MIAMI — When he finally came off the field after what seemed like hours of celebrating his team's Super Bowl win on Sunday, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was still at it, fist-pumping and hugging almost any teammate in sight. Walking down the hallway in the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium, he looked at tight end Travis Kelce and said, "We won this thing!"
"F--k yeah, we did," Kelce replied.
They were still pinching themselves, like two kids who came down the stairs on Christmas morning and got the bikes they asked Santa for. But instead of bikes, they now have crowns.
Fork yeah, you won, Patrick. Just not in the way many of us thought you might.
The Chiefs captured Super Bowl LIV, beating the 49ers 31-20 during a game in which they lacked their usual explosiveness but were defined instead by another dramatic comeback from the brilliant Mahomes.
It was a game that won't be remembered for the high-flying Mahomes or the no-look-pass-throwing Mahomes or the 50-touchdown-pass Mahomes. It will be remembered for the persistent version of him, the stubborn one, the gritty one who took a pounding, kept getting up, then threw two crucial late touchdown passes to propel Kansas City.
It wasn't perfect, but it was still beautiful. Just a different kind of Mahomes miracle. In many ways, this type of Mahomes is scarier because as much as the 49ers pounded, frustrated, confused and chased him, he never lost his composure. He never lost anything.
What Mahomes did in winning was become the face of the NFL. And in that face, we see someone capable of congealing into numerous forms, a football shapeshifter who can beat you with his legs, his arm, his brain or, as he showed against the 49ers, his heart. Mahomes is class, talent and a punch to the sternum all in one.
"Just a tough, tough guy and so talented," Kelce said. "With him in the huddle, you are never out of it."
"It's Magic Mahomes. It's Showtime Mahomes," the tight end added. "He's going to be himself no matter what the scenario is."
"He is so unbelievably calm, collected, and his confidence in himself and the team is...I can't even describe it," said Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.
There is a part of Mahomes that remains underappreciated. He may look like a high school senior and talk like a Sesame Street character, but underneath all of that is a mentally tough player, and you saw that against the nastiest defense in football.
In fact, that Mahomes heart was on display all year. This season, he was 5-0 when trailing by double digits and 3-0 in the playoffs. He is the first starting quarterback in NFL history to have three double-digit comebacks in a single postseason.
"I believe in this team," Mahomes said, "and I believe we can always go out there and score."
He is the youngest player in NFL history to win a league MVP award and a Super Bowl. He is the youngest quarterback in league history to win Super Bowl MVP. He joins Tom Brady as the only two quarterbacks to win Super Bowl MVP before 25.
Mahomes has already thrown for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season, won league and Super Bowl MVPs and been to two conference title games...
Just your ordinary football stuff. Yeah, he's doing OK.
Not only is Mahomes the face of the NFL; at this pace, he'll be on the NFL's Mount Rushmore. If this keeps up, the NFL may need to build a Mahomes wing at the Hall of Fame.
And yet, as great as his career has been, and as great as this season was, the first three quarters of the Super Bowl were extremely un-Mahomes-like.
With six minutes left in the game, he was just 20-of-33 for 225 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. The first pick was probably his worst throw of the season.
He had previously thrown 163 postseason pass attempts without an interception. But against the 49ers, there was a stretch in which two of eight passes ended up in the other team's hands.
Then the switch flipped. There was a 44-yard pass to Tyreek Hill followed four plays later by Mahomes' first touchdown throw, a one-yard toss to Kelce. That cut the 49ers' lead to 20-17, and the momentum of the game had changed. On the next drive, Mahomes was 5-for-5 for 60 yards and finished the drive with a five-yard score to running back Damien Williams.
It was actually remarkable to see the contrast of trust the coaches had in their pass throwers.
It was clear that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was reluctant to trust Jimmy Garoppolo, no matter what the team will say. With the game tied 10-10 late in the first half, the 49ers had three timeouts. But Shanahan didn't use one early enough, costing San Francisco a good 40 seconds. Cameras caught John Lynch, the team's general manager, gesturing for a timeout call while watching from the owner's box.
But Shanahan was sticking to the formula that worked throughout the postseason: rely on defense, run the ball and limit the number of times Garoppolo throws downfield.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, on the other hand, wasn't going to stop Mahomes from slinging no matter how much he struggled early in the game.
Mahomes made the rounds afterward, smiling, accepting congratulations, speaking to the media. He was gracious and excited, and when media members were asking about his future, he mentioned the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, saying no one should forget him. It was a classy moment from Mahomes, who seems full of them.
There's no mistake, though, that Mahomes, with a Super Bowl tucked under his shoulder pads, is the example all other quarterbacks in the league must meet.
He will win. And he will do it any damn way he wants.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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