In both those games, Mahomes spun victories from double-digit deficits, developing a reputation for comeback wizardry that only intensified at the Super Bowl, when he led three touchdown drives in the final 6:32. But Mahomes does not lead many fourth-quarter comebacks — six across 46 N.F.L. games, counting the postseason — because his team rarely trails that late.
The Chiefs trailed late Sunday because Raiders quarterback Derek Carr did not just match Mahomes over the first 58 minutes or so — he outshined him. In one sense, the Raiders are the anti-Chiefs, an anachronism assembled to win with brute force: with fullbacks and blocking tight ends and by running with Josh Jacobs, who harnesses the power of a transformer, out of two-back sets. But they don’t have to.
The Raiders’ offensive personnel promote flexibility in a manner that feels vaguely aspirational, with Darren Waller blossoming into their version of Kelce. Carr didn’t surpass 165 passing yards in any of the Raiders’ previous three games, all victories, because Las Vegas bullied their opponents on the ground. On Sunday, he topped that number by halftime — 183 of his 275 total — and in the fourth quarter he whipped touchdowns to Waller and Jason Witten, whose 1-yarder off a Carr scramble put the Raiders up by 31-28 with 1:43 left.
Glancing at the clock, Carr thought they left too much time for Mahomes.
“Obviously, yeah,” he said.
Later, Carr clarified that he would have said that about any quarterback in that situation. But few quarterbacks in football history have done what Mahomes has done, or can do what Mahomes can do. At his current rate, Mahomes will throw for 4,856 yards this season with 43 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions; according to Pro Football Reference, no one has passed for that many yards and that many touchdowns and so few interceptions.
But Mahomes, the youngest player to win the Most Valuable Player Award and a Super Bowl, demolishes precedent. Never before had he thrown a go-ahead touchdown within the final two minutes. On the winning drive, he completed six of seven passes. On the winning play, he escaped the pocket and, surprised to see Kelce so open, zipped him the ball.
“I just tried to put it on him as quick as possible,” Mahomes said. “I knew that was the game-winner.”