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America’s Most Popular Sport Belongs to One Person: Patrick Mahomes

4 minute read

When Patrick Mahomes hobbled off the field late in the first half of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz., the worry felt real. He appeared to have twisted his right ankle, the same ankle that he injured in an earlier playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and that hampered his mobility in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mahomes couldn’t hide the pain on his face. The Philadelphia Eagles went into halftime leading Kansas City, 24-14. For the second time in three years, Mahomes and the Chiefs were in danger of a Super Bowl letdown.

Mahomes, however, had something more magical in mind.

Reminiscent of his Super Bowl performance in 2020, Mahomes rallied his team from a double-digit deficit in the second half, as the Chiefs scored on each of their offensive possessions in the last 30 minutes of the game to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling 38-35 victory on Super Bowl Sunday. Mahomes won his second Super Bowl MVP award, completing 21 of 27 passes for 182 yards and three touchdown throws. He threw zero interceptions, and on a creaky ankle in the second half, Mahomes completed two key scrambles—one for 14 yards, the other for 26 yards—that further proved his generational talent.

At Super Bowls, the sideshows often steal attention from the games. Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake. A blackout. Buzzy ads and halftime shows. This year, the commercials largely received meh reviews. Rihanna certainly showed up, as she showed off her baby bump to the world to become the first pregnant woman to star at the Super Bowl halftime.

The game itself was headed for all-time-classic status, before a late holding penalty called on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry gave the Chiefs a crucial first down, essentially sealing the Chiefs’ victory and draining the game of last-second drama. Kansas City was then able to run the clock down to 11 seconds, setting up a chip-shot field goal from Harrison Butker to seal the win. The Eagles got one more play off in the waning seconds, put a desperation pass fell well short.

To many, the holding call felt egregious. LeBron James, for example, offered a reasonable reaction. “His hand on his back had no effect on his route!” James wrote on Twitter. “This game was too damn good for that call to dictate the outcome at the end. Damn!”

After the game, however, Bradbury came clean, making it more difficult to lament the refs.

In the end, Mahomes owns this Super Bowl. He’s the first Black quarterback to win two Super Bowls. (His quarterback opponent in this game, Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, had a fine first Super Bowl outing—throwing for 304 yards and a touchdown pass and no interceptions—and it’s easy to imagine him back on this stage). Mahomes is now one of just six players in NFL history to win a pair of Super Bowl MVPs, joining Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Eli Manning. He’s the third youngest player to win multiple NFL MVP awards, and he’s the first player in 23 years—since Kurt Warner in 1999—to be the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season.

To be sure, the Chiefs turned in a stellar all-around effort. Kansas City’s line play, on both sides of the ball, deserves kudos. The Chiefs rushed for 158 yards, and a fourth-quarter special teams play—a 65-yard punt return by Kadarius Toney, who also caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass—will be long remembered along the Kansas-Missouri state line. And it’s borderline scandalous that Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whom Kansas City head coach Andy Reid praised repeatedly in the postgame celebration, hasn’t received a head coaching gig.

Still, this Super Bowl lesson is clear. Tom Brady is finally gone. Mahomes is a multiple-time champion—at 27. Football, now more than ever, is a quarterback-driven sport.

No need to overthink this. The NFL belongs to Patrick Mahomes.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com