Pro Football column: Mahomes holds biggest key to Super Bowl 58

When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field today at Allegiant Stadium in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be playing in his fourth career Super Bowl (2-1 record).

Mahomes is only 28 years old and in his sixth season as the Chiefs' starter. The scrappy signal caller is on pace to become one of the all-time greats.

Reporters asked former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski if Mahomes could surpass the legendary Tom Brady as being labeled the best quarterback of all time.

"I think Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback that has the potential to catch Brady," Gronkowski said. "There's going to be so many variables and factors that play into it over the next 15 years.

"Does he want to play ... until he's 45? You don't know that. That's only up to him. ... How long is Andy Reid going to be the head coach for? How long is Travis Kelce going to play with him as his No. 1 weapon throughout his whole tenure as a quarterback?"

The Chiefs are about to take on the San Francisco 49ers for yet another Super Bowl win. The Chiefs came from behind to defeat the 49ers in Super Bowl 54 (winning 31-20 in 2020 when Mahomes threw three touchdowns in final 6:13), and they know what it takes to win a Lombardi Trophy with the world watching.

Looking at what this Kansas City team specifically brings to the 2024 Super Bowl, there are four reasons why the Chiefs could win the big game.

Four players will make the difference: Mahomes, Kelce, defensive lineman Chris Jones and coach Reid.

Mahomes is the biggest reason why Kansas City is back in the NFL showcase, and he's the biggest reason why they can win. The Chiefs are seeking back-to-back Super Bowl wins after beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35, last year.

The comparisons to Brady (7 Super Bowl wins) are legitimate. For this team to win its third Super Bowl in four years, Mahomes being Mahomes will be key. He's also a former Northeast Texas star from Whitehouse, Texas.

Kelce, a future Hall of Famer, is one of the best postseason players in NFL history, and he should be a huge factor. He and Mahomes have one of the most lethal connections in the league, and them finding the soft zones in the 49ers defense will be a necessity if the team's wide receivers don't step up.

Jones is one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, and he's got plenty of help around him to disrupt the 49ers' vaunted offense, which averages 28.9 points per game.

Defensive linemen like George Karlaftis, Mike Danna, Neil Farrell and Tershawn Wharton will join Jones in their effort to slow down San Francisco running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffey, who gained 1,459 yards and scored 14 rushing touchdowns this season, eclipsed the 2,000 scrimmage yards for a second time in his career.

Reid is one of the best coaches of all time, and he's got two recent Super Bowl rings to show for it. His 25-year record as an NFL head coach is 258-144-1, with 25 more victories coming in the playoffs. Reid regular-season wins are fourth all-time behind Don Shula (328), George Halas (318) and Bill Belichick (302).

The veteran coach knows how to get his guys ready for the big game.

San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy was the last player drafted in 2022, making his unlikely rise to a Super Bowl quarterback so surprising. That'll be a lot of pressure on "Mr. Irreverent."

Another storyline is the Chiefs potentially on the cusp of building a dynasty, which has caused some fans to hope San Francisco wins.

"I usually just watch the commercials and the halftime show," one fan said. "But I'm excited about the two teams that are playing this year because I want the 49ers to win. I like the Chiefs, don't get me wrong, but I really want somebody else to win this year."

Some fans, mostly men, enjoy watching the game. Others watch the halftime show, the ads or something else.

"This is also the 20th annual Puppy Bowl to consider," a fan said. "The Animal Planet showcases over 100 adoptable puppies from shelters and rescue groups as they play on a makeshift football field."

I think I'll stick to predicting the Chiefs and Niners. Kansas City 36, San Francisco 31.

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