Patrick Mahomes threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns in Kansas City’s 45-40 Super Bowl comeback win over the New England Patriots on Sunday. He did so on just 25 of 41 passes, including 1 for 6 on third downs, and looked absolutely awful at times — hell, with 20 minutes left in the fourth quarter he had a completion percentage of 3.3 percent and an interception rate of 33.6 percent. He and his offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy, did the old-fashioned “selling out” and on most plays simply gave up and threw the ball away.
The Patriots did so, too. They outgained the Chiefs 374-266 and held a 25-14 advantage in first downs. But for all of their chances, the Patriots committed a whopping 10 penalties. Of those 10, none were egregious or egregious enough for head coach Bill Belichick to give away the game. Maybe that’s why Belichick will be quoted elsewhere in the year ahead as saying his team “really played with great discipline and focus and toughness all game.”
Maybe it’s because the Patriots are a darn good football team. But history shows that too. Belichick, who was famously voted one of the Greatest Quarterbacks of All Time, has been no stranger to throwing the ball away in high-pressure situations. The Patriots famously did it in the 2001 AFC Championship Game when Drew Bledsoe was injured and the Chiefs led the Pittsburgh Steelers by 14 with seven minutes left. They also did it twice later that season in the AFC title game against the Giants.
That victory secured a spot in the Super Bowl, but the Patriots won just two more playoff games in 2001. Then-Bill Parcells fell on his sword in Week 3 of the 2002 season — and some believe he may have done so only after having a hint of the Belichick-era Patriots in mind — and it didn’t lead to much change.
In the 2013 season, the Patriots went into double overtime to win a game against the Broncos and lost to the Ravens in the playoffs. Belichick said afterward that the Broncos’ frigid Mile High Stadium and frigid New England roads made it difficult to get their players in and out of Denver between the teams’ first two games.
The Patriots again may have had cold feet this time — and it’s entirely possible the Chiefs were just playing it a little safe — but Belichick will be speaking to reporters after the Super Bowl on Monday and it won’t take much to bring it up. As the film shows, the Patriots couldn’t stop Mahomes’ passes on Sunday, and the 49-degree weather in Atlanta made the ball carry well for him, even if the Patriots defended smartly.
So here’s hoping Belichick does something with that next game, because next week, the AFC Championship game against the Chargers will take place at 3:05 p.m. CST, and it won’t necessarily be that cold in Los Angeles. Then again, those Chargers beat the Patriots on the road last year.