Come on, you were thinking it, you all were thinking it, as the 49ers maneuvered within a few feet of a Super Bowl championship: If Brock Purdy can win this thing, surely my quarterback can do it.
Your quarterback may be an NFL MVP such as Lamar Jackson, or he may be a reclamation project like the Lions’ Jared Goff or the Bucs’ Baker Mayfield, or he may even be a flailing first-rounder like Kenny Pickett. If surrounded by the right dudes, though, something on the order of a Brandon Aiyuk and a Christian McCaffrey and a Nick Bosa and Fred Warner, a Lombardi Trophy could be in reach.
Patrick Mahomes is going to take it, though, right out of your QB’s hands.
He might seize it in the Divisional round or the AFC title game or the Super Bowl itself, as was the case Sunday with a 25-22 victory over Purdy and the Niners. It is going to belong to him because none of your quarterbacks through 90 years of NFL Championship competition ever reached the pinnacle of ability and achievement Mahomes has made routine in less than a decade in the league.
He did not do it alone in Super Bowl 58. He had dudes on his side, too. Defensive tackle Chris Jones could have been Super Bowl MVP if some guy named Mahomes were not involved. Cornerback Trent McDuffie made one false move, a holding call that reanimated the 49ers’ drive toward the field goal that opened the overtime period, but otherwise led a secondary that did not allow either Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel to reach 50 receiving yards. Tight end Travis Kelce, who, through romantic involvement with the world’s most famous entertainer, invited exorbitant attention into a life that already was microscoped, caught 9 passes for 93 yards including the biggest reception in regulation.
The game never appeared to be headed in this direction, honestly, until Mahomes converted a harrowing fourth-and-1 on the first series of KC’s overtime possession by accepting a shotgun snap and dashing around the right edge for a clear (but let’s not call it comfortable) conversion that kept alive the Chiefs’ chances to win it.
“When you’re going out there with Pat and Trav, they got a whole different mode,” receiver Rashee Rice told the NFL Network. “Just having the ball in our hands to put the game away gave us more confidence.”
Kansas City trailed by 10 points with 4:23 left in the first half, by a touchdown at halftime, by a field goal with 11:22 left in regulation and by three again after the 49ers’ possession in overtime. It never matters. Mahomes has trailed by at least 10 points in all three of the Super Bowls his Chiefs have won.
He finished this game with 333 passing yards and two touchdowns. He led the Chiefs in rushing with 66 yards on 9 carries, consistently rescuing the team with designed runs or scrambles that converted essential first downs. It didn’t seem like a legendary performance until it was.
This is how it has worked with KC all year. They struggled enough during the regular season they had to play two of their three playoff games on the road, even though they obviously had a team capable of winning a Super Bowl.
“We got a great team, and we battled through adversity all year,” wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who created some of those issues with terribly timed drops, told NFL Network. “It just showed the resilience that we had, to go out and compete against one of the best teams in the NFL and bring it home.”
Purdy probably played well enough to win America’s greatest sporting event, even though he did little that was extraordinary for most of the game. He threw for 255 yards, only 6.7 yards per completion, nothing longer than 24 yards.
The 49ers invested in – more in terms of opportunity cost than finances – the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft at the most important position. And he did nothing to prevent them from winning this Super Bowl, which is what so many franchises want to believe their guy can do.
A Brock Purdy victory would have been a triumph for everyone else, who wants to believe there is hope for a Kirk Cousins or Geno Smith or David Carr.
Maybe there is. But only hope. For Mahomes, there is the reality of six AFC Championship game appearances, four Super Bowl trips and three Super Bowl titles – all in a half-dozen seasons as a starter by the age of 28.
No one else has done this. Not Brady, not Montana, not Johnny U.
“We’re not done,” Mahomes told CBS Sports in that gentle voice that did not seem at all threatening. He and his teammates are coming for everything your favorite team wants, though, and all the available evidence indicates they’ll get it.