It had been 50 years since the Kansas City Chiefs played in a Super Bowl, so why would anyone think winning one would be easy?
Oh yes, there was a good reason Chiefs players rocked snow angels in the confetti piled on the field at Hard Rock Stadium. Relief was seeping from their pores after three comeback postseason victories culminated with Sunday’s 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
Down 10 points with less than seven minutes to play, their big-play offense subdued by the 49ers staunch defense – the Chiefs completed just one pass for more than 25 yards in the first 50 minutes – they finally let loose behind Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and scored 21 unanswered points.
“I had to grab myself,” Mahomes said on NFL Network. “I didn’t have the third quarter that I wanted, but I knew that if I kept fighting, I knew the defense was going to get stops. It’s amazing, it really is, to be in that situation, to be down 10 with like seven minutes left and to find a way to get a win, it’s amazing.”
No one should have been surprised. First, the Chiefs caught a break when New England’s home loss to the Dolphins earned them a first-round bye. Then they made their own, coming back from 24-0 to beat the Houston Texans to reach the AFC Championship Game, fighting back against the Tennessee Titans to reach the Super Bowl.
In the process, the Chiefs became the first time in Super Bowl history to wipe out three 10-point leads on the way to a league championship.
“It’s this team. We have heart,” Mahomes said. “Coach [Andy Reid] pushes us to be the best people we can be and never give up. I’ve been waiting to say it my whole life: I’m going to Disney World.”
At this point, there really isn’t much let to say about Mahomes other than he’s a comet blazing through the NFL’s stratosphere. Whatever self-assurance the Chiefs and their fans had about the game was based in their confidence Mahomes would figure out a way to get things done.
“He doesn’t press,” Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz told The Athletic. “He doesn’t get nervous. He’s got insane confidence in himself and in the rest of us.”
With Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees nearing the end of their Hall of Fame careers, the path is clear for Mahomes to become the game’s dominate quarterback.
And he’s still a baby, just 24, the youngest QB to be named Super Bowl MVP. He and Brady are the only two to do before hitting 25. And at 24 years and 139 days, he is also the youngest player to win a Super Bowl and the league’s MVP (in 2018).
“It’s like watching Denzel [Washington] in a movie. It’s like watching Le Bron James in the playoffs,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu told ESPN. “He has that spark. For him to be that young and to find the confidence to do what he did against a special defense, that tells you everything you need to know about that man.”
Mahomes completed 26 of 42 passes for 286 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, two passing, one rushing. It was not all lollypops and rainbows, however. He threw two interceptions to join Brady (Super Bowl XLIX) and Terry Bradshaw (XIV) as the only QBs to be Super Bowl MVP after throwing multiple interceptions.
“I knew we weren’t in the ideal situation. I believed in my defense to get stops, and they did,” Mahomes said. “Then the guys kept believing in me and kept making plays downfield, and we found a way to win.”
And why wouldn’t they believe? Mahomes rallied the Chiefs to wins in all five games in which they trailed by at least 10 this season – the most in league history.
“This team never bends, never folds,” corner Bashaud Breeland told NFL.com. “We were down 24-0 and came back. So, when we were down, we knew all we had to do was stay the course and see it through.”
Did you know only three teams had fought off double-digit deficits in fourth quarters to win the Super Bowl over the past 20 seasons? The first two were the 2014 Patriots against Seattle and the 2016 Patriots against Atlanta.
The play that finally set the Chiefs free was a 44-yard completion to Tyreek Hill on a third-and-15. That set up the touchdown that cut the 49ers’ lead to 20-17. Next was a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard scoring run by Damien Williams that gave Kansas City the lead. It was Williams who then iced the game with a 38-yard score.
“He’s so special. I’m so proud of him. I hope he stays in Kansas City his whole career,” tight end Travis Kelce told ESPN about Mahomes. “He’s a better person than he is a player, and he’s a hell of a player, and now he’s a world champ.”
Perhaps the best part of it all was the comeback finally gave Chiefs coach Andy Reid his first league championship. He’d come into the game sixth all-time in coaching victories, but the five men above him had won 23 league championships.
“I’m really excited about it,” Reid said. “You get one, you want to go get another one. But we’ve got to backpedal for about a minute and enjoy this one and [then] we’ll get busy on the next one.”
Is Reid a Hall of Famer? Consider this: Buffalo’s Marv Levy is the only coach in the Super Bowl era to make it to the Hall of Fame without a championship, but he did take the Bills to four straight championship games in the 1990s. Reid won his title in just his second try.
“We wanted to get him that trophy because he deserved it,” Mahomes said. “The work he puts in day in and day out … I don’t think he sleeps. I try to beat him in and I never can. He is someone that works harder than anyone I’ve ever known, and he deserved [this]. I’m glad I could get that trophy for him.
“He’s one of the greatest coaches of all time. I don’t think he needed the Lombardi Trophy to prove that. But just to do that, it puts all doubt aside.”