For the better part of two weeks, New Englanders discussed the merits of the Chiefs run of success and Patrick Mahomes' place in it. While not always doing so overtly, there has been at least the inference that both had been given too much too soon, and comparisons to Tom Brady and the Patriots were still premature.
Then the Chiefs repeated behind another incredibly clutch performance by Mahomes and suddenly the comps don't seem quite as unreasonable.
The thought of Mahomes catching Brady in Super Bowls remains far-fetched. Given everything he has already achieved, the idea that he remains less than halfway to Brady's total of seven titles offers some perspective in that regard.
But the idea of the Chiefs and Mahomes being worthy of being mentioned as a dynasty and in the same breath as the Patriots is no longer silly. Mahomes just picked up his third Super Bowl MVP and improved to 15-3 during the postseason for his career. He's made it to the conference title game in each of his six seasons as the Chiefs starter and to the Super Bowl in four of those. Only losses to Brady (twice) and Joe Burrow keep him from a perfect playoff record.
Winning three titles in five seasons, including the first back-to-back championships since the Patriots 2003-04 teams, makes Kansas City a viable contender to New England's throne. The reason for that is mostly Mahomes, who like Brady gives his team a chance to win it all each and every season he's healthy.
But the Chiefs also have an excellent coach in Andy Reid, who just may break Don Shula's all-time wins record before Bill Belichick ever gets the chance. Reid's in-game brilliance stood out on Sunday while up against San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan, who seemed to tighten once again on the biggest stage.
Reid prepped his team for the new postseason overtime rules, explaining how he would take the ball second if given the option in order to better understand what would be needed following the Niners series. He also told the players if the Niners indeed scored a touchdown in such a scenario that the Chiefs planned to go for two and the win with a play they already earmarked and practiced during the week.
Meanwhile, Shanahan took the ball after winning the toss, creating at least the possibility that he was unaware of the rule change that allowed each team a possession even if a touchdown is scored on the first series. He said he wanted to get the third possession of OT, a strange admission since no such series was guaranteed to happen in the first place. (Spoiler alert: it didn't). The Niners defense was on the field late in regulation so it's possible he wanted to offer some time for rest, but the more tactical decision would have been to defer and give his offense four downs to work with if needed – which Kansas City did effectively by converting a fourth-and-1 to kickstart the game-winning drive.
Shanahan also seemed to eschew the running game early in the second half, and after moving the ball effectively in the first 30 minutes things stalled. Christian McCaffrey, his best player, got just one carry on the Niners first three second half series, each of which resulted in a three-and-out. That sudden lack of production allowed the Chiefs to turn the momentum, and the rest is history.
Mahomes' brilliance on the final three drives, each of which required points in order to keep the Chiefs alive, was almost expected. He used his legs effectively, most notably on the fourth down conversion in overtime, while consistently delivering strikes to his much-maligned group of receivers. That he found Mecole Hardman, who spent much of the season catching exactly one pass for the Jets, for the game-winning touchdown was almost comical.
There was an air of inevitability to the final drive, much like there used to be while watching Brady do similar things. And now the two have very similar resumes at similar spots in their careers, and Mahomes doesn't seem ready to slow down anytime soon.
The NFL handed out its postseason honors ahead of the Super Bowl and for the most part seemed to get most everything right – at least in my view.
MVP – Lamar Jackson, Ravens – I felt Jackson was an easy choice and he was nearly unanimous with Josh Allen picking up a single vote. Jackson will continue to hear about his postseason performances, however.
Offensive Player of the Year – Christian McCaffrey, 49ers – Hard to argue with this choice as McCaffrey led the league in rushing and in total yards. I'd have gone with Tyreek Hill, who finished with 1,799 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year – Myles Garrett, Browns – A strong argument could be made for T.J. Watt, who led the league in sacks with 19. But Garrett's ability to wreak havoc on opponents stood out in more ways than stats can show.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – C.J. Stroud, Texans – In my view this was the most difficult call to make. Stroud was simply incredible while leading the Texans to the playoffs, breaking most rookie quarterback records in the process. But Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua was every bit as effective and broke all the rookie receiving marks as well. Quarterbacks are more important so Stroud gets the tiebreaker, but this was a great race.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Will Anderson, Texans – Not a bad draft for Houston picking up these two in the first round. Anderson's consistency gave him a leg up on Philly's Jalen Carter and the rest of the rookies.
Coach of the Year – Kevin Stefanski, Browns – Stefanski's ability to overcome a mountain of injuries, winning games with four different quarterbacks, made him a worthy selection. I leaned toward DeMeco Ryans, who transformed the Texans in one season while relying on the aforementioned rookies.
Comeback Player of the Year – Joe Flacco, Browns – I'm on record many times explaining my confusion with this award in general. Coming back from injury? Performance? Something else? That said, Flacco did a great job keeping the Browns afloat and actually played more games than Buffalo's Damar Hamlin, who miraculously returned from a near-death experience. Hamlin not winning came as a surprise based on that alone, but if actual performance matters they got it right.
Odds and ends
I've developed a new Super Bowl ritual in recent years and it involves racing to social media during and immediately after the halftime performance. My goal is to find someone who loved it and someone who hated it within a minute. Mission accomplished.
Usher was still dripping with sweat when I read tweets indicating the effort was outstanding and worthy of joining Prince and Michael Jackson among the all-time best, and also some that called it weak and uninspired along the lines of Up With People.
Personally, I enjoyed it and felt the mix of guests and energy was solid. Not the best but nowhere near the worst halftime shows I've seen. My one criticism would be the lack of "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" during the show.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez' Dunkin commercial was probably the best and most memorable ad during the Super Bowl, but it didn't have much competition. The crop of spots lacked much creativity, although they did seem to deliver on the star power. The Uber Eats add with David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston wasn't bad. Overall, it was a pretty uninspired year for Madison Avenue.