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Patrick Mahomes once again uses his legs to secure a Super Bowl title

In Las Vegas, Kansas City’s MVP gunslinger picked his spots to run, once again closing the title game with a scramble.

SPORTS-FBN-49ERS-CHIEFS-26-LV L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs (and their quarterback Patrick Mahomes) made history in Super Bowl LVIII, completing a set of back-to-back titles. In both championship games, Mahomes was named the MVP, earning the award by doing more than just dicing up coverages.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago, Mahomes set up the game-winning field goal by dashing for 26 yards after dropping back to pass. It made up the bulk of the quarterback’s 44 rushing yards for the game, which was the team’s second-highest mark in Super Bowl LVII.

But in Sunday night’s 25-22 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Las Vegas, Mahomes took it to a new extreme by racking up 66 yards on the ground, using his legs to move the chains four times in the second half. He ended up as his team’s leading rusher, finishing off the championship by waiting for the right moment to take off.

Here are those key moments:

Escaping pressure

For the bulk of the evening, the San Francisco pass rush was breathing down Mahomes’ neck. The 49ers’ defense finished with three sacks for the game, getting opportunities as the good coverage behind them made Mahomes hesitant to throw.

When a pass isn’t there against a zone coverage, it’s harder for the quarterback to make a play himself. Since the defenders already have eyes on him, scrambling lanes don’t pop open as easily as they do against man coverage.

On this third down in the third quarter, the 49ers are in zone coverage — but Mahomes has no choice but to run into it after the pass protection breaks down, flushing him out to the left.

As he approaches the line of scrimmage, he pump-fakes, which slows defensive lineman Arik Armstead’s pursuit. Then he recognizes he is on a collision course with a cornerback in the shallow zone, so he lowers his shoulder to get the extra few yards he needs to convert.

It was the quarterback’s first impactful scramble; the 49ers’ aggressive zone coverage was triggering downhill. But when Mahomes needs to scramble, he can will it to work. In this case, it helped sustain a field-goal drive.

Run-pass options

Down the stretch of the season, Kansas City called fewer run-pass option plays; the team needed to simplify the ground attack. But on Sunday, San Francisco’s defense invited the team to bring them back situationally.

On this first down in the third quarter, the 49ers’ defense is keying in on the Chiefs’ running game. As Mahomes takes the snap, he confirms that defensive end Nick Bosa is committed to chasing the handoff. That tells Mahomes he should keep the ball.

Once he clears the fake, Mahomes has two primary options: tight end Noah Gray in the flat or wide receiver Rashee Rice on a “glance” route. Mahomes very quickly realizes, however, that he is the only Kansas City player for whom the defense is not accounting — so without second thought, he sprints for 22 yards.

In overtime, the Chiefs went back to a similar play to convert fourth-and-1. The action is the same: a handoff look from shotgun that is going away from the beelining Nick Bosa. This time, the play is designed for Mahomes to pull — but it still sets up quick passing options for him.

Once again, the quarterback quickly sees that no defender accounting for him. Even though wide receiver Rashee Rice has found space past the first-down marker, Mahomes recognizes that option as an unnecessary risk. So he bursts downfield, getting as many yards as he can before sliding.

The right time to break the pocket

A year ago, Mahomes’ fourth-quarter scramble popped open because the Eagles’ pass defense had spread out too far, vacating the middle of the field.

But on Sunday, San Francisco rarely gave Kansas City breathing room over the middle of the field. But as the game wore on, linebackers and safeties were more spread out; they had become less concerned with the threat of a run than they were about tight end Travis Kelce (and Rice) finding space to run after the catch.

On a first-down play during the game-tying drive before overtime, the 49ers are in man coverage; Mahomes thinks he sees the crease he has been seeking. Unfortunately, the defensive line gets to him, wasting his opportunity.

He wouldn’t miss the next chance, though. In overtime, the Chiefs are in a third-and-short in San Francisco territory. Dropping back, Mahomes recognizes the four-man rush — combined with a soft coverage in the middle of the field — and explodes through the front of the pocket.

His momentum keeps linebacker Fred Warner from changing his direction enough to catch the quarterback — and Mahomes gets a 19-yard gain.

The bottom line

Mahomes’ latest Super Bowl victory is the latest reminder that he is one of the greatest professional athletes of our time. It’s not just about his obvious career accomplishments. It’s also about the sensational moves he can physically perform.

That includes running. He is careful not to run too often — so that just when a defense thinks it has Kansas City’s offense cornered, Mahomes can pull this trump card.

Even then, he plays it only when it is most needed — like sustaining a game-winning Super Bowl drive.

It's Game Time.

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