At halftime, there was no real message, just adjustments. That, too, was like the season.
“When you’re in it, you just focus in and try to fix the problem,” Reid said of the midseason swoon. “It was drops and it was penalties, and if we took care of that, we were going to be OK.”
And, Reid said, the Chiefs needed time for rookie receiver Rashee Rice to develop, which he did late in the season. Rice had six receptions for 39 yards on Sunday, with his most important contribution coming via a 13-yard catch on third-and-6 from the Chiefs’ own 46-yard line in overtime. Rice remembered that, last year at this time, he was watching the Super Bowl, not knowing what it takes to win one. He had last won a championship as an 11-year-old in Pee Wee football. But on his first day of NFL training camp, he vomited from the exertion. Rice finished the season as Kansas City’s second-leading receiver, fewer than 50 yards behind Kelce, but he had led the team with seven touchdown receptions.
“Some games might not be perfect, but we won as a team,” Rice said, as a teammate somewhere screamed, “In Spags we trust!” to honor Steve Spagnuolo, who just became the first coach in NFL history to win four Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator.
Sunday night, every time Mahomes spoke to Rice, he told him they were going to score.
“He was speaking it into existence,” Rice said. “I don’t think Pat knows how to lose.”
That, of course, is the X-factor that powers the Chiefs dynasty. In the overtime drive, Mahomes was 8-for-8 passing for 42 yards, and he ran for 8 yards on fourth-and-1 and for 19 yards on third-and-1. He, too, talked about adversity, but he also talked about the culture of the Chiefs, a culture that he joined when Alex Smith was still the quarterback. It is one that keeps pushing the Chiefs to be better, but also to try to enjoy their efforts.
With his third championship at age 28, Mahomes is already in rare air. The Super Bowl LVIII MVP demurs when he is asked about comparisons to Tom Brady, because Brady — when he was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback — beat Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. It seemed inconceivable then that anybody would even have a chance of approaching Brady’s accomplishments. But just three years later, it is clear that Mahomes is the only quarterback who is of Brady’s caliber. They are very different in playing style, but very much the same when it comes to mastery of the game and willing teams to victory.
Mahomes credits Reid for letting him be himself, for not trying to force him to be anybody else. But Mahomes sounded strikingly like Brady on Sunday night. With his shoulder pads still on, the star signal-caller was already thinking about what is next. There’s the celebration Sunday night and then the parade in the coming week. And then there will be the return to work to get back to the Super Bowl again. Rice lives in Texas, the wideout noted, so he would probably hear a lot from Mahomes.
“Trying to go for that three-peat,” Mahomes said.