KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mecole Hardman Jr. didn’t start the season on the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster, but he finished the 2023 season in the end zone at Allegiant Stadium after delivering a walk-off touchdown to cap Super Bowl LVIII.
Hardman hadn’t been much of a factor in three previous Super Bowl appearances with Kansas City, which didn’t re-sign after last season.
But with drops and injuries piling up in the Chiefs’ wide-receiver room and Hardman unable to carve out a role with his new team, the New York Jets, he returned to Kansas City’s roster midseason and came through in the most clutch moment possible.
“He was cut and we brought him back,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s a tough thing; that’s tough to handle mentally. He came in with a positive attitude and just said, ‘Hey, I want to help you guys win.’ We know what he does best and [offensive coordinator Matt] Nagy does a great job of putting him in positions. He’s got that mastered with that kid, and you saw that tonight.”
It was first-and-goal at the San Francisco 3-yard line.
The Chiefs trailed the 49ers 22-19 in only the second Super Bowl ever to reach overtime.
Hardman came in motion from the right to left, stopped as he approached a stack on the right edge of the offensive set then broke back toward the sideline.
Patrick Mahomes sprinted to the right a few steps to create an angle to beat the defense and put the ball on Hardman for the game-winning score to deliver the newest NFL dynasty.
THE CHIEFS ARE BACK-TO-BACK SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/ZzfhTyUXg9— NFL (@NFL) February 12, 2024
“I was just wide open and we walked it off,” said Hardman, who finished with three catches for 57 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
It was similar to a play Kansas City scored a touchdown on last season in Super Bowl LVII, a 38-35 win against Philadelphia.
“The motion was the exact same motion that we ran in the Super Bowl last year,” Mahomes said.
He said he looked Hardman’s way initially before briefly scanning elsewhere on the field and coming back to the right side, where Hardman was breaking back outside.
“They actually covered it pretty well at first ... [and] that’s a little risky always, so I was like, ‘Hey, let me make sure it’s open,’” Mahomes said. “But obviously, Coach Reid, man, knows when to call those plays at the right time.”
The play, dubbed “Tom and Jerry,” may not generate the same affection in Chiefs Kingdom as “Jet Chip Wasp,” the bomb to Tyreek Hill in Super Bowl LIV that sparked a fourth-quarter comeback, but it is now etched in Chiefs lore.
“The play call, I think it started because Clyde (Edwards-Helaire) was the first one to run it and Trav (tight end Travis Kelce) was the other guy who was part of it, so it’s like ‘Tom and Jerry,’ that whole thing,” Mahomes said.
Hardman, who had three catches for 6 yards in his first two Super Bowl appearances and missed last year’s title game due to injury, also cemented his place in Kansas City’s growing and remarkable Super Bowl history.
“I’ve played with Mecole for a long time,” Mahomes said. “He’s always ready for the moment, and he’s someone that continues to practice hard and always gets better.”
It paid off Sunday — for Hardman and the Chiefs dynasty.