Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Eagles’ Jalen Hurts put on QB clinic in Super Bowl

Playing quarterback in the NFL — and excelling at it — is the hardest thing anybody can do in sports. Nothing compares.

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Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes runs for a huge gain in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes runs for a huge gain in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LVII on Sunday.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I didn’t like the holding call on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry at the end of the Super Bowl, either. But it was, technically, holding. Bradberry even admitted so.

Sorry, Eagles fans.

Just try to remember this was a great Super Bowl, riveting to the end. Even though your team lost.

And the reason it was so fascinating is because of the wonderful quarterback play by two elite athletes, competitors and leaders: the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts.

I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: Playing quarterback in the NFL — and excelling at it — is the hardest thing anybody can do in sports. Nothing compares.

It’s like making 20-foot putts while people throw sandbags at your legs. It’s like hitting sliders while hawks dive at your head. It’s like fighting Mike Tyson while doing your taxes.

Hurts had an outstanding game. Yes, his team lost, but it lost to an opposing quarterback, Mahomes, who was doing his comic-book-superhero thing.

Hurts not only led the Eagles in rushing with 15 carries for 70 yards — a Super Bowl record for quarterbacks — but he also tied a Super Bowl record for any position with three touchdowns on the ground. His passing was terrific, too: 27-for-38 for 304 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.4.

‘‘Jalen played the best game I’ve seen him play,’’ Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

It was good enough to win almost any game, even a Super Bowl. In fact, no quarterback had led his team to 35 points and lost a Super Bowl. Then again, only two other quarterbacks had gone against Mahomes in the biggest game, the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and a fellow named Tom Brady, then with the Buccaneers. Brady, perhaps the luckiest great quarterback on the planet, is the only one of the three to beat Mahomes.

Hurts didn’t have that luck.

His fumble returned for a touchdown was the only big mistake he made. No matter. Because Mahomes — 21-for-27 for 182 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 131.8 — was out of his mind. He threw two second-half touchdown passes to overcome a 10-point deficit, had a critical scramble of 26 yards on the winning drive — done on an injured ankle, of course — and looked like somebody who understands something about the game the rest of us do not.

It was a no-brainer to give Mahomes, 27, the Super Bowl MVP award, his second. Nobody has won more before age 33. In fact, only Tom Brady and Joe Montana have won more than two at any age.

And Hurts is only 24.

These guys’ youth, too, is incredible. Each could be starring for another decade or so. Don’t forget Brady was 43 when he won his last Super Bowl. Another fact for consumption: There were no interceptions in the game.

Why is that important? Lazy, cocky, foolish, overwhelmed, confused, tricked, fading quarterbacks throw interceptions. Young quarterbacks throw interceptions. But these guys are special, and they gave us a special game.

They were also the first pair of Black quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl. There was a time when the position itself was virtually taboo for a Black athlete. The reasons were many and always cloudy, if not suspiciously reminiscent of Jim Crow culture. The most common justification was that the player was such a good athlete that he needed to play receiver, running back or defensive back. Or that he somehow wasn’t ‘‘well-rounded’’ enough.

But 11 Black quarterbacks started for the 32 NFL teams on opening day of the 2022 season, and you can count on the number going up.

The logic was always there: If a player can pass, run and lead, then why in God’s name shouldn’t he handle the ball on every play? You saw it Sunday: He should.

So Bears fans can ponder what’s in store for their young, talented and athletic quarterback, Justin Fields. Is he in the Mahomes/Hurts range? Hurts exploded this season, his third in the league. That’s where Fields will be next season.

The role models are out there for him. You just saw them. So did everybody.

Now it’s time for Fields and the Bears to do something about it.

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