LAS VEGAS — As clear in Javon Hargrave’s mind as last year’s Super Bowl loss to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs remains, he also hasn’t forgotten what it was like to lose to him on Sept. 16, 2018.
Before his three-year stop with the Eagles and the $90 million free-agent contract he signed with the 49ers this past offseason, Hargrave was with the Steelers when an unproven Mahomes was making his third career start for the Chiefs.
Final score: Chiefs 42, Steelers 37, on the back of Mahomes’ six touchdown passes.
“I tell everybody how during that game nobody knew who he was and we had all these plans of, ‘He’s a young quarterback,’ and what we were trying to do to confuse him,” Hargrave recalled Tuesday as he prepared for another matchup with Mahomes in Super Bowl 2024. “He just came out and killed us the whole game. All the game plans were like torn to pieces by halftime.”
The legend of Mahomes only has grown since then, including two fourth-quarter comeback Super Bowl wins.
One was against the 49ers to cap off the 2019 season. One was against Hargrave’s Eagles last season.
So, Hargrave shares the sense of unfinished business — and a need to exorcise some Mahomes-shaped ghosts — with 49ers teammates who had to wait longer for the rematch.
“Never wanting to feel that feeling anymore — of making it all the way to this game and losing,” Hargrave said. “I just want to feel that other side of how it feels to win instead of being all sad.”
Hargrave isn’t one for clichés about “living in the moment.”
He still hasn’t shaken his last game with the Eagles.
“It definitely hurt,” Hargrave said. “You think about it all the time, how that was one of the worst days. I’ve not really gotten over it.”
Like the Eagles one year ago, the 49ers’ strength is on the defensive line.
Instead of Hargrave lining up with Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Fletcher Cox on a defense that had 70 sacks — two shy of the NFL single-season record — he is wreaking havoc between Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Clelin Ferrell and Arik Armstead. He has 18 sacks over the past two seasons combined.
“’Grave is a dog,” Young said. “Great hands, knows how to use his leverage very well. He does a lot of things to stop the run and rush the passer. I think he’s a complete defensive tackle.”
Hargrave is one of four defensive tackles who secured at least a $87.5 million contract last offseason — along with the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence, Jets’ Quinnen Williams, Titans’ Jeffery Simmons and Commanders’ Daron Paye — but the only one who changed teams. Why?
“Money was a big thing,” Hargrave said bluntly. “And just winning. When you are in the NFL, you want to be able to compete at the highest level and play in games like this.”
To complete Hargrave’s résumé, an old nemesis — Mahomes and the Chiefs — stands in the way.
“We knew during that  game that he was going to be special,” Hargrave said. “It’s what everyone thought.”