By DAN GARTLAND | SI
After all the talk about Super Bowl LV being a matchup of all-time great quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes looked fairly pedestrian. Well, more accurately, his numbers were fairly pedestrian (26-of-49 passing for 270 yards and two interceptions). Considering how difficult the Buccaneers’ front seven made his life, it’s a minor miracle that he played even that well.
Mahomes was under pressure all night long. According to ESPN, he was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks (51.7%), more than any other quarterback in Super Bowl history. (Brady, by comparison, was only pressured on four of 30 dropbacks.) As a result, Mahomes spent most of the night running all over the backfield, trying desperately to buy himself enough space to find a receiver. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, he ran 497 yards on his dropbacks, more than any quarterback since the league started tracking these things in 2016. That’s more than a quarter-mile. (And he did it with a toe injury that will require offseason surgery.)
But because he is Patrick Mahomes, his throws looked desperate but not hapless. On several occasions, he zig-zagged across the backfield and threw a pass that, for any other player, would have been a prayer. Out of Mahomes’s hand, though, these frantic passes actually had a chance. Here’s one where he’s in the clutches of a defender, being spun around, nearly 30 yards from the goal line and drops it within inches of his (double-covered!) receiver’s hands in the corner of the end zone.
That’s ludicrous. There is no one else on Earth who could do that. And yet, Mahomes did something somehow even more impressive on the very next play. In a dud of a game that the Chiefs lost, this may somehow be the single play that people are talking about the most. And it was an incomplete pass on fourth down in a three-score game.
Once again, only four Tampa Bay pass-rushers managed to collapse the pocket instantaneously and force Mahomes to run for his life. He gets tripped up at the 29-yard line and, while his body is horizontal to the ground, throws a sidearm, perfect-spiral rocket that hits his receiver square in the facemask.
This is why, even though he’s only 25, people are talking about Mahomes’s potential to one day surpass Brady as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. There’s no one else who can do what he does. He makes circus throws on a regular basis, and can easily make the conventional throws a quarterback needs to make. He’s a freak. In the same way that no one can come close to matching Brady’s résumé, Mahomes’s sheer talent is unparalleled. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll end up playing 10 Super Bowls, or that he’ll win seven, but when Mahomes’s career is over, he’ll be remembered as the greatest magician in football.