If you are a New Englander of a certain age, then you remember how painful those 4 p.m. Patriots games in Denver were during the 80s.
The good news was that when those games came up on the schedule, you typically got the best broadcast pairing of the weekend with either the team of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen, or maybe Charlie Jones and Todd Christensen depending upon the year. Great broadcasts with great voices and often tense games for a Patriots team that desperately needed a win to get in, hosted in a place they always had great trouble doing so.
Mile High Stadium.
The main reason was often John Elway.
In Super Bowl LIV, 49ers fans are sure to feel some of those same feelings Patriots fans used to feel during the late 80’s when no matter the down and distance, John Elway could take it all away from you in the bat of an eye. Patrick Mahomes reminds me so much of Elway in that way and the opportunity to accelerate Mahomes’ seemingly destined stature among the greats of the game, begins in earnest a week from Sunday.
Mahomes is that good.
He has several traits that remind me of Elway: Mobility, crazy ability to throw deep with pinpoint accuracy and his ability to do so under great duress. Improvisation is another one, as is his dangerous and successful dual-threat ability as a passer and runner. However, none of those qualities are the precise reasons Mahomes reminds me so much of Elway.
Mahomes instills a feeling that no matter what your team is doing right, that it will never be enough and like with Elway, it usually plays out that way.
I remember the feeling so clearly during those doomed Pats games in Denver many moons ago. I always felt better with the Patriots defense in third-and 2 than in third-and-22. The greater the degree of third down difficulty, the more effective Elway would get. Like most teams in that situation the Pats usually (if not always) got the short end of the stick. Need 22 yards? Elway would get 35 and pull out the inevitable dagger that would end his opponents just as your team had its best shot. Slam, you’re dead.
Mahomes is proving to own that same trait.
In two separate games during these playoffs the Chiefs fell behind with significant postseason deficits and in each of those games, neither deficit mattered much. Down 24-0 to the Houston Texans early, as you watched that game you knew it was just a matter of time before Mahomes heated up. Once he did, the production from the Chiefs offense came quickly and in the span of minutes it was an entirely different ballgame. 41 unanswered points resulting in a 51-31 walloping over the outclassed Texans.
In the AFC Championship game, the underdog Tennessee Titans put up more of a fight throughout the game but the script was the same. This time the upstart Titans put up two separate 10 point leads of 10-0 and 17-7. Tennessee did all the right things as they built those leads, but it mattered not. Again, once Mahomes became Mahomes and the degree of difficulty was at its highest, the switch turned on and Kansas City rolled.
Super Bowl LIV will be strength against strength. An incredibly explosive Kansas City Chiefs offense going toe to toe with the league’s most formidable defense, the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a solid consolation prize for Patriots fans missing what often feels like our annual birth right come late January. Even though the Pats aren’t in it, this one scripts out like a vintage matchup.
Elway went 2-3 in his Super Bowl appearances, winning his last two after the Broncos finally put a complete team around him at the very end of his career. His first three Super Bowl games weren’t good ones and he didn’t play well in any of them either. I have a feeling that this is one trait that he and Mahomes will not share.
I suspect that the fierce 49ers defense will put the Chiefs in some dubious third down situations and just like the classic NFL Films reels show of Elway, I’m expecting to see some of that odds defying magic on Super Bowl Sunday from Mahomes.
I’m picking the playmaker and betting on Mahomes in this one. Pay close attention to those third-and-long situations, that’s when the fun will begin.