GLENDALE – The last time Arizona played host to a Super Bowl in 2015, millions around the world witnessed the New England Patriots, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, rally from a 10-point deficit against the Seattle Seahawks to win 28-24 and breathe new life into their dynasty.
History nearly repeated itself Sunday night at State Farm Stadium as the Kansas City Chiefs came back from 10 points down to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35, in Super Bowl 57 and establish themselves as the NFL’s next dominant force.
Before that win in 2015, the Patriots hadn’t won a Super Bowl since 2005 (coincidentally against the Philadelphia Eagles), which was their third title in four years at the time. But after years of painful losses in the playoffs and multiple Super Bowls, the dynasty seemed to be winding down – until New England’s Malcolm Butler’s improbable interception of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal-line.
Little did anyone know, that comeback would catapult New England to another run of three Lombardi trophies in the 2010s. The Belichick-Brady dynasty spanned nearly two decades and produced nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships.
On Sunday, the Chiefs took another step along a similar path as two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes led the way and coach Andy Reid provided the roadmap as the franchise won its second Lombardi Trophy in four years.
However, the game appeared to be slipping away from the Chiefs at the end of the first half after the second of an NFL-record-tying three rushing touchdowns by Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts put Philadelphia ahead, 21-14.
Worse, on the third down of the Chiefs’ ensuing drive, Mahomes fell awkwardly on his previously sprained ankle when he was tackled from behind by Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards.
“It didn’t feel good, but I was going to leave it all out there,” Mahomes said. “You’re in the Super Bowl, you can worry about getting healthy in the offseason. So, I just fought through.”
The Eagles took advantage of Kansas City’s stalled offense with a made field goal to close the first half with a 24-14 lead – one half away from a championship.
However, the Chiefs had convinced themselves they were an underdog all season long – and they were ready for the moment.
“We were always counted out man, nobody expected us to win the AFC West, damn sure didn’t expect us to win the AFC Championship Game.” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. “We were like a second child throughout this whole process.”
Like the rest of the Chiefs defense, Jones was seemingly unable to stop the Eagles’ plan of attack, which consisted of a heavy dose of Hurts either throwing or running.
“We got a lot of young guys on this team, a lot of first-time starters in this league,” Jones said. “I still get jitters of just being in excitement. Those guys, I can only imagine how much they had going through their minds.”
Jones said the halftime break “played perfectly” for the Chiefs to refocus as a group, “eat a few chicken strips” and relax.
“Everybody was able to take it in, take a deep breath, meditate,” he said
The offensive players said little to realign themselves, according to tight end Travis Kelce, who scored his 16th career playoff touchdown to move past Rob Gronkowski (a crucial part of those Patriots teams in the 2010s) to second place on the all-time list behind Jerry Rice.
“Let’s go be ourselves,” Kelce said of the Chiefs’ halftime discussions. “Let’s go out there and be ourselves. Play with a little more fire. That was essentially the end of the discussion right there. Play with more fire for the guy next to you.”
Reid attested to the short discussions, as he knows his team doesn’t need extra motivation.
“The guys always believe. They never don’t believe They always think they’re in the game,” Reid said.
Once Rihanna’s levitational halftime performance concluded, it was time for the Chiefs to get back to work.
In years past, the Chiefs relied on big-name receivers like Kelce and current Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill for big plays. This time around, a new cast of characters around Mahomes and Kelce helped get the job done.
“They brought great energy,” Reid said. “(Isiah) Pacheco and the guys on the offensive side; ‘MVS’ (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), JuJu (Smith-Schuster), and ‘KT’ (Kadarius Toney). These are all new faces, and they just stepped up. They’ve done that all year.”
Valdes-Scantling racked up six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship; Smith-Schuster made big catches in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl; Pacheco ran for 76 yards and a touchdown; and Toney, who scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter, set a Super Bowl record with a pivotal 65-yard punt return to position Kansas City to take a 35-27 lead.
Essentially diamonds in the rough upon arriving in Kansas City, each player Reid mentioned in his postgame press conference shared equal praise for their head coach.
Smith-Schuster, who came to the Chiefs on a one-year deal in 2022, said, “(Reid is) for the players, he’s not a coach that’s going to drive you and abuse you. He’s the type of coach that’s going to help you and put you in the best position possible to go out there and perform.”
Toney added that he “couldn’t have done it” without Reid and his staff.
One can compare the roles played by Smith-Schuster and Toney to Patriots players like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman or Dion Branch in their championship runs. Like Pacheco, a seventh-round rookie or Valdes-Scantling, the odd man out from the 2021 Green Bay Packers – great teams find ways to utilize undervalued players to make the largest impact in a game as big as the Super Bowl.
But once the game was on the line, Mahomes stepped up for a game-changing play – this time on a 26-yard scramble late in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of play he has made countless times in his six years in the NFL, but this time it was on a bum ankle.
“When it’s time for the guys around him to raise their game, (Patrick) helps them with that. The great quarterbacks make everybody around him better, including the head coach,” Reid said.
Kelce called Mahomes the “toughest son-of-a-gun you ever met.”
“That Texas gunslinger ain’t going to let nothing get in the way,” he said.
As Mahomes and the Chiefs went into kneel downs – “church-mode” as Reid called it – only the go-ahead field goal was left to cap off the franchise’s second Super Bowl in four years.
Harrison Butker, who missed a 42-yarder in the first half, assumed the role of former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who pulled off heroics of his own in back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2002 and 2004.
“That’s what you dream of as a kicker getting to the Super Bowl and having a game-winning kick,” Butker said. “You know, it’s crazy to think that’s now happened.”
As red-and-yellow colored, Lombardi trophy-shaped confetti fell from the stadium’s catwalks, Reid found his franchise quarterback to tell him he loved him.
Later when speaking to the media, Reid showed even more love to his quarterback.
“He’s a humble kid man, and he works his tail off,” Reid said. “As a coach, you respect him. You respect everything that he does there.”
The parallels between two generations of dominance on the NFL stage in the Patriots and Chiefs are borderline uncanny. Widely believed to be the end of the most dominant dynasty since the Cowboys in the ‘90s, Super Bowl 49 in 2015 wound up being the beginning of a new chapter in New England’s history.
After the Chiefs reached five straight AFC Championship games, appearances in three of the last four Super Bowls and with two rings to boot – all under one of the great minds in football history and a generationally talented quarterback – the stars seem to be aligning for the next dynasty in the NFL.
Reid, who contemplated retirement this week, said he’d love to return next season “if (the Chiefs) would have me.”
With Mahomes as the quarterback, Reid will most likely stay put.
“To have someone that is such a great person who gets the best out of the players and to become men and players, you wanted to do that, you wanted to win those Super Bowls for him,” Mahomes said. “I said it before the year, and I’ll always say that as long as Andy Reid is coaching us, we have a chance.
“I’ll keep the big guy around for a couple more years at least. We’ll try to get back in this game as many times as possible.”