some guys’ eyes, they were getting down, including myself,” said receiver Tyreek Hill, whose 44-yard reception on third-and-15 from the Chiefs’ 35-yard line propelled the comeback. “I was like, ‘Man, how are we going to pull this off?’ And he was like: ’10, you’ve got to believe, brother. Like the same faith you’ve had all of your career, you’ve got to believe right now. It’s going to happen, man. I can feel it.’ He brought the guys together, and you saw what happened.”
During the regular season, San Francisco allowed 169.2 passing yards per game, the fewest in the league since 2009. Mahomes, selected as the game’s most valuable player, nearly matched that total in the fourth quarter, when he threw for 141 yards and two touchdowns, to Travis Kelce and Damien Williams. Five times this season the Chiefs have trailed by at least 10 points, and all five times they won.
“Doesn’t matter what the score is,” Kelce said. “We’ve got Pat Mahomes. We’ve got an unbelievable defense and they’ll put their foot in the ground against anybody.”
At 24, Mahomes is the second-youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, behind Ben Roethlisberger, who was 23 when he won in the 2005 season. He is also the third African-American quarterback to win, joining Doug Williams and Russell Wilson, and the youngest player to have won an MVP Award, in the 2018 season, and a Super Bowl. “There’s several guys that could be the face of the NFL,” Mahomes said, adding, “I just try to be the best Patrick Mahomes I can be and try to win football games with the guys that I have around me.”
It was an atypical Super Bowl for other reasons — the halftime show was orchestrated by Jay-Z, summoned to allay concerns about managing social justice expressions, and the New England Patriots, who had appeared in four of the last five, were absent.
By early in the fourth quarter, the 49ers had largely silenced Mahomes. They harassed him into throwing two interceptions. Before Sunday, he had not been picked off even once across his previous four playoff games.
But then the boulder fell atop the 49ers, one Chiefs touchdown after another, one crucial defensive stand after another, until the partisan Kansas City crowd hugged and danced in the aisles and the Gatorade bath drenched Reid and cannons fired red-and-gold confetti in the shape of the Lombardi Trophy.
Mahomes’s artistry fueled the comeback. But the origins of the victory are rooted in two calls from the first half, when Reid went for it, twice, on fourth down in the red zone. Those decisions produced 10 points and further reinforced Reid’s acumen, his recognition that the reward in that situation far outweighed the risk.
“I mean, we’re not here to play around,” fullback Anthony Sherman said. “We’re here to win this thing and do it on our shoulders. For a coach to be able to say to his team, ‘Listen, I am going to rely on you and trust in you guys, go get it done’ — we got it done for him.”