The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes celebrates with Mecole Hardman after Hardman’s Super Bowl-winning touchdown in overtime.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS — With the thinnest supporting cast he has had on offense, in what has been the least impressive season of his career, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was still great enough to stand atop the NFL.
Mahomes overcame the many deficiencies around him to beat the 49ers 25-22 in overtime in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. It’s his third championship, making him one of only five quarterbacks in NFL history to achieve that.
He gutted out a game in which the Chiefs struggled throughout and led them to a game-tying field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter before lifting them to victory on their only possession of overtime.
‘‘We battled to the very end,’’ Mahomes said. ‘‘You never know how it’s going to happen.’’
But you know it usually will.
The 49ers got the ball first in overtime and made it to the Chiefs’ 9-yard line before kicking a field goal, which set up an always-terrifying scenario: Mahomes with the ball and victory in sight.
In the first overtime Super Bowl since new rules were implemented, the Chiefs needed a field goal to prolong the game or a touchdown to take it.
When they needed it most, Mahomes caught fire. He bailed them out of a must-have fourth-and-one from their own 34 by scrambling for a first down. He converted another on third-and-six. Soon enough, the Chiefs were in field-goal range and playing with house money.
Mahomes wouldn’t settle. He scrambled again on third-and-one, this time getting 19 yards and pushing the Chiefs to the cusp of a championship at the 49ers’ 13.
Nothing was going to stop him then. Mahomes ended the game on a three-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman with three seconds left in overtime, sending the players on the Chiefs’ sideline pouring onto the field as confetti fluttered from above.
That’s what an elite quarterback does. He doesn’t need everything around him to be perfect. His team will have a shot as long as he’s standing.
It’s the most painful part of the Bears bypassing him in the 2017 draft, when they selected Mitch Trubisky instead.
Mahomes finished 34-for-46 for 333 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception for a 99.1 passer rating and won his third Super Bowl MVP.
The 49ers challenged him as much as they could, led by a brilliant performance from running back Christian McCaffrey. He ran 22 times for 80 yards and caught eight passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is fourth in victories in league history, now is one of five coaches to win at least three Super Bowls.
‘‘He’s the greatest coach of all time,’’ Mahomes said. ‘‘He brings out the best in me because he lets me be me. I don’t think I’d be the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have coach Reid.’’
It didn’t matter that one of Mahomes’ most dependable teammates, tight end Travis Kelce, melted down on the sideline and bumped Reid. It didn’t matter that running back Isiah Pacheco fumbled away a scoring opportunity at the 49ers’ 9. It didn’t matter that, as they have all season, his receivers dropped passes. Mahomes offset all of that.
Very little went his way until late in the third quarter, when a Chiefs punt deflected off 49ers special-teamer Darrell Luter’s foot as he was blocking to set up the return, and the Chiefs’ Jaylen Watson recovered the ball at the 49ers’ 16.
Mahomes promptly hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the end zone on an effortless pass to give the Chiefs their first lead at 13-10 after falling behind 10-0 to start the game.
It was difficult to imagine Mahomes letting victory slip away. He rallied from 10 down in his other Super Bowl victories, too.
The 49ers answered with a touchdown to go up 16-13 — Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal blocked the extra point, a crucial play — early in the fourth, but Mahomes drove the Chiefs to a field goal on the next drive to tie it.
Kelce came around eventually and finished with nine catches for 93 yards after a one-yard catch and nothing else in the first half. He made one of the Chiefs’ biggest plays with a 22-yard catch on third-and-seven to get them to the 49ers’ 11 with 10 seconds left and give them a chance to win in regulation.
But he’ll have some explaining to do for inexcusably getting physical with his 65-year-old head coach after Pacheco’s fumble.
Reid wobbled before regaining his balance, and running back Jerick McKinnon pulled Kelce away. He paced the sideline angrily before going back to hug Reid.
Like the game itself, it wasn’t pretty but ended fine for the Chiefs. Mahomes carried them yet again. And this won’t be the last time.
He’s chasing Tom Brady’s seven rings, and he still has a long way to go. It was on his mind immediately after the game when he referred to Brady’s relentlessness.
‘‘I’m gonna celebrate tonight and celebrate at the parade,’’ Mahomes said, ‘‘and then do whatever I can to be back in this game next year.’’