MIAMI — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes can seem like a magician when he is on the field. His bag of tricks includes the no-look pass he delivered last year against the Baltimore Ravens, the occasional side-arm sling and the miraculous jump throw against the Tennessee Titans during the regular season.
The 24-year-old has captured the imaginations of sports fans across the world since becoming starter in 2018, but as he prepares to play in Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Sunday, he can still catch his teammates — and opposing defenses — by surprise.
“Those are his wow moments,” Kansas City cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. “You are like, ‘Wow, did he just do that?’”
Mahomes’ years of playing baseball and watching his father Pat pitch in the MLB provide an answer for the question of how he throws the ball accurately across his body even when he’s off-balance.
In the Chiefs’ miracle comeback over the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round, in which they turned a 24-0 deficit into a 51-31 victory, Mahomes managed to scramble towards the sideline and flick a five-yard pass through three defenders for a touchdown to Travis Kelce.
“He’s rewriting history,” Kansas City linebacker Dorian O’Daniel said. “He’s such a special player that you don’t come in contact with everyday.”
The second-year starter makes these eye-popping plays on instinct. Even his receivers can’t tell when the magic is going to happen.
“He does it here and there in practice,” receiver Tyreek Hill said. “In a game, you just got to know the ball is coming to you.”
For defenders, each play against Mahomes becomes a chess match as they try to anticipate his next move. Even if they track his movements, Mahomes can still fling the ball from one side of the field to another.
“In training camp, it felt like me and [Mahomes] were going one-on-one,” Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “I remember, I would point to him and say, ‘Ah, you got me,’ or he would look at me and say, ‘You got that one.’”
Mahomes enters Sunday night with the chance to become the youngest player ever to win the league MVP award and a Super Bowl. With the San Francisco 49ers’ imposing defense standing in his way, Mahomes may have to dig deeper into his magician’s hat to pull off the win.
Ryan McFadden is a student in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism master’s degree program. He is covering the Super Bowl as a representative of the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.