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The inevitability of Patrick Mahomes
There was never a doubt. The greatest player in the sport found a way because he always finds a way.
When the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles broke for halftime — the MVP quarterback’s ankle busted again — we all did the quick math. Ten-point deficit. Philly’s renowned pass rush. The fact that Jalen Hurts was undaunted by the Super Bowl glow. No amount of Toradol could numb this lower leg enough.
For the Chiefs to win, all along, Patrick Mahomes needed to be special. Now, he was on the bench writhing in agonizing pain.
Our mistake? We examined Super Bowl LVII through a scope of convention. How we’ve always watched this game. And with Mahomes, with the greatest player of our time, convention is thrown out the window. This is an athletic competitor who has smashed logic his entire life. Everyone who knows Mahomes best can pinpoint the moment they realized this is someone who doesn’t follow the same rules as other humans.
Friend Coleman Patterson remembers Mahomes using a wood bat in high school baseball. One summer tourney, he told him he was going to “hit lefty” for fun. Mahomes waltzed right up to the plate and hit a bomb. “He makes the impossible look normal,” Patterson told me a few years ago.
Another time in high school, Mahomes was staying over at his godfather’s house. LaTroy Hawkins was a teammate of Pat Sr. with the Minnesota Twins. Hawkins asked if Pat Jr. wanted to play pingpong… and his mind was blown. The kid was every bit as good as MLB player LaMonte Wade Jr., whose own mother played competitive pingpong. Pat Jr. could “finesse you” or straight-up “bully you” at the table. “Slamming and serving like 10 feet away from the damn table,” Hawkins said. “Making the ball curve. It’s a humble experience playing against him.”
Out on the Hollytree golf course in Tyler, Texas — 310 yards away from the hole — Mahomes drove a ball over the treeline at the 10th hole and dinged the top of someone’s cart. Those other golfers were pissed, until they realized who it was.
His hypnotic anticipation is rooted in basketball. Mahomes loved to bait double- and triple-teams. Controlling defenders like a puppeteer — whisking them this way and that way — he’d then knife passes to the right teammate at the right time. One pass still lives in Whitehouse H.S. lore. While falling down, coach Brent Kelley recalls Mahomes slinging the basketball the length of the court and hitting a teammate in-stride for a layup. Most impressive? This game was played on the Tuesday after his football team was eliminated the prior Friday. Mahomes practiced once.
Even when he joined some buddies at an axe-throwing joint in Nashville, Mahomes lost the first game, got pissed, and ran the table. He needed that little trophy that came with first place.
This is what he does.
He has morphed the quarterback position into a blend of sports and, most importantly, Patrick Mahomes always finds a way.
As the quarterback jogged back onto the State Farm Stadium field, there wasn’t any doubt in his mind. He said he didn’t even receive treatment for the ankle. No Toradol, no injections. Just Mahomes being Mahomes, completing more superhuman feats. The legend continued to grow with the Chiefs’ 38-35 Super Bowl triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. Mahomes threw for three touchdowns and gutted out a 26-yard run with 2 minutes to go. I wouldn’t blame anyone who sees a permanent stain on this game. After letting defensive backs grab and tug much of the night, officials flagged Eagles cornerback James Bradberry for a weak third-down hold that allowed KC to bleed the clock and kick the game-winning field goal. The game was littered with more “What’s a catch?” controversy. All fans ask for is consistency and this officiating crew flip-flopped more than a spineless politician.
We have enough room in our brains to process both truths.
Yes, Eagles fans should be irate. Yes, Mahomes and the Chiefs deserve every bit of praise they’ll receive all offseason long. In their flawless second half, the Chiefs had the opportunity to gain 230 yards from scrimmage. They gained 221 with the only nine yards not acquired while kneeling to set up the game-winning field goal.
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Andy Reid’s playcalling dizzied the Eagles. The subtlety and precision of his offense is unparalleled. Everybody always knows Travis Kelce is Priority No. 1, yet Kelce manages to get open on-demand because of the nuance within the scheme. A short motion draws an advantageous matchup. The Chiefs incorporated a healthy mix of running backs Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. And inside the red zone, the 64-year-old Reid bullied the 40-year-old Jonathan Gannon.
Kadarius Toney hit the brakes and fanned out wide for a third-and-3 touchdown to give KC the lead.
Skyy Moore, on third and goal, did the exact same thing on the other side to extend KC’s lead.
This, of course, came after Toney’s thrilling 65-yard punt return. GM Brett Veach deserves praise this Monday, too. His creativity in building this roster was again on full display.
Moore is a rookie, a 54th overall pick. Toney was acquired in a midseason trade. It always pays to find a veteran with financial incentive so JuJu Smith-Schuster was inked to a one-year, $3.76 million contract. Smith-Schuster was outstanding all season and caught seven passes for 53 yards in Glendale. The Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill and spread their resources around to evolve as a juggernaut. Emphasizing the offensive line also paid off. Right tackle Andrew Wylie made Haason Reddick disappear. A defense that entered the night with 78 sacks in 19 games — 4.1 per game — finished the Super Bowl with zero, zilch, nothing.
Of course, Mahomes had a lot to do with goose egg, too.
The quarterback is the one who makes this entire operation go. He was a wizard.
This damaged ankle forced the quarterback to trust his eyes. While the Chiefs’ offensive line struggled in their 31-9 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two years ago, Mahomes didn’t get nearly enough blame himself. He was responsible for many of those 497 yards before sacks and pass attempts. Too often, he reverted to a Russell Westbrook-type on the field, dribbling… dribbling… dribbling himself into oblivion, instead of planting that back foot and getting the ball out. And he knew it. He made a point to correct this part of his game.
You could hear the exasperation in Kurt Warner’s voice earlier this season discussing Mahomes. Within Reid’s scheme, receivers were breaking open but Mahomes was so physically gifted that he tended to stray into freestyle mode. As the calendar flipped, Mahomes became a more disciplined quarterback. Trading away Tyreek Hill helped this aspect of his development. Mahomes became less apt to wish and hope and pray Hill was freestyling right with him on an extended play. And exactly as Brett Favre often performed better through serious injuries, Mahomes was especially forced to use his mind instead of his legs this postseason.
The halftime scene wasn’t nearly as dramatic as we expected. As Rihanna held a concert on the NFL’s sorry excuse for a playing surface, Mahomes wasn’t getting needles injected. He simply reminded his teammates to play with joy. He told them that everything they worked for all season long was “for this moment.”
With all of America watching, why not have fun? The Chiefs took on the personality of their quarterback.
“You have to enjoy this moment,” Mahomes said. “You can’t let the moment overtake you, and I thought the guys did that and in the second half they fought to the very end and that’s all you can ask is for guys to leave everything they have on the football field.”
In other words, it’s what every kid dreams of back when they’re swinging a pingpong paddle or a wooden bat.
The AFC is full of star power at the sport’s most important position. All of us anoint them one by one. Josh Allen was the odds-on favorite to win MVP this season — nobody’s ever leapt over linebackers and rocketed passes deep quite like this Buffalo Bills’ illusionist. Allen raised hype to unfathomable highs here in Western New York. Sure was bizarre to see NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt in Chiefs garb today. He’s been the Bills’ official emcee of hype. Joe Burrow is heralded at this site and beyond as the closest the NFL has to Joe Montana. Justifiably so. He is surgically cool and reads the field better than anyone. There’s Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa and — after Super Bowl Win No. 2 — it’s hard not to view everyone as merely existing in Patrick Mahomes’ world.
Much like Peak Tom Brady before him, Mahomes is merciless. Mahomes gets the last word.
No coach at any age would ever want to leave this quarterback. Reid will not be retiring any time soon.
“He grew up in a locker room,” the KC head coach said afterward. He’s seen the greats and he strives to be the greatest. Without saying anything, that’s the way he works. He wants to be the greatest player ever. That’s what he wants to do, and that’s the way he goes about his business. He does it humbly. There’s no bragging. He could stand up here and give you these stats that are incredible that he’s had, but he is never going to that. That’s just not him, and we appreciate that. Then when it’s time for the guys around him to raise their game, he helps them with that. The great quarterbacks make everybody around him better, including the head coach.”
Added Kelce: “Toughest son of gun you ever met. That Texas gunslinger ain’t going to let nothing get in the way.”
This second half, Mahomes went 13 of 14 for 93 yards with two touchdowns and one 26-yard scramble that’ll replay forever. This is our lasting image from Glendale, Ariz. His throbbing ankle mummified in tape, Mahomes dropped back and was suddenly surrounded by five green jerseys. Eyes downfield, the QB realized his receivers were covered. Left guard Joe Thuney was handling defensive tackle Javon Hargrave fine. Right guard Trey Smith was losing his grip on Ndamukong Suh. Meanwhile, also to his right, the Eagles’ sackmaster Reddick was entering the frame. The same Reddick who finished with 16 sacks in the regular season—16 legitimate sacks. He didn’t trip into this career-high total. No edge rusher in the sport closed on his prey with more speed and force in 2022.
Mahomes turned his head, spotted Reddick and did not hesitate. He grasped the magnitude of this play and took off into the open green acreage. It was his longest run of the season.
Old college teammates loved to poke fun at Mahomes’ portly physique in the locker room. He perfected the Dad Bod before becoming a Dad. "We'd talk to him about his weight and tell him to stop eating all them cheeseburgers and do some extra laps — do some running,” ex-Texas Tech running back Demarcus Felton recalled. “He always had that fat-boy jog that he could never get rid of.” Added fellow back Da’Leon Ward: “He's not tall. He's not built. We used to call him chubby." Yet, off he went on the sports world’s greatest stage. Reddick could not catch him in the Super Bowl, just as the Bengals could not catch him in the AFC title scramble, just as so many defenders have missed so many times in the past.
One of his old pingpong foes in college — Texas Tech’s backup quarterback, Nic Shimonek — put Mahomes’ athleticism best. He’s not fast. He’s not explosive. He’s not physically imposing.
Plainly, Shimonek said he’s “good at everything.” If he wanted to play pro baseball, Shimonek knows he could have. If he was just a couple inches taller, he could’ve been in the NBA.
Mahomes is inevitable. When pressure is highest, he finds a solution.
Every team loves to claim they’ll be back next season stronger than ever. They’re quarterbacked by a young player in his mid-20s, so such positivity feels justified. The social media accounts for teams try to keep their fan bases optimistic. But then you see a 27-year-old Patrick Mahomes with a pair of sunglasses on… a backwards snapback… with a WWE belt over his shoulder and the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his hand and you cannot help but wonder if this is only the beginning.
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