MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It looked as if the comebacks had come to an end.
And then the comeback kid snapped out of it.
Fresh off back-to-back dismal series that ended in interceptions and staring at 20-10 deficit with just nine minutes remaining, Patrick Mahomes flexed his MVP muscles.
Mahomes threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to spark Kansas City’s 31-20 victory over San Francisco on Sunday night in Super Bowl LIV. It was the first Super Bowl win for the franchise in 50 years and the first for 21-year head coach Andy Reid.
It was the third straight postseason game Mahomes engineered comebacks after the Chiefs trailed by double digits.
“Doesn’t matter what the score is,’’ said Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. “We’ve got Patrick Mahomes.’’
Mahomes was abysmal in the third quarter and early in the fourth, throwing behind and over his own guys and right into the arms of the other guys.
“The third quarter didn’t go the way I wanted it to,’’ Mahomes said. “I tried to force some things, and they got some turnovers. I mean, that’s a really good defense. Didn’t play to my liking in the third quarter, but the guys believed in me, gave me confidence, and we kept fighting.’’
Mahomes never lost faith and pumped up his downtrodden guys despite his own struggles.
“He was encouraging us, telling us to believe,’’ said Tyreek Hill, asked about Mahomes’s message in the fourth quarter. “He seen in some guys’ eyes, they were down, including myself. I was like, ‘Man, how are we going to pull this off?’ And he was like, ‘10, you’ve got to believe, brother.’ ’’
Mahomes and Hill teamed up on the play that turned the tide for good.
Faced with a third and 15 at their own 35-yard line, Mahomes launched a 44-yard howitzer down the field to speedy Hill, who had gotten past the 49ers’ defense.
“We were in a bad situation, especially with that pass rush,” Mahomes said. “We knew those guys were out there with their ears pinned back. The offensive line gave me enough time to throw a really deep route. I just put it out there, Tyreek made a great play, and that got us going.’’
The 49ers’ defensive scheme had been neutralizing Kansas City’s elite speed with a ferocious rush pass and a muddled middle. Mahomes finally broke the code on that key play.
“They were playing this kind of robber coverage all game long where the safety was kind of coming down and robbing all of our deep cross routes,’’ Mahomes said. “And we had good play on where we had Kelce doing a little stutter deep cross, and then we had Tyreek getting one-on-one with that safety. The big thing we needed was protection, because it was a long route . . . and the offensive line gave me the time.’’
Mahomes said the Chiefs ran the same play against the Patriots in the playoffs last year, when he hit Hill for a deep sideline shot.
Three plays later, Mahomes hit Kelce for a 1-yard touchdown to get within 20-17, and Chiefs Kingdom, which had been pretty muted since halftime, came to life.
The defense fed off the energy and forced a three and out.
Mahomes took over at the 35 and went 5 of 5 for 60 yards, capped by a 5-yard scoring toss to Damien Williams and 24-20 lead.
The Chiefs stuffed the 49ers on the ensuing possession, and Williams capped the madcap fourth quarter with a 38-yard touchdown run.
Mahomes, who finished 26 of 42 for 286 yards, earned the MVP award for his fourth-quarter heroics.
“I knew we weren’t in an ideal situation,’’ said Mahomes, asked about his mind-set when staring at the 10-point deficit. “But I believed in my defense to make stops, and they believed in me. We’ll enjoy this for a long time.’’