Patrick Mahomes’ halftime speech changed it all. His teammates got him back post-game
By the time Patrick Mahomes pushed through the set of red double doors, most of his teammates had already filtered into the Chiefs’ locker room.
It was halftime, a double-digit deficit confronting them on the sport’s most visible platform, and the room had grown silent.
“Why the (bleep) is it so quiet in here?” Mahomes yelled as he walked in, his teammates would later say. “Ya’ll gotta get some (bleeping) energy in here.”
Travis Kelce darted behind him, as though he had been personally called out by his quarterback, and “he basically just started yelling,” offensive tackle Andrew Wylie would recall. “It got us all going.”
Third in line stood head coach Andy Reid, who turned his attention to a group of five players — left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney, center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and Wylie.
“He told us we needed to have a great second half in order to win this game,” Wylie said. “Us five up front took that personally.”
This is the backdrop of a Super Bowl LVII championship, the precursor to a 38-35 comeback win against the Eagles late Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Arizona.
Mahomes is the game’s MVP, just as he was the season’s MVP, after he threw three touchdowns, all while battling the re-aggravation of his high-ankle sprain. He is 14-10 in his career when he trails by double digits at some point during a game. A winning record when all seems so lost.
And yet it always seems to surprise us — because it seemingly comes out of nowhere. His best, after his worst.
It does not, however, fall from the sky like the red, white and gold confetti that littered the field hours after the Chiefs lifted their second Lombardi Trophy in four seasons. It derives from strategic moments, and the Chiefs got one from their quarterback at halftime.
“Pat gave a speech. Trav fired us up. And we came out ready to go,” said rookie Skyy Moore, whose fourth-quarter touchdown catch gave the Chiefs an eight-point lead.
Let’s not subvert the obvious. Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, a true statement unbothered by the result of this game. The resume — the legacy — changes after this game, to be sure, but that’s the basis for another column.
This is about the less obvious.
Behind the scenes, as the Chiefs voluntarily endured an offseason of self-prompted change to their roster, Mahomes had worked on something else:
“I had to become a better leader,” he said.
It will be impossible to quantify its impact on the outcome of the biggest game of his life.
But know this: “He got us locked in and motivated,” Wylie said.
That was the before picture.
‘That boy cold’
Mahomes is walking down a hallway, with a limp by the way, that leads back to that locker room.
The place is popping now, about half an hour after Harrison Butker’s chip-shot split the uprights in the final seconds, anticipatory of the quarterback’s arrival. Cigar smoke fills the air, a potent odor, and the sound machine is pumping hip-hop music. Before Mahomes gets there, though, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts greets him in the corridor.
“Congrats, bro,” he says as the two embrace.
A few more steps, and Mahomes walks into that same set of red double doors — into the room that had felt so hushed the last time he was here.
This time, they’re waiting.
This is the after picture.
Mahomes turned first to his right, ducking behind a wall that separates the offense and defense. This space happens to be reserved for the latter.
As he did four years ago, Mahomes plans to shake hands with every last player and staff member in the room.
I’d like to describe to you the way these teammates feel about their quarterback — the way they seem to realize they are the ones lucky enough to play with that guy — but why not just roll through them, one by one?
As Mahomes starts on the near side of the room, sitting on a stool, rookie safety Bryan Cook is sizing him up.
“Ahhhhhh!” Cook begins, flexing every muscle in his upper body before sticking out his right arm for a handshake. “That boy cold, man! That boy cold!”
He playfully jabs both fists into the chest pads of Mahomes. “Way to do business!”
There’s rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson to the immediate right.
“Ah, let’s (bleeping) go,” he says.
Fourth-year safety Juan Thornhill, who missed the Super Bowl with an injury four years ago, wants a full-on hug, not a handshake. When the two separate from one, both wearing backward ballcaps that illustrate the Super Bowl championship, Thornhill smiles.
“Appreciate you, dawg,” he says.
Justin Reid, who signed in Kansas City for the possibility of this moment, has a corner locker.
“Pat! My dawg, man,” he says. “Way fight through it, baby. Way to fight through it, man. Make that (stuff) happen.”
Mahomes turns to walk toward the middle of the room, where linebackers Willie Gay and Darius Harris and a shirtless Brandon Williams have turned the gray carpet into a dance floor.
Nearly every player in this room has been caught up in the moment, and Gay is smoking the cigar. He’s often the DJ, too. But they each pause when Mahomes arrives.
“You all know who that is,” Harris shouts. “MVPat. MVPat. That’s him.”
In the far corner of the room, Chris Jones is sitting inside the cutout of his locker, still in his full pads. Mahomes spots him and stretches out both hands, inviting the most valuable defensive player in the room for an embrace.
“I love you and appreciate you,” Jones says.
“Two of ‘em,” Mahomes replies. “We ain’t done, though.”
“We gotta run it back,” Jones says.
“We ain’t done,” Mahomes underscores once more.
On the other side of the divider is the entire offensive roster.
He would greet running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. A few words with backup quarterback Chad Henne, would soon post a photo on Instagram to announce this victory will be his last.
And then Mahomes migrates to the far end.
The group that received Reid’s final words at halftime will receive Mahomes’ final handshakes.
“Hell of a game for ya’ll,” says Mahomes, who was not sacked once by the team that led the NFL with 70 of them this season. “Way to (bleeping) step up and keep me in the pocket.”
“Absolute honor bro,” Thuney replies.
Mahomes had already found Brown on the field. So Humphrey next. And then Trey Smith.
“Thanks a lot,” Smith says.
Thank you. These are grown men, contributors to a Super Bowl championship team, some of them even starters. Their interactions, though, suggest they are just fortunate to be along for the ride. They think — they know — why the Chiefs have won their third Super Bowl in franchise history. Why some of them have won for the first time.
But those that have done this before?
That feeling has a way of sticking around.
Wylie stands last.
“Ah, my brother,” Mahomes says. “Another one, baby.”
“Proud of you, kid,” Wylie says. “Proud of you.”