MIAMI, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said his team must play hard for the entire 60 minutes of Super Bowl LIV if they hope to contain Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
"All good quarterbacks are tough to beat and plan for and Patrick is as good as anyone," Shanahan said at Super Bowl Opening Night Monday at Marlins Park in Miami. "When you have the arm strength he has and athletic ability he has, there is not one throw he can't make.
"He can create stuff and play in the pocket and play in a rhythm like a true pocket passer and when stuff breaks down he can be a freak and creative."
Mahomes showed his freakish features by leading the Chiefs out of a 24-0 hole to win their first game this postseason against the Houston Texans. He threw three more touchdowns in the AFC Championship game, leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.
"I haven't played with anyone like him. ... Pat Mahomes is Pat Mahomes for a reason," Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said.
Kelce said he had no doubt that the Chiefs could stage their miraculous comeback against the Texans. He was thinking "we got Pat Mahomes" when his team looked like it was about to be eliminated from the playoffs early on. Mahomes responded by throwing five touchdowns in the dramatic win, igniting the Chiefs' run to the Super Bowl.
"We knew it was a chess match where we would have to do some crazy things," Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins said of the comeback win. "[We thought,] why not? We have the best quarterback in the league who can do some crazy things and we scored literally seven straight times to get the win.
"We have a lot of fire and character. I don't think any team can just come back from down 24-0 and be like 'we're coming back we're going to win this game.' That's why we're in this position now."
Mahomes won NFL MVP in his first year as a starting quarterback. He has morphed his game into something many fans -- and teammates -- have never seen. Mahomes can bust out of the pocket and run away from defenders, while throwing passes from any angle to connect with receivers for huge plays. He can also stay in the pocket and calmly pick apart opposing defenses.
"It's this thing he does on the sideline," Chiefs star Tyreek Hill said. "He's like a rock and he smolders. He says 'guys, let's go man.' He gets fired up. Having Patrick is a blessing. He leads by example. He is always working hard to be the best.
"Pat is very different."
Mahomes earned respect from the bench
Mahomes' leadership by example is no accident. He patiently waited for that role with the Chiefs. Many talented college prospects that go in the first round of an NFL Draft look to make an immediate impact and want to get on the field as much as possible. Mahomes had to sit for an entire season while veteran Alex Smith quarterbacked the team.
Instead of complaining, Mahomes used the opportunity to listen and learn from the experienced gunslinger. His veteran teammates watched, and Mahomes earned respect, without taking a single snap. Smith left the team the next season, handing the gig over to the phenom.
"He never tried to overstep his bounds with Alex," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "Alex was a great teacher. The players respected how [Mahomes] handled that situation. You could see the talent every day. He did the same things he does now with the scout team then."
Mahomes attributes "a lot" of his early success to Smith's teachings, saying Smith gave him a "blueprint" on being a professional quarterback. He still uses that blueprint from Smith to prepare for each game.
Comparisons to the greats
Mahomes has always been compared to other premier quarterbacks, but fans didn't know if he would reach the lofty expectations until he became a full-time starter. He answered the call by throwing 50 touchdowns last season, en route to being named the league's best player.
"There is a reason he has had so much success so young in his career," 49ers star cornerback Richard Sherman said. "It's because he's special. He does things that aren't close to anyone else in this league.
"He has qualities of Aaron Rodgers. He has qualities of Russell Wilson. He has qualities of Tony Romo. He has qualities of a lot of great quarterbacks in this league, but he's still unique on his own."
Sherman leads a 49ers unit that had the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL this season. The Chiefs had the most potent passing attack in the AFC. As Shanahan said, his defense, offense and special teams need to play a full 60-minute game in order to hold off Mahomes and the Chiefs.
"It's about competitiveness, having the teammates around me that will listen to me and they know I'm doing it for the best interest in the team, and not having to be the only leader," Mahomes said. "There are leaders around this team. We talk to each other and keep positive mindsets. It really helps us whenever we are down, or whenever we are up, to really keep the foot down."