By Matt McMullen – Chiefs.com Reporter
The Kansas City Chiefs are champions of the National Football League for the third time in franchise history after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35, in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday night.
Kansas City fought back from a 10-point deficit at halftime to eventually possess an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter, but the game ultimately came down to the final minutes.
Tied at 35 points apiece, Kansas City took over on offense at its own 25-yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The Chiefs had an opportunity to end the contest on their terms, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was playing on an injured ankle that he aggravated in the first half, didn’t waste it.
Mahomes led the Chiefs to midfield before scrambling for a 26-yard gain down inside the red zone, positioning Kansas City for a game-winning field goal. The Chiefs proceeded to drain the clock on their next several snaps – which included a holding penalty on Philadelphia that extended the series – to set up a go-ahead, 27-yard kick by Harrison Butker with just eight seconds remaining in regulation.
The Eagles attempted one pass on their ensuing series, and as soon as it fell incomplete, the Chiefs secured their second title in four seasons. It was a thrilling finish to a truly memorable game, and despite significant adversity, Mahomes – exemplified by his gutsy, 26-yard run – simply would not be denied.
“You have to enjoy this moment,” Mahomes said. “You can’t let the moment overtake you, and I thought the guys did that in the second half. They fought to the very end, and that’s all you can ask is for – [for the] guys to leave everything they have on the football field.”
Mahomes completed 21-of-27 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns in the game, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for his efforts. Mahomes is the only player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns, win NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season. In fact, only three other players – Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning – managed to achieve each of those individual achievements during the entirety of their careers.
Additionally, Mahomes is the only player in league history to win multiple MVP awards and multiple Super Bowls through six career seasons in league history. Keep in mind, Mahomes has only been a starter for five seasons.
“He’s seen the greats, and he strives to be the greatest. Without saying anything, that’s the way he works. He wants to be the greatest player ever. That’s what he wants to do, and that’s the way he goes about his business,” said Head Coach Andy Reid. “The great quarterbacks make everybody around him better – including the head coach – and he’s done a heck of a job.”
The late heroics capped a back-and-forth battle between the two best teams in all of football, as Philadelphia opened the game with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Chiefs then responded right away, however, when Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for an 18-yard touchdown on Kansas City’s initial series.
The score completed a six-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in the 14th career postseason touchdown connection between Mahomes and Kelce, making them the second-most prolific duo of all-time. Only Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who teamed up for 15 postseason touchdowns during their careers, own more.
Philadelphia re-claimed the lead soon after though, as Hurts found wide receiver A.J. Brown for a 45-yard touchdown strike two possessions later. They then appeared poised to add to their advantage following a Chiefs’ punt, but on third down, the ball slipped out of Hurts’ grasp and bounced into the arms of linebacker Nick Bolton, who returned the fumble for a game-tying, 36-yard touchdown. It was the first fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Super Bowl since Super Bowl 50.
The defensive touchdown knotted the score at 14 points apiece, but Philadelphia tallied 10 unanswered prior to halftime and carried a double-digit lead into the break. Teams who possessed a lead of 10 points or more at halftime of the Super Bowl were 26-1 heading into Sunday’s game, but the Chiefs didn’t quit.
In fact, Kansas City came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders. Mahomes engineered a 10-play, 75-yard series to begin the third quarter that ended with a 1-yard rush by tailback Isiah Pacheco, and the comeback was underway. The score was part of a strong day for Pacheco, who rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Specifically, 48 of those yards were gained during the second half.
“We allowed our personality to show,” said Pacheco when asked to explain what changed for Kansas City in the second half. “We came to win, and we rose as one to the occasion. Eleven guys played their hearts out on that side of the ball, and that’s what it takes. [If] 11 guys [didn’t] play their hearts out, the job wouldn’t get done.”
Philadelphia managed to answer the Chiefs’ touchdown with a field goal, but with only a six-point margin now separating the two teams, Mahomes took over with an opportunity to put Kansas City on top. The Chiefs proceeded to march right down the field and do just that, completing a nine-play, 75-yard series with a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
The play – which featured Toney running a jet action across the line of scrimmage before reversing back into the opposite flat – was the result of the Chiefs’ film study.
“We saw something a little different on tape, and we knew we could take advantage of what they weren’t doing,” said Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy. “Our guys study hard, and we prepare. As a staff, we do a great job of over-communicating, and it’s not about any egos. We always want to do what’s best for our guys – putting them in the right position so they can go out and be the best that they can be. Today, we did a great job of that.”
The touchdown meant that Kansas City had its first lead of the game, and following a Chiefs’ defensive stand and an ensuing Eagles’ punt, Toney immediately put Kansas City in a position for more with a 65-yard punt return down to the Eagles’ 5-yard line. It was the longest punt return in Super Bowl history.
Kansas City then made sure to turn Toney’s huge return into points, utilizing a play design that looked strikingly similar to Toney’s earlier touchdown, though this time it featured rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore faking a jet action motion across the line of scrimmage before cutting back into the opposite flat. Mahomes found Moore wide open for a 4-yard touchdown on the play, and the Chiefs’ lead grew to eight points.
The Eagles proceeded to take over on offense with just over nine minutes in the game and in need of a touchdown, but they answered in a big way. Hurts led an eight-play, 75-yard series that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown plunge that he took himself, and on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, Hurts kept it once again for a successful 2-yard rush.
The game was tied at 35 points apiece with only 5:15 seconds remaining, but as Mahomes took off for his 26-yard scramble and Butker’s kick later sailed through the uprights, the victory was essentially secured.
The successful comeback moved Mahomes to a ridiculous record of 4-2 when trailing by 10+ points in the postseason during his career. All other quarterbacks are 7-45 in those situations since 2018.
His performance was made possible due in part to a stellar outing by the Chiefs’ offensive line, which didn’t yield a single sack despite facing a statistically prolific Eagles’ defense which racked up 70 sacks during the regular season.
“We heard the comparison – the ’85 Bears – [and knew that they were] a historic defensive line with the sack numbers, but we gave up zero sacks today,” said left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. “Never count us out. This is group up front that loves the game of football and that loves playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. We have unreal camaraderie and commitment. Week after week, game after game, we show up. Our coaches put us in a great position, we execute the game plan and we’re world champs.”
It took every member of the roster on Sunday, from the Chiefs’ offensive line to the numerous rookies who stepped up time and time again. Kansas City fought through significant adversity to get back to the Super Bowl, and after coming up just short of their ultimate goal in each of the last two seasons, the Chiefs took full advantage of their opportunity on Sunday.
“It hasn’t even sunk in yet,” Mahomes said. “I mean, I appreciate it. I appreciate it because of the failures. I mean the failure of losing a Super Bowl and losing the AFC championship game – it gives you a greater appreciation to be standing here as a champion.”