Patrick Mahomes makes history, leads Chiefs to back-to-back Super Bowls

Patrick Mahomes Postgame of Super Bowl LVIII
Patrick Mahomes, shown speaking Sunday after winning Super Bowl LVIII, already has his name in the record books but will waste no time in looking to lead the first team to three-peat as Super Bowl champions. (Caleb Nixon/MEDILL)

By Caleb Nixon
Medill Reports

LAS VEGAS – The Kansas City Chiefs again found themselves trailing by double digits going scoreless through the first 29 minutes of Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers. During the Patrick Mahomes era, the Chiefs have trailed by double digits in seven playoff games, including a 10-0 deficit against the 49ers on Sunday.

Needing a rally, the Chiefs turned to the man they call “15.” In the fourth quarter and overtime period, Mahomes threw for 173 yards and ran for 33 more before tossing the game-winning three-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mecole Hardman. Winning the Super Bowl for the third time leaves his teammates with an admirable amount of respect and appreciation for their quarterback.

“I take it for granted,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “No matter what the score is, no matter how much time is left, that guy’s got magic in his right arm.”

At 28, Mahomes is the youngest player to win three Super Bowls and three Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards, joining Tom Brady (five MVP awards) and Joe Montana (three). He worked his team back from the deficit, both with his arm and legs, finishing with 333 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and a team-leading 66 rushing yards. After a first half with only three points, a fumble in the red zone and a lone reception by Kelce, who aggressively bumped Chiefs coach Andy Reid in frustration, Mahomes and the Chiefs still prevailed in the end.

“It’s that championship mindset,” Mahomes said. “Whenever stuff isn’t going great, we’re going to continue to fight.”

The Chiefs became the ninth back-to-back Super Bowl winners and the first since the 2003-04 New England Patriots. They defeated the 49ers in overtime to earn their third championship within the past five years.

“It’s a little bit surreal,” Reid said. “Back-to-back is rare for this football team and this organization.”

The frustration Kelce showed was in response to his lack of targets, Reid said, but it was nothing his head coach hadn’t dealt with before.

“He was really coming over to tell me, ‘Put me in. I’ll score. I’ll score,’” Reid said. “I love that.”

That level of calmness and poise is exactly why the Chiefs don’t fold when down double digits, and they proved that once again in this game.

They began rallying after a timely mistake by the 49ers special teams. The Chiefs just completed their fourth offensive drive of the half, still unable to find the end zone. Tommy Townsend’s punt ricocheted awkwardly off his foot, coming up short of punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud III. As Darrell Luter Jr. tried blocking for McCloud, he made contact with the ball and the Chiefs recovered. Mahomes took one play to deliver a 16-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, giving them their first touchdown of the game.

After exchanging scores once more, it was late in the fourth quarter when Mahomes’ heroics were needed most. The 49ers kicked a field goal to regain the lead, 19-16, with 1:53 to go in regulation. Kelce was resurrected in the second half, hauling in eight catches for 92 yards. None of those catches were bigger than the 22-yard catch that put the Chiefs on San Francisco’s 11-yard line with 10 seconds to go in regulation.

An incomplete pass on the ensuing play forced kicker Harrison Butker to tie the game at 19. Super Bowl LVIII marked the second overtime game in championship history and the first under the league’s new playoff overtime rules. The changes were implemented before the 2022 season and allow both teams to possess the ball during the period.

The 49ers won the coin toss and elected to receive, a strategy and decision not previously seen among coaches.

“I’m not sure there’s a right answer necessarily,” Reid said. “Ours ended up being the right one.”

Multiple Chiefs players questioned the decision by the 49ers, most notably defensive tackle Chris Jones, who said, “They’re crazy.”

“We were going to give the ball to the opponent,” Jones said. “If they scored, we were going for two at the end of the game.”

Nonetheless, the 49ers took the ball and drove into the red zone. Seven minutes later, they had a third-and-four from the Chiefs nine-yard line, choosing to leave Jones unblocked on the play. He immediately got in the face of quarterback Brock Purdy, rushing his throw that ultimately sailed out the back of the end zone. Kicker Jake Moody knocked in a chip shot to give the 49ers a three-point lead.

Then it was Mahomes’ turn.

“He said, ‘Let’s go win this thing,’” Kelce said. “That’s the last I remember.”

Quickly faced with a fourth-and-one, Mahomes had to scramble for eight yards to keep the game alive. Not soon after, he made another huge play with his legs. On a third-and-one he dropped back to find nobody open downfield, forcing him to scramble up the middle. Nineteen yards later, Mahomes put the Chiefs in the red zone and within striking distance.

With the clock ticking, Mahomes and Reid played at a purposeful pace.

“If the other team’s been out there a long time and they’ve had a long drive, you kind of look at the guys and go, ‘Listen, we might just want to keep this thing going and not give them a rest,’” Reid said.

With less than 10 seconds left, Mahomes was in the shotgun with a trips formation, three receivers to his right. Hardman motioned toward his quarterback while the ball was snapped to Mahomes. Faking the motion across the field, Hardman snuck back the way he was coming from on an out route that ran into the endzone. Mahomes rolled out right and found him wide open in the end zone to win Super Bowl LVIII in walkoff fashion.

The play call was reminiscent of two plays from last year’s Super Bowl, when Reid faked a motion across the field and scored two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles. He held the upper hand for most of the second half against 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan with savvy play calling and timely blitzes, collaborating with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on those pressures.

Winning his third Super Bowl, Reid continues out-coaching opponents no matter the stage.

“I believe he’s the best coach of all time,” Mahomes said. “I don’t think I’d be the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have Coach Reid being my head coach.”

With a third Super Bowl victory in five years, is it time to call the Chiefs a dynasty?

“I don’t know what a dynasty is,” Reid told the media in his postgame news conference. “You guys have the thesaurus, so you can figure it out.”

It does not take much to figure out the Chiefs are on a historic run of Super Bowl victories led by a quarterback who has already asserted himself among the all-time greats. While Mahomes continues to etch his name in the history books, he said he is not satisfied with three.

“I think Tom (Brady) said it best — once you win that championship and you have those parades and you get those rings, you’re not the champion anymore,” Mahomes said. “You have to come back with that same mentality. I’m gonna do whatever I can to be back in this game next year and try to go for that three-peat.”

Las Vegas sports used to be known solely as the home of boxing— a city where champions defended their titles in the bright lights of center ring. Sunday’s game was reminiscent of a heavyweight fight with both teams bruised and fatigued. Sin City may not be just the home of boxing anymore, but it is still where champions must defend their title.

If only famed boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer could have delivered the final sendoff:  By way of a 25-22 decision, and still the undisputed champions of the world, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Caleb Nixon is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on X, Instagram and TikTok @calebnixonmedia.