We know Patrick Mahomes threw for 270 yards because that’s a category that always is represented in an NFL box score, but the one statistic that genuinely would capture the story of Super Bowl 55 is not available without a Fitbit.
Mahomes covered so much ground while running from Buccaneers pass rushers he might have, if you stitched all those desperate scrambles together, made it back to Kansas City on foot.
It was a sorry picture, this lone genius unable to present a true picture of his art. It was as if Meryl Streep had wandered into an episode of “Chicago Fire.” It was reminiscent of young LeBron James winding up in the 2007 NBA Finals with a crew you couldn’t recall if it meant winning Final Jeopardy — and getting swept out in four games.
Except these were the defending Super Bowl champions, these Chiefs.
How could a defeat like this, 31-9, possibly happen?
“I just don’t think we were on the same page as an offense in general,” Mahomes told reporters after the game. “I wasn’t getting the ball out on time. The receivers were running routes not exactly where I thought they were going to be at. And the offensive line, they were good at some times, and sometimes they let guys through. When you’re playing a good defense like that, you’ve got to be on the same page as an offense. And we weren’t today. And that’s why we played so bad.”
Mahomes entered the NFL in 2017. He since has started 54 games, including postseason play. This was the first time he quarterbacked a team that failed to score a touchdown. There were three Harrison Butker field goals to show for Sunday evening’s work. That’s it.
The Chiefs scored 9 points tonight. I think that’s the fewest points ever by Patrick Mahomes
Lowest point totals by season for Mahomes:
2017 (just played 1 game): 27
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) February 8, 2021
“We just didn’t execute, especially on third down and in the red zone,” Mahomes said. “Those are the two most important parts of the field. They were just better than us today. I don’t know what else to say. They executed at a higher level defensively, had a good game plan, and we weren’t able to make adjustments and find ways to get into the end zone.
“They were the better team today. They beat us pretty good, the worst I think I’ve been beaten for a long time.”
Mahomes’ journey to the Super Bowl had been so benign it seemed his success only would continue once he arrived in Tampa. There had been the apparent concussion, sure, and the toe injury that was bothering him, but he’d won 16 of his 17 starts this season. It seemed a natural progression that the Super Bowl would be a breeze to conquer.
“They had a good gameplan. They kind of took away deep stuff. They took away sideline,” Mahomes said. “We weren’t executing early. I had a few miscues. Guys … we weren’t on the same page.”
So many of us were aware of the mess that had become of KC’s offensive line, particularly since the season-ending knee injury to left tackle Eric Fisher, but were too distracted by Mahomes’ customary brilliance to pay it much heed. To say the Bucs punished the Chiefs’ retrofitted O-line would be like saying Usain Bolt is kinda fast.
Patrick Mahomes dropped back to pass 56 times and faced a blitz on just 6 of those dropbacks (11%).
Of the 29 pressures he faced Sunday, 27 came against a pass rush of 4 or fewer defenders.
That’s the 2nd most pressures against 4 or fewer rushers over the last 10 seasons. pic.twitter.com/Qo8XQUFL60
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 8, 2021
Mahomes was sacked three times for combined losses of 27 yards, but this was only because he happens to be a magician. A quarterback operating on regular wheels might have gone down a dozen times or more. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett spent so much time in KC’s backfield he should have been given a Chiefs uniform.
“Their front seven, they were coming,” Andrew Wylie, converted from guard to tackle in this emergency, told reporters. “It wasn’t just one guy getting free, it was a few of them. So, us on the offensive line, we take that one personal.”
The Chiefs converted only three times in 13 third-down situations. Because third-and-whatever was the ideal time for Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to bring overwhelming pressure against the depleted Chiefs line, gambling their blocking would crumble before someone like Hill or tight end Travis Kelce broke free in the secondary.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid never adjusted to this siege by putting Mahomes on the move to start plays. Mahomes would drop back into the pocket, then drop farther as the rush neared, then still farther as the pursuit refused to relent. Mahomes threw some preposterously great passes under all of that pressure, but just because they were the work of a virtuoso does not mean they were caught.
“We have a young group of guys. When we joined together, we knew it wasn’t always going to be successful and you weren’t going to be able to win 1,000 championships in a row. We knew we were going to go through times like this, and adversity.
“Obviously, we didn’t end the season the way we wanted to. We can learn from that. We can learn from the successes we had during the season. And at the end of the day, we have to come into this next year with a blank slate and try and get to the Super Bowl again.”
Mahomes made it all look easy for three years. It is not, though, even for the most gifted and most determined. James has lost six times in the NBA Finals. Tom Brady has lost three Super Bowls. He did not lose Sunday. He stayed on his feet, all the way through the postgame celebration, when he stood on a “socially distanced” podium and held aloft the Lombardi Trophy, again. Mahomes was miles away from that celebration this time.