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The Drive That Won the Chiefs the Super Bowl—and Proved Patrick Mahomes’ Greatness

5 minute read

The drive, beautifully sculpted in Las Vegas, an all-timer orchestrated by a potential GOAT who now leads a dynasty, started on the 25-yard line. Super Bowl LVIII had reached overtime, just the second extra session in history, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who trailed the San Francisco 49ers 22-19, needed a field goal to extend the game. With 75 more yards and a touchdown, the Chiefs and their magician of a quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, would clinch a third comeback Super Bowl win in five seasons, the first back-to-back Super Bowl victories in two decades, and a new standard of NFL excellence.

The Chiefs, quarterbacked by Mahomes and coached by Andy Reid, could take the baton from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, and redefine the 21st century of football.

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So Mahomes went to work. He was immaculate in a do-or-die moment. On a fourth and one from KC’s own 34, on the brink of elimination, Mahomes ran eight yards for a first down. He converted a third and six with his arm, hitting rookie Rashee Rice with a 13-yard pass play. He converted another third down with his legs, scrambling 19 more yards to put the ball on the San Francisco 13, a game-winning touchdown now an inevitability. A pass up the middle to Travis Kelce got the ball to the three-yard line, for another first down.

Then wide receiver Mecole Hardman started to run in motion, before he changed directions. Mahomes took the snap, faked a run, and flicked the ball to Hardman, wide open in the flat. “I blacked out when I caught the ball,” Hardman said afterwards. The Chiefs won it on a walk off touchdown.

On the drive—worthy of being christened “The Drive”—Mahomes did not throw a single incomplete pass. He went eight for eight, for 42 passing yards. He ran for 27 more. The arm and legs of Mahomes accounted for 69 of the 75 Super Bowl-winning yards.

All the Niners players could do was sit on their bench, despondent, letting the confetti fall on their heads.

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Mahomes won his third Super Bowl MVP award, shaking off a slow start to finish 34 for 46, for 333 passing yards and two TD scores. He ran for another 66. He was KC’s leading passer and rusher.  Only Tom Brady (5) and Joe Montana (3) have won as many or more Super Bowl MVPs. Brady was 37 when he won his third MVP. Montana was 33.

Mahomes is 28. Both Mahomes and Brady have won 3 Super Bowls in their first six seasons as starting QBs.

Graphic by Lon Tweeten for TIME; Getty Images (5)

Kansas City trailed at the half, 10-3. The Chiefs were so frustrated, Kelce screamed at Reid and bumped him. San Francisco took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, on the strength of a Jake Moody 55-yard field goal—the longest in Super Bowl history, until KC’s Harrison Butker nailed a 57-yarder in the third—and a trick-play touchdown. San Francisco’s Jauan Jennings threw the ball across the field to Christian McCaffery, who then ran for a 21-yard score. Jennings later broke a tackle to muscle his way into the end zone with 11:22 left in the game, giving the Niners a 16-13 lead. Jennings was making his own MVP case, becoming just the second player in Super Bowl history to both catch a TD and throw for one.

The Niners stopped a Mahomes drive with just over five minutes left: a 24-yard Butker field goal tied the game at 16. Moody responded in a stellar day for kickers—aside from a blocked Niners extra point that would come back to haunt them—nailing a 53-yarder to take the lead back. But the Chiefs got the ball back with under two minutes left, just enough time for Mahomes to lead the Chiefs to the San Francisco 11, with a 22-yard pass to Kelce the key play. If Kelce had somehow reached the end zone, instead of being bumped out of bounds, to score the winning touchdown … just imagine the commotion.

Alas, Mahomes had one shot at the end zone to win it, but he left a ball to Kelce, who was well-covered, short. Butker’s chip shot tied it, 19-19, at the end of regulation. An impressive overtime drive by San Francisco—13 plays, 66 yards, more than seven minutes long—stalled at the end. The Niners could only score a field goal. It wasn’t enough.

NFL - Super Bowl LVIII - Kansas City Chiefs v San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs' Mecole Hardman Jr., Patrick Mahomes and teammates celebrate after winning Super Bowl LVIII.Mike Blake—Reuters

The Chiefs dynasty talk began in earnest. “It’s the start of one,” Mahomes said afterwards. “We’re not done.” Kelce started screaming “Viva, Las Vegas” on the podium and singing a Beastie Boys tune before sharing a moment with his girlfriend, Taylor Swift, who flew in from her tour in Tokyo to see the Super Bowl, on the field. (Her next show is in Melbourne, on Feb. 16).

The Chiefs dropped a bunch of passes this year. They entered the last three games as underdogs. “Just know that the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs,” Mahomes said afterwards. “Just know that.” But in the end, when the game is on the line, they still have Mahomes with the ball in his hands. And that’s all the Chiefs need.

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