But I genuinely felt like this had the potential to be a game where we would talk about the greatness of one – or both – of these quarterbacks for years to come.
And I think we will do that when we reflect on a 23-20 win that sent the Kansas City Chiefs to their third Super Bowl in four seasons. Mahomes came into the contest with a high ankle sprain – the type of injury that can linger for a month or more – and it became evident very early in the game that he was feeling the pain coursing through his right foot.
After a thrilling and sometimes-brutal battle that was decided by Harrison Butker’s 45-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach revealed: “People don’t realise how hurt he was.
Veach also said that the famous win “just adds to an already great legacy.” CBS commentator Jim Nantz agreed when he told Mahomes it was a “legendary performance” during the presentation of the Lamar Hunt trophy.
It was a gutsy and incredible performance from Mahomes. He was hobbling around on one leg and saw three key receivers leave the game injured as Mecole Hardman, Kadarius Toney and JuJu Smith-Schuster headed to the locker room. And yet the MVP-elect threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns to frustrate the Bengals and defy medical science in the process.
As the game progressed, Mahomes seemed to be more and more troubled by the ankle and that makes sense. If this had been Week 6, he would have been watching from home with his foot in a walking boot. Instead, he was leading from the front in the most intense of atmospheres and trying to deliver an AFC title game win against Burrow and the Bengals, who were not prepared to go quietly into the night.
Given Mahomes’ physical limitations, his greatest play of the night will not look that spectacular in the box score. A five-yard run. Just five yards. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was everything for the Chiefs as Mahomes blocked out the pain and sprinted towards the sidelines on the game’s final drive.
How could he go from limping around on one leg to sprinting on a key run that would ultimately decide this thriller? Adrenalin and greatness – a heady mix if ever there was one! There was still going to be much work required after that run and very little time in which to do it. Overtime was still the most likely outcome, but Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai made the kind of bone-headed play that could also be legacy defining. In a polar opposite of Mahomes, Ossai will also be talked about for years to come and years from now.
The young defender shoved Mahomes when he was clearly well out of bounds. Nooooooo! Another 15 yards was tacked on for the late hit, meaning Butker was in range to land the winning kick and break Cincinnati hears. Otherwise, he would have been looking at a 60-yard effort which would likely have come up short in the freezing conditions at Arrowhead (not Burrowhead) Stadium.
This was a total team win for the Chiefs. Chris Jones led a very good defensive effort with two of their five sacks, including one of Burrow to set up the final drive. And rookie return man Skyy Moore delivered good field position for Mahomes with a 29-yard punt return.
But this game was all about the magic of Mahomes and I hope the next two weeks deliver a healthy quarterback for the Super Bowl match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles. Even if he is not 100 percent, we should still expect Mahomes to perform at a high level. That’s just who he is. One of the best we have ever seen.
It will be the Eagles facing the Chiefs in Super Bowl 57 after their 31-7 demolition of the quarterback-less San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The visitors were already on their third quarterback of the year in Brock Purdy and when he left the game early with an elbow injury, it was over to Josh Johnson. When the 36-year-old backup to the backup to the backup left the contest with a concussion, Purdy re-entered the game but could not throw the ball.
While it was a shame to see San Francisco’s promising season burn out in such fashion, few can argue with the Eagles being the NFC representative in the big game in Arizona. They have been the class of the conference all season long and quarterback Jalen Hurts has now won 16 of his 17 starts.
The exciting MVP candidate quarterback has hardly needed to get out of second gear in this playoff run as the Eagles have pounded the New York Giants and now the 49ers into submission on the ground. A week after rushing 44 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns against New York, the Eagles carried another 44 times for 148 yards and four scores in downing the Niners.
That’s 416 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in two playoff contests and those scores on the ground now give the Eagles 39 for the season – the most for any team in any season in NFL history.
They were just as dominant on the defensive front. They took their regular season and playoff tally of sacks to 78, although they couldn’t add to that number much in the second half as the 49ers were unable to drop back to pass. Haason Reddick was especially disruptive as he recorded two sacks, a forced fumble (the play on which Purdy got hurt) and a fumble recovery.
The Eagles are now heading back to the Super Bowl five years after they last lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And what an achievement that is for general manager Howie Roseman.
He won it all during the 2017 season with Doug Pederson at head coach and Nick Foles at quarterback. And with just eight players remaining from that roster, he has the Eagles back in the season finale with Nick Sirianni as the coach and the excellent Hurts at quarterback. That is a rare feat indeed.
It’s the NFL equivalent of making something really cool and amazing out of Lego, breaking it up and then building something totally different but equally amazing with a mostly-new set of bricks. Of course, it helps when the few players you did keep from the previous championship run are excellent players and tone-setters in offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, and defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
The Eagles have flattened the Giants and the 49ers on the way to the Super Bowl, scoring 69 points and allowing just 14 in reply. Philadelphia are the first team to have allowed seven points or fewer in back-to-back playoff games since the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who went on to dominate the New York Giants 35-7 in that season’s Super Bowl.
Given their destructive power on both sides of the trenches, the Eagles open as Super Bowl favourites and rightly so. But don’t rule out that guy taking snaps for the other team. On one good leg or two, Mahomes is going to have his moments in what promises to be a mouth-watering Super Bowl in the desert.
Image & Story Credit: nfl.com