PHOENIX — It was right before halftime of Sunday’s Super Bowl, and Kansas City trailed Philadelphia, 21-14, when Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards chased down Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and landed on his already-tender ankle.
Mahomes labored to get up. When he did, he tilted his head back in a grimace and then skipped gingerly toward the sideline. His coach, Andy Reid, told Mahomes’s backup, Chad Henne, to start warming up.
At halftime, Mahomes wanted to address his teammates before he got treatment. He was not happy about how subdued they were, and in a fiery speech told them to pick up their energy and be themselves.
“We put new tape on there and did some movement to get some mobility in it,” Mahomes said Monday. “It was something that I was going to play through.”
Against Jacksonville four weeks ago, Mahomes suffered a high-ankle sprain that sent him to the locker room for an X-ray. Reid was reluctant to put him back in the game. Mahomes returned anyway and helped Kansas City to a victory, but he was clearly hobbled against the Cincinnati Bengals in the A.F.C. Championship game.
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Kansas City’s down-to-the-wire victory over Philadelphia gave the team its second title in four seasons.
This time, Reid decided to not argue with his quarterback.
“He grew up in a locker room,” Reid said. “He’s seen the greats, and he strives to be the greatest. Without saying anything, that’s the way he works. He wants to be the greatest player ever. That’s what he wants to do, and that’s the way he goes about his business.”
Reid appreciated that Mahomes came out for the second half with purpose, going 13 of 14 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 Super Bowl victory. But he said his play alone was not what made him a great quarterback.
“When it’s time for the guys around him to raise their game, he helps them with that,” Reid said. “The great quarterbacks make everybody around him better, including the head coach, so he’s done a heck of a job.”
Think Willis Reed stiff-legging it out for Game 7 of the 1970 N.B.A. Finals despite a torn muscle in his right thigh. Or Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals withered by the flu but still pouring in 38 points to beat the Utah Jazz.
Mahomes’s performance on a tender ankle throughout the playoffs is perhaps more impressive than the gaudy statistics he has put up in his first five years as a starter.
At just 27, he has won two Super Bowls and was named the Most Valuable Player in both. Mahomes was named the N.F.L.’s M.V.P. for a second time this season. He has been All-Pro three times and chosen for five Pro Bowls. Twice, he has led the league in touchdowns, and he set a record of 5,614 passing, rushing and receiving yards in a season.
“M-V-Pat,” Travis Kelce, one of his favorite targets, has crowned him, with good reason: “He’s going to be the best to ever do it when it’s all said and done and is the best to do it right now.”
Mahomes indeed grew up in a locker room, shadowing his father, Pat, in Major League Baseball clubhouses throughout his 11-year career as a pitcher. He is a gym rat who understands the dynamics of a community of athletes and knows chemistry is the difference between good and great.
Immediately after returning to the locker room after the victory, Mahomes, still in his pads, spent nearly 10 minutes shaking hands and hugging every single teammate and coach.
He was more frustrated than angry with his teammates at halftime — the Eagles had effectively kept the ball out of his hands in the first half, gobbling up more than 21 minutes, or two thirds, of the clock.
“We just challenged each other, man, to leave everything out there, and I don’t want to say we played tight in the first half, but you didn’t see that same joy that we play with,” Mahomes said. “And I wanted guys to just know that everything we worked for is for this moment.”
They listened, scoring 24 second-half points.
Mahomes is still young and hardly finished. His second Super Bowl championship puts him alongside a who’s who of N.F.L. quarterbacks — Jim Plunkett, Bart Starr, Bob Griese, Eli Manning, Roger Staubach and Ben Roethlisberger.
But he has set his sights on perhaps the greatest of all time, the recently retired Tom Brady.
“It’s going to be tough,” he told reporters of catching Brady. “I mean, seven Super Bowl victories, 10 Super Bowls. There’s a reason why he’s so far ahead of everybody else. It’s hard to do, but I’ll do my best to chase it.”
Neither his ankle nor complacency is going to slow his quest to be the greatest.
“We’ll continue to rehab, continue the treatment that we were doing, and just give it some rest. I think the best thing for it is going to be rest,” Mahomes said. “One thing that might take a hit is my golf game.”