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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes chases history as Bears try to forget he could’ve been theirs

A photo of Patrick Mahomes celebrating during a game.

Mahomes is looking for his third championship Sunday against the 49ers.

AP Photos

LAS VEGAS — Patrick Mahomes has turned the Super Bowl into an almost annual reminder of regret for the Bears. He’s the best in the game, maybe the best ever, and he could’ve been theirs.

Mahomes has been the Chiefs’ starter for six seasons and Sunday will play in his fourth Super Bowl, this time facing the 49ers at Allegiant Stadium. He’s looking for his third championship already at age 28 and nobody would count him out of reach of Tom Brady’s seven rings before he’s done. He’s 88-25 as a starter, including the playoffs.

If the Chiefs win, they’ll be the first back-to-back champions since Brady’s Patriots did it nearly two decades ago.

“It speaks to the whole team of not being satisfied with winning one and being able to come back that next year and continue to work,” Mahomes said. “A lot of times after winning the Super Bowl you want to relax and feel like you’re done, but being able to have that mentality to battle through the adversity and get that Super Bowl ring again would be extremely special.”

All of this could’ve been happening in Chicago.

The Bears were dysfunctional and unprepared when they drafted Mitch Trubisky No. 2 overall in 2017, choosing him over future Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Mahomes has averaged almost 300 yards passing per game for his career, has a 103.5 passer rating and has thrown 219 touchdown passes against 63 interceptions.

It’s not revisionist history to say the Chiefs knew what they were doing that year. Coach Andy Reid remembered general manager Brett Veach ranting about “the greatest player I’ve ever seen” when the team, including current Bears general manager Ryan Poles, scouted him at Texas Tech, and they traded up to choose him at No. 10 over Watson.

If Poles uses the No. 1 pick to draft a new quarterback, he has a reference point of what to look for in a prospect.

Mahomes will always be a memory of what the Bears got wrong under general manager Ryan Pace. He made sure they grasped that point in 2019 when he scored a touchdown at Soldier Field and counted to 10 on his fingers. That was probably the last time he gave the Bears more than a passing thought.

His attention is on bigger goals than revenge.

He stands atop the NFL similar to the way Michael Jordan did in basketball in the 1990s, when everyone wanted a shot at toppling him. New challengers sprout up everywhere. It was Jalen Hurts of the Eagles last Super Bowl. Now Brock Purdy will take a shot.

Mahomes has started doing things that mimic Jordan’s mindset, too. After proving himself peerless in this era, he’s chasing champions of old like Brady and Joe Montana. He’s looking for any little thing that he can interpret as disrespect to spark him, like the Chiefs being an underdog against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game or the 49ers being a two-point favorite over them Sunday.

“Sometimes you’ve gotta do that,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who was Mahomes’ first position coach before taking the Bears job in 2018. “One thing’s for sure is when you doubt Pat, he likes that.”

There were a lot of doubts this season. There shouldn’t have been.

Mahomes had a makeshift group of wide receivers. The Chiefs let four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown walk in free agency. They lost their season opener at home against the Lions. They were only 15th in scoring after leading the league last season. After the Raiders outmuscled them at Arrowhead Stadium on Christmas Day, the Chiefs were just 9-6.

“If there’s a down year, it’s this year,” Nagy said. “We were 9-6 and it felt like we were 0-15 — not us internally, but to the outside world.”

Yet even with this being the thinnest supporting case of his career, Mahomes propelled the Chiefs to 11-6 and a division title. Having the No. 2 defense in the league certainly helped, too, and between that and Mahomes’ play, the Chiefs have trailed for about 21 minutes the entire playoffs.

If he wins his third title, he’ll match Troy Aikman and step ahead of Peyton Manning and John Elway. Those are the types of names Mahomes is actually competing against at this stage.

His dominance is compelling, not monotonous. It never got old watching Jordan and Brady. There was always an upstart coming for Mahomes, as Purdy is Sunday, and it’s great theatre watching him try to fend them off.


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