It was a Super Bowl that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes shouldn’t have been playing in … or so we thought.

All throughout the 2023 NFL season, the narrative was that this isn’t the Chiefs year. Miscues and blunders were on display for all to see. Marques Valdes-Scantling’s Week 11 potential game winning touchdown catch against the Eagles was dropped, Kadarius Toney’s costly offsides penalty offset a wild go-ahead touchdown vs the Bills in Week 14, a downright embarrassing performance against the Raiders on Christmas Day.

Pundits pointed out all season long that Mahomes has had his worst offensive supporting cast of his career this year. Inconsistent receivers, an aging Travis Kelce, and the truth is that Kansas City’s offense did slip this year. The Chiefs’ offense ranked in the middle of the league this year (14th) , a far cry from last year (led the league in points scored) and felt different from years past where it felt like nearly every snap had the potential for a Mahomes highlight that would throw social media into a frenzy.

Fast forward to Super Bowl 58. Kansas City is matched up against the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of Super Bowl 54. A game in which the Chiefs fought back down double digits in the fourth quarter to hoist the franchises’ first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years.

It was an oddly similar story when the teams duked it out in Sin City.

With Kansas City down three early and working from their own territory, Mahomes rolled out to his left and unleashed a 50+ yard throw across his body towards the right side of the field. At first glance, it was an errant pass into double coverage as two 49ers defenders were nearby.

You can guess what happened.

The ball was caught by wide receiver Mecole Hardman – one defender didn’t even see the ball until it was in Hardman’s arms, the other got up in disbelief after the dazzling throw.

It was a quintessential Mahomes throw. One everyone has seen him make over the years, the side of Mahomes that makes you ooh and aah.

The rest of the game showed a different side of Mahomes.

Part of this different side were some gutsy runs. In a fourth-and-1 situation in OT, needing a first down to keep the game alive, a triple option play was called. Mahomes, as cool as you like, faked the handoff to his running back Isiah Pacheco going left, pulled himself to the right side of the field, bypassing a throw to Travis Kelce and scampering for the firstd won.

Later, there was an even gutsier Mahomes run on a 3rd and 1 from the 49ers 31-yard line. Needing a touchdown to seal the game, Mahomes took the snap from the shotgun for what looked like a pass play. One Mississippi, two Mississippi – by the time you could say “three Mississippi”, Mahomes darted forward past the line of scrimmage and past his offensive line.

Escaping a diving tackle attempt from 49ers defensive linemen Arik Armstead, Mahomes weaved his way past arguably the best linebacker in the league, Fred Warner, while cradling the ball in his right arm as snugly as he would hold a baby.

Two defenders converged on him soon after, but the damage was done. Mahomes had the Chiefs within 15 yards of the end zone and a dynasty.

But to me, this still wasn’t the most impressive side of Mahomes. How meticulously Mahomes picked apart the 49ers secondary in the fourth quarter and overtime was the main show.

Every Chiefs fan remembers the epic dogfight between Kansas City and New England in the 2019 AFC Championship, Mahomes’ breakout year in the NFL. It was a back and forth affair that was pushed into overtime. Every Chiefs fan can tell you exactlyhow the game ended.

Tom Brady meticulously diced up the Kansas City defense to head to his sixth Super Bowl. The final drive in OT, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edleman made catch after catch, gradually taking New England down the field.

A similar saga played out in the final two Kansas City drives of the game.

With 1:53 to go in the regulation, needing a field goal to go to OT, Mahomes worked the offense down the field. Not with chunk plays, or gimmicks, or anything like that.

Mahomes carved up the defense in a way I have seen only one other quarterback do it with everything on the line.

Tom Brady.

A 9-yard pass to Kelce. A 12-yard underneath throw to Noah Gray. It appeared as if Mahomes even audibled to a different play in expectation of a 49ers all out blitz before a critical 3rd and 2.

The result?

A 7-yard dump off to running back Jarred McKinnon for a first down.

Simply put, we’re witnessing an innovation in Mahomes’ game. Coming out of Texas Tech, and in the NFL at times, it seemed as if Mahomes has always had the urge to go for the big play. To play it risky.

Feb. 11, 2024, will be remembered as the day that the Kansas City Chiefs repeated as NFL champions. And it should be.

But it should also be remembered for what seemed like the culmination of a metamorphosis of Patrick Mahomes. A quarterback who all his career has been known for his ability to create splash plays – given a below average wide receiver room this year and still winning the Super Bowl MVP. Not by lofting magical throws down the field, but with his football IQ.

If that’s not Mahomes magic, I don’t know what is.

Cleary Percy is a Haven freshman studying secondary education

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