Patrick Mahomes is days away from playing in his third Super Bowl, a remarkable feat for the 27-year-old quarterback. Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs topped the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in 2020 and then were trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021, losing Super Bowl 55 by a 31-9 score.
Let's let look back on Mahomes in those games as we near a Super Bowl 57 showdown between the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
Super Bowl LIV vs. San Francisco 49ers
Mahomes finished Super Bowl 54 with a 63.7 overall grade, his fourth-lowest game grade that year after earning a season-high 96.1 mark just two weeks prior in the conference championship game. The future Hall of Famer completed 26 of his 42 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to go with two big-time throws (PFF's highest-graded throws) and four turnover-worthy plays (PFF's lowest-graded plays). He added nine carries (five of which were scrambles) for 29 yards, a touchdown and two first-downs
Both of Mahomes’ big-time throws in Super Bowl 54 came in the fourth quarter as Kansas City went on a 21-0 run to erase a 10-point deficit and snatch the Lombardi Trophy out of San Francisco’s grasp. On third-and-15 with 7:13 left to go in the game, Mahomes launched a missile that traveled 42 yards in the air to hit Tyreek Hill on a post corner to keep the drive alive and ignite the comeback. His other big-time throw was on the following drive, on a second-and-7 play with the Chiefs at midfield. Mahomes dropped a ball with perfect accuracy on a go route to Sammy Watkins down the right sideline to set up a 38-yard gain.
Mahomes’ four turnover-worthy plays all came before the comeback started. In the first quarter with the Chiefs in the red zone, he scrambled to his right on a third-and-11. Mahomes picked up the first down, which he earned positive credit for grade-wise, before fumbling the ball as he was tackled. Fortunately for Kansas City, the ball went out of bounds.
Midway through the third quarter, Mahomes had two plays that were graded as turnover worthy, the first coming with 6:21 to go. He dropped back and was stripped in the pocket by edge defender Nick Bosa on a rush right through the middle of the pocket, although Mahomes was able to recover the fumble (he received a big downgrade for the fumble before earning some of that back for recovering it himself). On the very next play, Mahomes threw a ball that missed Tyreek Hill badly and went right to linebacker Fred Warner, who was defending from underneath, and Warner was able to hang on for the interception.
Mahomes' final turnover-worthy play came on the first play of the fourth quarter. He scrambled to his left to escape pressure from the interior, and as he tried to throw the ball away, he ended up firing it directly at linebacker Kwon Alexander, who, fortunately for the Chiefs, dropped the would-be interception. Mahomes went on to finish that drive by throwing an interception, but that throw received only a slight inaccuracy downgrade since it deflected off his wide receiver's hands right toward a defender who wasn’t even involved in the initial coverage.
In addition to the turnover-worthy play to big-time throw ratio weighing Mahomes’ grade down, his overall accuracy just wasn’t as sharp as we’re accustomed to seeing from him. Through the conference championship game, Mahomes had an “accuracy-plus” rate of 16.1% (a throw categorized as accurate plus is one that either hits the target in stride or is placed in a perfect spot to shield a target from closing coverage), but in Super Bowl 54 his accuracy-plus rate was just 5.9%. On top of a drop on one of those perfectly placed balls, Mahomes also just flat-out missed his target at a higher rate than normal. He had 17.6% of his throws in the game deemed uncatchable, a sharp increase from the 9.7% uncatchable rate he posted throughout the rest of that season.
READ MORE: Eagles vs. Chiefs — Who has the biggest advantage at every position group ahead of Super Bowl 57?
Super Bowl LV vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mahomes finished Super Bowl 55 with a 69.1 overall grade, his fifth-lowest game grade for that season — ironically, once again just two weeks after he earned a season-high 92.9 game grade in the conference championship against the Buffalo Bills). Mahomes completed 26 of his 49 passes for 270 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions to go with two big-time throws and one turnover-worthy play. He added five rushes (four of which were scrambles) for 33 yards and three first downs.
Mahomes' first big-time throw came on a ball that actually fell incomplete. Mahomes, on third-and-11 with 5:22 to go in the first quarter on Tampa Bay’s 31-yard line, faced quick pressure and got out to his left. While on the run, he fired a dart that traveled 29 yards in the air and cleared Antoine Winfield Jr. in coverage, hitting Tyreek Hill in the hands for what would have been a touchdown had Hill held on.
His other big-time throw also came on a consequential ball that fell incomplete. Once again on third down, but this time back in Chiefs territory with 9:24 to go in the second quarter, Mahomes escaped pressure once again and thew to tight end Travis Kelce on a deep out route that would have picked up the first down to keep the drive alive, but like Hill, Kelce was unable to hang on to complete the conversion.
Mahomes' only play that PFF graded as turnover worthy came late in the fourth quarter with the game pretty essentially out of reach. Mahomes dropped back on second-and-20 with 5:03 to go and ended up fumbling the ball on a sack. Mahomes threw two interceptions, but neither received was deemed a turnover-worthy play.
The first interception came with 6:30 to go in the third quarter. On a third-and-13 throw, Mahomes fired a ball 30 yards in the air to Hill on a crossing route. Safety Mike Edwards was able to reach around Hill at the catch point and beat him to the ball, deflecting it away before Antoine Winfield Jr. brought down the ricochet.
His other interception came on his last throw of the game with 1:40 to go in the fourth quarter. Mahomes targeted Kelce in the front corner of the end zone on a pass that was heavily contested by linebacker Devin White. Both White and Kelce had a shot at the ball, but White was able to win the battle and make a great play for the interception. Mahomes did receive a downgrade for trying to jam the ball in there, but it wasn’t large enough to earn the turnover-worthy tag.
Mahomes spent what felt like the entire game under pressure, dealing with heat on 31 of 56 dropbacks, and it severely hindered both his and the offense as a whole’s ability to get anything going. On those 31 pressured dropbacks, his average time to throw shot up to 4.1 seconds, as many plays broke down and turned into off-script football. And the results were just … bad. Mahomes averaged 3.0 yards per attempt under pressure in Super Bowl 55 compared to an average of 8.3 yards per attempt when he wasn’t pressured.
The only way for Mahomes to really avoid pressure was to get the ball out quickly and throw short. On non-pressured attempts, his average depth of target was just 5.5 yards and he threw short of the sticks 69.6% of the time. Tampa Bay was able to get to Mahomes early and often, completely handicapping what he’s so often able to bring to the table.