The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and we were reminded again on Championship Sunday.
The San Francisco 49ers did not have a chance in their 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia since they lost their quarterback Brock Purdy to a right elbow injury on their sixth offensive snap of the game. Fourth-string quarterback Josh Johnson stepped in and provided nothing, and he left the game with a concussion.
The NFC title game turned out to be unwatchable. The AFC title game was salvaged Sunday since Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes put on a show that ended with Chiefs' kicker Harrison Butker kicking a 45-yard field goal. They were aided by a questionable 15-yard penalty on Joseph Ossai’s hit on Mahomes that sent him out of bounds, giving the Chiefs a 23-20 victory over the Bengals.
Super Bowl LVII will feature one of the best quarterbacks in the business in Mahomes and a rising star in Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. That itself should make this a Super Sunday on Feb. 12.
Mahomes continues to cement his pristine legacy as one of the best players to ever play the game. When the Chiefs needed a big play from him, he delivered. Look back to the 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that he made to give the Chiefs a 20-13 lead. He threw a dart to Marquez Valdes-Scantling at the end zone midway into the third quarter. It was so beautiful that it had CBS color analyst Tony Romo say on the telecast that it was Jordan-like.
That play was a response to Burrow’s touchdown that tied the game at 13. Cincinnati was gaining momentum from that touchdown, and the Chiefs needed an answer from Mahomes in that spot.
How good was Mahomes? According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he completed every pass he threw from outside the tackle box, on the run (8 mph) and when holding for longer than four seconds. On this day, he was limited to improvising around the pocket after his ankle injury that he suffered against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round.
He finished the game by going 29-of-43 for 326 yards with two touchdowns and no interception.
He is so good that you expect this in every game. It’s rare that he ever has a bad game. That’s a mark of greatness right there. The Chiefs have a chance to win games and championships every year because of him. Every team searches for a quarterback like him, and it’s hard to find, which makes him this special.
The Chiefs star has 10 playoff wins before turning 28 years old. That’s more than Tom Brady with nine and Steelers great Ben Roethlisberger with eight. He has 32 touchdown passes to seven interceptions and owns a 108.3 quarterback rating.
Mahomes is now the standard for great quarterback play. Every quarterback has to match up to him. It’s so difficult since he is that good and unique.
The Eagles are hoping Jalen Hurts can get to that level. Right now, he has the makings of being able to get there.
Watching Hurts progress into a passing quarterback makes his story this much more beautiful. He has made it look easy when he is throwing it out there. It’s always on the mark. It goes further out there.
Hurts embodies everything about Philadelphia, a scrappy athlete that knows how to win. He has that underdog mentality that makes him a fan favorite in that city. Remember, he was picked 53rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was drafted more of an insurance at quarterback. He did not play like one. He played well enough to show he is an NFL starter which made it easy for the Eagles to trade injury-prone Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he is in a position to receive a well-deserved extension that should make him the Eagles starting quarterback for a long time after a 22-touchdown season.
He didn’t have to do much against the 49ers. With Purdy being out of the game, the Eagles did not need him to win the game. No matter. It does not diminish his impact on the team. He will be more than ready to accept the challenge of going up against the best quarterback in football during the Super Bowl despite a sore shoulder he suffered earlier this season.
Mahomes is the favorite to win the MVP. His league-leading 41 touchdown passes and 5,250 yards back it up.
Hurts should be a runner-up. This season was his best season. He will be more than happy to take the Super Bowl MVP over a regular season MVP.
For Mahomes to do this in his prime, we should appreciate it now and not take it for granted. If there is the next Brady, it’s him. As a starter for five seasons now, he has participated in five AFC title games and three Super Bowls. He won three AFC title games and won one Super Bowl.
Mahomes continues to write his story. Hurts is starting his.
Both quarterbacks’ journeys to excellence serve as the story of this year’s Super Bowl.
You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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