He was screaming. He was grimacing. This was bad.
Patrick Mahomes lay sprawled across the grass for a few agonizing moments, then picked himself up and limped to the sideline.
He dropped on the bench. He closed his eyes. He lowered his head between his knees in frustration before resting it on a trainer’s shoulder in resignation.
With 1:33 left in the first half of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday at State Farm Stadium, the most-valuable-player season of the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback seemingly had collapsed into an ugly ending when his badly sprained right ankle was twisted at the end of a tackle by Philadelphia linebacker T.J. Edwards.
The Eagles would take a 10-point halftime lead. The Eagles would plan on facing backup Chad Henne in the second half. The Eagles’ fans were singing about flying.
Mahomes was done.
Then, improbably, unimaginably, stunningly, he wasn’t.
Then, with his tongue wagging like Michael Jordan and his fist thrust in the air like Tom Brady, he was just getting started.
In arguably the most brilliantly resilient 90 minutes of football in Super Bowl history, Mahomes staggered out for the second half and proceeded to beat the Eagles with one leg tied behind his back.
He limped around the backfield long enough to lead the Chiefs to three touchdowns, then somehow sprinted up the middle to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the Chiefs’ dramatic 38-35 victory.
After which he once again screamed, this time in joy.
“I told you all this week, there’s nothing that is going to keep me off this football field,” he told a bellowing Chiefs crowd during a Lombardi Trophy presentation filled with shocked smiles and swirling confetti.
With a second Super Bowl championship in his six-season career, there also is nothing that can keep Mahomes from being ranked at the top of his field.
He is the NFL’s greatest quarterback and the 27-year-old heir to the throne of the retiring Brady. He’s the best active football player alive and is on a fast path to one day supplanting Brady as the new GOAT.
That sounds crazy, but it’s also crazy to think a one-legged quarterback could lead a second-half comeback from a 10-point deficit against what was considered the NFL’s best team.
“To be down to a team like that and come back and win the game … you’ll look back at this game for the rest of your life,” Mahomes said.
You’ll first look back at this game and think: For the Chiefs, it was truly hopeless. It was hopeless 22 days earlier, when Mahomes’ ankle was badly sprained in an AFC divisional-round playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He briefly was replaced in that game by Henne. He survived an AFC championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals and even set up the winning field goal with a five-yard run, but he was still limping. The level of his Super Bowl readiness was completely uncertain.
At least, uncertain for everyone but him.
“I felt really good …” he said of Sunday.
“… Until I reaggravated it a little,” he added.
Reaggravated? A little?
Mahomes stumbled into the locker room at halftime having thrown for 89 yards and one touchdown while having run nine plays in the previous hour and a half.
The Eagles’ big guys were dominating. Their quarterback, Jalen Hurts, was dealing. The Chiefs’ defense couldn’t get off the field.
And now Mahomes couldn’t walk.
“There was a lot of soreness. … It didn’t feel good,” Mahomes said. “But I was leaving it all out there.”
He left it all out there immediately, on the second half’s first drive, Mahomes completing scrambling passes and somehow running for 14 yards as he led the Chiefs downfield into a one-yard touchdown run by Isiah Pacheco to close the gap.
The Eagles responded with a field-goal drive, but Mahomes came back and went six for six on a drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Kadarius Toney to eventually give the Chiefs a 28-27 lead.
By now folks were asking: Is he really doing this? Can he really do this?
“He’s always strong,” Toney said of Mahomes. “He never shows weakness. He’s a true fighter.”
After Toney set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt return, Mahomes needed just three plays to toss a four-yard touchdown pass to Skyy Moore and increase the lead.
But then the Eagles and Hurts rolled back downfield to tie the score on two runs by Hurts, and Mahomes had 5:15 to one-foot his team to victory.
Was he even thinking about the ankle? The answer is apparently no.
“In the Super Bowl, you don’t worry about that until the offseason,” he said. “I fought through.”
The fight on the game-winning drive was particularly fierce. He connected on passes to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Travis Kelce and then wowed millions by suddenly deciding to run 26 yards up the middle, after which he limped to the sideline.
Call it one of the greatest mad dashes in Super Bowl history.
Mahomes called it fun.
“It’s like a little kid winning a prize at the fair,” he said.
Moments after Harrison Butker kicked a 27-yard field goal to win the game, Mahomes smiled like a little kid as he walked — gingerly — into the Chiefs’ celebrating scrum.
“We fought to the very end,” Mahomes said. “That’s all you can ask.”
But nobody battled like him.
In the first half, he was eight for 13 for 89 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, after the new twist, he was an amazing 13 for 14 for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
With the victory, he becomes the first player to win a passing yardage title and a Super Bowl in the same season. He becomes the first player to win a regular-season MVP award and a Super Bowl in the same season in 23 years. And he just won his second Super Bowl MVP in four years.
“MVPat!” Kelce shouted to the Fox cameras afterward. “MVPat!”
And here’s guessing there are more to come. Lots more.
“I’m not gonna say dynasty yet,” Mahomes shouted to the crowd. “We’re not done.”
No, he isn’t. And no, he wasn’t.
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