3rd down struggles doom Mahomes, Chiefs in Super Bowl

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) sits on the turf during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Patrick Mahomes has always seemed to save his best work for the most important down.

With the ability to scramble and improvise with his legs and make magic with his arm, Mahomes has made a habit of demoralizing opponents by turning bad situations on third down into drive-extending ones for Kansas City.

Those big plays fueled the Chiefs’ success the past three seasons. The lack of them doomed Kansas City in the Super Bowl when Mahomes didn’t complete a single third-down pass until late in the fourth quarter of a 31-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night.

The Chiefs came into the game having converted 49.5% of their third-down tries this season for the second-best mark in the NFL. Mahomes posted an impressive 117.1 rating this season on third downs and has a league-best 113.8 for his career.

Mahomes missed his first eight passes on third downs and finished 4 for 12 for 46 yards and an interception for an 11.1 rating that was fourth worst on third downs in the past 30 Super Bowls.

“They had a good game plan,” Mahomes said. “They kind of took away our deep stuff, took away the sidelines and did a good job rallying to the football and making tackles. We weren’t executing early, had a few miscues and we weren’t on the same page.”

Mahomes converted Kansas City’s first third-down attempt of the game when he scrambled for 11 yards on third-and-7. The Chiefs didn’t convert another until they were down 22 points more than halfway through the fourth quarter.

What followed were eight straight third-down incompletions by Mahomes, who was repeatedly forced on the run behind Kansas City’s injury-riddled offensive line, and given no help from his receivers.