This had a Michael Jordan feel to it.
That's not a comparison that should be made frequently or nonchalantly. But Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has dominated the NFL to such an extent over the last two years that he's earned the right. He looks and feels like a young Jordan three decades ago in the NBA: remarkable at all times but at his best—calm, cool and focused to an unworldly degree—when it matters most.
Like, for example, with his team trailing 24-0 in the first 20 minutes of a home playoff game.
That was the now-famous case Sunday when the Houston Texans came out hot and took advantage of several Chiefs mistakes on special teams and in the pass-catching corps to open up what was supposed to be an insurmountable lead.
Barely two quarters later, it was the Chiefs who essentially took mercy on their opponent by settling for a field goal to go up by 20 points in garbage time.
To go from 24-0 Houston with 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter to 51-31 Kansas City midway through the fourth, you basically need a Jordan.
This wasn't just tied for the fourth-largest comeback in NFL playoff history, but it was also the largest comeback ever that resulted in a blowout in favor of the comebacker. It was the type of effort you typically only see from a juggernaut, a dynasty, a team led by a transcendent superstar.
The Chiefs are, at the very least, an offensive juggernaut with the game's brightest young star at its most important position. Mahomes won't win MVP again this season, but he made it clear on Sunday that he is indeed the most outstanding player in this league.
That's primarily how we went from 24-0 Texans to 51-31 Chiefs.
In those 31 minutes and 45 seconds, Mahomes—in the manner of a once-in-a-generation player—relished an opportunity to make history. Eight offensive possessions resulted in seven touchdowns. The eighth was also a scoring drive, but Kansas City was in cruise control and settled for a field goal on 4th-and-2 at the Houston 6-yard line.
The Chiefs punted three times in the first quarter, but Dustin Colquitt never swung his leg again.
Mahomes completed just four of 10 passes for 43 yards in the first quarter, with several drops factoring in. The rest of the game, with his back against the wall, he completed all but six of his 25 passes for 278 yards, five touchdowns and a passer rating of 151.3. He also ran the ball seven times for 53 more yards.
The dude threw eight deep passes in the final three quarters. Four resulted in completions for a combined 124 yards, three drew pass interference penalties against Houston, and only one fell incomplete.
He and his cohorts comically erased a 24-point deficit in barely nine minutes, and it looked 1990s Chicago Bulls-level easy during and beyond that stretch.
It was fitting that Mahomes' new hallmark moment came less than 24 hours after presumed 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson completed just 52.5 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions in a shocking home playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Jackson was better than Mahomes during the 2019 regular season, but Mahomes already had an MVP campaign under his belt before a pair of early-season injuries interfered with his attempt at an encore performance. He's healthy now, though, and in this league, January trumps September, October, November and December.
Jackson now has a passer rating of 68.3 in two playoff games, both of which were home losses. Until he can put together a postseason performance like Mahomes did Sunday, he can't be king.
There's plenty of time for that. But for the time being, Mahomes remains the guy.
nick wright @getnickwright
All my gloating aside, Patrick Mahomes, in his 2nd year as a starter, just played one of the greatest playoff games in the 100 year history of the NFL. A year after he, in his 1st year as a starter, played one of the greatest regular seasons in the 100 year history of the NFL.
That's especially the case because this was no aberration.
In three career playoff games, Mahomes now has eight touchdown passes to no interceptions and a passer rating of 118.5. At the conclusion of his first season as an NFL starter last year, he led the Chiefs to a one-sided playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts and then nearly slew the New England Patriots before their dynasty had died.
So while he still doesn't have the playoff pedigree of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, the 24-year-old is coming off a substantially better two-year stretch than Rodgers. In some ways, he's already more accomplished than Wilson, who's never been a first-team All-Pro or an MVP.
It's already been established that he has a significant big-game advantage over Jackson. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are too close to the finish line to be included in this conversation, especially after a down year from Brady and an uneven one from Brees. As good as they've been and even though they're alive right now, nobody's putting Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Tannehill on Mahomes' level.
Deshaun Watson was just outdueled in a head-to-head matchup between the 2017 top-12 draft picks.
Who does that leave? Nobody legitimate.
To some, this may not come as a "We landed on the moon" declaration because many already considered Mahomes the best despite the fact Jackson and five other quarterbacks had higher regular-season passer ratings, and despite the fact he'd yet to experience a truly triumphant and unforgettable playoff moment.
But in a day and age with so many legendary quarterbacks playing the back nine of their careers, and in a year featuring Jackson's brilliance as both a passer and a rusher, the "best quarterback in football" argument was very much alive entering the new year.
Mahomes' first Jordan-level postseason act should settle that for now.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.