Sometimes, a team can win the regular season and lose the postseason. That’s what the Philadelphia Eagles learned on Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs and their hobbled yet transcendent quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, ripped the Lombardi Trophy out of their grasp and won their second Super Bowl title in four years.
The Eagles were riding high all year with a top-tier offense led by quarterback Jalen Hurts and receiver A.J. Brown and with a dominant defense. They steamrollered through the regular season to earn the top seed in the N.F.C. and dominated their first two playoff games. Then they raced out to a 10-point lead in the first half of the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., and seemed to be on their way to a championship when Mahomes aggravated a right ankle injury just before halftime.
But in the second half, Mahomes showed why he is the best player in the N.F.L., even on a bad ankle. He engineered four scoring drives with grit, creativity and, presumably, a lot of pain, leading Kansas City to a 38-35 victory. Like a host of N.B.A. teams that lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, the Eagles ran into a once-in-a-generation player at the top of his game.
“They have one of the best players on the planet, so he’s going to make some big plays,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said of Mahomes.
The Eagles center, Jason Kelce, had nothing but admiration for Mahomes and the Chiefs.
“That team has everything that’s coming to them,” he said in a somber Eagles press zone after the game.
The Eagles didn’t lose because of a lack of effort. But like in so many title games, mistakes can change the trajectory. By all accounts, Hurts had the best game of his professional career, and against another team, his effort might have been enough to salt away the game.
He amassed 374 total yards and four touchdowns, three rushing and one passing. His only blemish, however, was major. He fumbled in the second quarter, and Kansas City’s Nick Bolton picked up the ball and returned it for a score to tie the game. Instead of pushing the Eagles lead to 21-7, the Chiefs tied the score at 14.
“It did hurt us, it hurt us,” Hurts said afterward.
Still, the Eagles went into halftime ahead by 10 points, and with their front line dominant and Mahomes hobbled, Philadelphia seemed in a good position.
But the 29-minute break gave the Chiefs time to collect themselves, and for trainers to work on Mahomes’s ankle.
“That 29 minutes literally brought us together,” Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.
On the opening drive of the second half, Mahomes led Kansas City on a 10-play drive that included, to the amazement of nearly everyone, a 14-yard scramble by Mahomes to the Eagles’ 4-yard line.
“He made some great plays,” Eagles linebacker Hasson Reddick said of Mahomes. “He dropped some dimes in there.”
The Eagles didn’t go quietly. Hurts engineered an eight-play, 75-yard drive in just over four minutes, capped with him running for a 2-yard touchdown and then scoring a 2-point conversion by running the ball into the end zone. Those efforts tied the game at 35-35.
In N.F.L. games with evenly matched opponents, the team with the ball last often wins. Mahomes and the Chiefs used nearly all of the 5:15 remaining after that score to march down the field and set up a game-winning 27-yard field goal by kicker Harrison Butker.
After Kansas City’s late drive and field goal, the Eagles had one last chance. But Hurts’s Hail Mary pass fell far short, and the game ended with red and yellow confetti falling from the rafters.
Hurts walked slowly to the bench — alone. Then he put his helmet down and paced back and forth — alone. His teammates seemed to sense that he needed some space. A coach approached him and appeared to say something, but only briefly. For a short while, Hurts watched Kansas City’s players and coaches celebrate amid the falling confetti. Then, he made his way off the field, breaking into a slow trot on his way out — alone again.
“You either win or you learn,” Hurts said. “We had a big-time goal that we wanted to accomplish, and we came up short.”
Kurt Streeter contributed reporting.