He was en route to his worst performance as a professional in his biggest game as a professional, down double digits in the face of a vicious San Francisco defense and a dwindling fourth quarter, Super Bowl clock.
“I was making a lot of mistakes,” Mahomes said later.
The Chiefs were getting the ball back though, less than nine minutes to play, on their own 17, maybe last chance, or at least close to it. If there was sagging confidence or growing nerves, Mahomes didn’t show it. Instead he gathered his offense and offered up a prediction.
“They are going to talk about this,” he said, “for a long time.”
Around Kansas City, you could say they’ll talk about it forever. They’ll talk about it and talk about it and toast it and then talk about it some more. They’ll never tire of recalling the night Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs delivered 21 points in the final 6:13 to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl in half a century.
Chiefs 31, Niners 20? No, they’ll never stop.
“He ain’t the MVP for nothing,” wide receiver Mecole Hardman said.
What happened in the final, furious minutes of Super Bowl LIV here was Patrick Mahomes in full. The confidence that defied sense. The plays that defied belief. The 44-yard flick to Tyreek Hill during a third-and-15 that defied physics. The tour de force that broke the other side.
San Francisco had spent the night curbing and containing the most dangerous man in football until all of a sudden it couldn’t. And the Niners knew it. And that’s when Mahomes pounced the way the great ones do.
Ten plays, 83 yards for one touchdown. Seven plays, 65 yards for another. A final two-play, 42-yarder for good measure. It was like some kind of avalanche, everything just rolling downhill on the Niners, No. 15 just eviscerating it all.
“That team,” said San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, “ … they can score very fast.”
Shanahan sounded like the rest of the Niners, equal parts overwhelmed and shell-shocked. They had him. They had it. They had the game. And then they didn’t. They couldn’t say what had happened, but really what had happened was Patrick Mahomes.
Once it clicks for him, it clicks like it does for few others. His Chiefs trailed by double digits in all three playoff games on this title run. He never flinched. They never flinched. They never do.
“I don’t really have that mindset,” Mahomes said.
Earlier Sunday, Joe Montana, the Niners great, was talking in a South Beach hotel about how the ability to brush off errors and pressure in Super Bowls is what separates the good ones from the legends. He was all but predicting what his old team would do hours later.
Mahomes is 24. He has started 36 NFL games, including five in the playoffs. That’s it. He was MVP last season and MVP of the Super Bowl this one. He does almost nothing like a traditional quarterback does because he wasn’t trained like a traditional quarterback.
His form isn’t perfect. His fundamentals aren’t refined. He has superior arm strength in part because he played three sports coming up in a small town in East Texas rather than specializing in one.
That included baseball, where he was known for firing out baserunners from deep in the hole at short or rifling mid-90s fastballs from the pitcher’s mounds. It’s how he can use any arm angle he needs. And it included basketball, where he was a brilliant open court point guard. It’s how he can elude tacklers despite lacking traditional speed.
Mostly, though, it’s how he learned to win, one way or the next. “Just competing,” he said. “Just always competing.”
He played game after game after game, season after season after season, year after year after year. Football, baseball, basketball … even golf, ping-pong and wiffle ball. He didn’t spend his youth practicing. He spent it playing — playing to win, figuring out how to win, staring down impossible odds and never cracking.
“Just the ability to remain calm under pressure,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said of his quarterback. “Guys have the tendency, when they make a couple of mistakes, to fold under pressure.”
“I have the mindset that I’m going to just keep firing it,” he said.
And so, yes, he was going to keep firing it, right into the teeth of that Niners defense. The whole world was watching him stumble and struggle and he didn’t even care. There was still time on the clock. There were still opportunities to win.
One touchdown drive. Then the next. Just like that, the whole thing flipped, Kansas City backed up to the brink and put San Francisco in scramble and desperation mode.
Just like that, it was Mahomes under a shower of championship confetti, then in the locker room still gripping the game ball, then walking up and down the lockers having a word with each and every last teammate, stars and inactives alike.
All here on a legendary night for the legend in the making that they’ll be talking about for a long time.
Forever even. Forever for sure.
More Super Bowl LIV coverage from Yahoo Sports: