They should have known — who doesn't at this point? — that it was one too many.
After leading the Chiefs downfield late in regulation, only to settle for a tying field goal with 3 seconds left to force overtime, Mahomes capitalized on his second chance. The Chiefs' sturdy defense held the 49ers to a field goal of their own, and with the ball back in his hands, Mahomes marched the defending champions right downfield on a touchdown drive to remember.
He scrambled for a pair of first downs, including one on fourth-and-1 with the game on the line, and was 8 for 8 passing on the drive. The last of the throws may have been the easiest, a 3-yard toss to Mecole Hardman to finish off the heart-stopping 25-22 victory, and give one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history his third Super Bowl ring.
“This is awesome,” Mahomes said simply. “Legendary.”
Fitting way to put it for a 28-year-old quarterback quickly reaching legendary status.
Mahomes is only the sixth quarterback to win three Super Bowls — and was selected MVP for all three — and the youngest to do it. Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are within reach with four apiece. And given how quickly Mahomes has been stacking up those shiny Lombardi Trophies in Kansas City, it's hard to believe Brady’s record of seven is untouchable.
Mahomes is also closing on Brady's record of five Super Bowl MVPs; Montana is the only other player with three.
“I think Tom said it best: Once you win that championship, you have those parades and you get those dreams, you’re not the champion anymore. You have to come back to that with the same mentality,” Mahomes said. "And I learned from guys like that that have been the greatest of all time.”
The Chiefs are the first repeat Super Bowl champions since Brady and the Patriots in 2003 and ’04, and their third title in four trips over the past five years puts them in rarified air. Only four teams have won three championships in a five-year span.
Asked whether the Chiefs have achieved dynasty status, Mahomes replied: “It’s the start of one.”
“He comes to work every day humble. He comes to work every day wanting to be great," said the Chiefs' Andy Reid, who became the fifth coach with at least three Super Bowl wins. “An absolute pleasure to coach.”
In truth, Mahomes struggled for much of the game Sunday, especially because the 49ers refused to bring the blitz, which the two-time league MVP tears apart with ease. But he started to heat up in the fourth quarter, when he drove Kansas City for a field goal to tie it at 16 with 5:46 left, then when he drove for another field goal that sent the game to overtime.
Impressive stuff from a quarterback who had surprisingly struggled in the clutch this season. Mahomes was just 18 of 47 for 167 yards with no touchdowns and an interception with a chance to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“I don’t think Pat knows how to lose,” Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice said.
Mahomes celebrated winning by sprinting like mad into the end zone. He wheeled around, his helmet held aloft, and headed all the way back to Kansas City's sideline, where he fell onto the yellow-painted turf. With nobody around Mahomes for the briefest of moments, he stared into the sky in what seemed to be an exhausting mixture of elation and disbelief.
As if anyone should have any reason not to believe in Mahomes by now.
“We've got the best quarterback in the league,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said.
Mahomes finished the Super Bowl with 333 yards passing and two TDs, and he extended his franchise record for yards rushing in the playoffs with 66 more. The head-scratching interception he threw into heavy coverage early in the game was forgotten by the time he hit Hardman in the end zone, sending red and yellow confetti raining down inside Allegiant Stadium.
Also forgotten were all the losses and lousy games Kansas City had this season.
The Chiefs were largely juggernauts during their previous Super Bowl runs, romping through the playoffs with ease — even if they had to come from behind in the finale to beat the 49ers in 2000 and the Eagles last year. But they struggled mightily this season, losing five of eight games during one stretch, and dropped all the way to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
They had to beat Miami in the fourth-coldest game in NFL history in the wild-card round. Then they hit the road to beat second-seeded Buffalo and No. 1 seed Baltimore, before knocking off another No. 1 seed in the 49ers on Sunday.
“I hope people remember not only the greatness we have on the field, but the way we've done it,” Mahomes said. "I feel like we enjoy it every single day. We have fun. We play hard. It's not always pretty, but we fight to the very end.
“I know there's some fatigue sometimes with one team winning,” he said, “but we just try to enjoy it. We try to enjoy it.”
AP Super Bowl coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/super-bowl
Dave Skretta, The Associated Press