So the votes of the punditocracy are in and Patrick Mahomes is now the identical twin Tom Brady never knew he had, because narrative trumps fact in a world in which Trump gets to have narratives.
All of which is fine, because the Super Bowl is constructed in such a way that you can make up your own heroes based on any criteria you like. For instance, Taylor Swift also won the Super Bowl for millions of people. Hey, knock yourselves out. Make your own Christmases.
But the truth of the matter in a football sense, as it usually is in these cases, is at the margins. Mahomes actually should be getting credit for transforming his game in Year Seven of Our Lord to that of a grinder, because he did very few genuinely Mahomesian things Sunday. The rest of the NFL has been spending most of the last five years trying to construct a defense that could stop him and has gotten close enough to control him—as long as he doesn’t get 13 cracks at you.
The Chiefs scored two touchdowns, and one was a gift from the heel of 49ers’ special teamer Darrell Luter, or as he shall henceforth be known, That Poor Bastard. They were the slightly lesser team with the demonstrably better quarterback, which is no slight on The Other One.
But they were also the team with Harrison Butker, which may be a bummer to you folks who prefer your football a bit less pedestrian, but is an indisputable truth. As the second most accurate kicker of all time after the impish squatter Justin Tucker, Butker was asked to hold serve for Mahomes four times during what was often a slog of a game, and though three of the four were relative chip shots (the fourth was a line drive from half a field away that was good on flash but better on keeping the Chiefs close when the 49ers were threatening to pull away), they finished off three long drives with something that kept the 49ers from Draymond Greening the entire game. Because as we are all aware, a 10-point deficit to the Chiefs is a three-point deficit. You just have to give it time.
This is indeed a small enough point to make, but in a game played at the margins that actually hinged in considerable part because Leo Chenal blocked a Jake Moody extra point, Butker was the one automatic. Mahomes was accurate but inert in the first half, decent but hardly spectacular in the second, and perfect in overtime, which is how you’d like to have these things go.
And there is no “but” here. In a game that is tilting dramatically toward defenses that can dominate quarterbacks for huge swatches of games, Mahomes is the only true outlier left. Plus, his legend is only embossed by driving for the one touchdown the Chiefs absolutely had to have. He has now trailed by a touchdown in 11 postseason games and the Chiefs have won 10 of them including this version, which most people agree is the worst of the Chiefs’ three champions. That’s the pony under the Christmas tree.
But for the rest of it, he and Andy Reid could rely on the one true automatic thing these playoffs provided—an error-free tactical choice that would not have to repeatedly force heroism upon both of them. Ask Dan Campbell if you think that’s a small thing. Butker won’t have a notation on Mahomes’s Hallf of Fame plaque, but that’s probably because he’ll have one of his own. You don’t need to dominate the main stage, after all, if you can dominate the one you’re on.