On a cold, brutal Kansas City winter afternoon, Tom Brady had just won another AFC championship game, just won an overtime shootout over the Chiefs, just sent his New England Patriots on their way to another Super Bowl, which two weeks later they’d win for Brady’s sixth title.
After that game in January 2019, he went looking for Patrick Mahomes. This was after the field was cleared and after a trophy ceremony, and even after Brady’s news conference. He’d missed Mahomes in the postgame swirl of the 37-31 victory. Now, he wanted to see him, which isn’t always the case with Brady and rival QBs.
He asked a security guard to take him to the Chiefs’ locker room, and when Tom Brady asks for something, Tom Brady gets it. So the guy led Brady, still in full Patriots uniform, through a backdoor and to Mahomes who was seated dejectedly at his locker.
“Stay with the process,” Brady said, according to Mahomes. “Be who you are.”
Whenever Tom Brady finally retires from football and gives himself the time to reflect on his greatest victories, it stands to reason that AFC championship game will be near the very top of the list.
Not just because of the dramatics, or the challenge, or the Super Bowl title that would follow.
It’ll be because of who he beat that day.
Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady heading opposite ways in 2020
Mahomes and Brady met again Sunday in Tampa Bay. Brady with a new team. Mahomes with new status. The game was hyped as a potential passing of the baton in the NFL, but whether Brady ever admits it, that was done in the postgame locker room when Brady wanted to make sure the kid got some heartfelt advice.
“He’s a great player,” Brady said that day.
Brady knew he’d just snuck by a more talented quarterback. He knew the Patriots needed a masterful defensive game plan and performance (the Chiefs were shut out in the first half). He knew he needed some luck (Dee Ford lining up offsides). He knew he needed everything and anything to beat this wonder kid, this No. 15 with the sidearm throws and the scrambles that represented a new way that football would soon be played.
Mahomes was the MVP in 2018. He was the Super Bowl champion for the 2019 season. Here in 2020, he’s 10-1 following the Chiefs’ 27-24 victory over Tom’s Buccaneers, a game which saw Mahomes build an insurmountable lead that Brady and all his hand-chosen offensive weapons couldn’t muster the comeback against.
Brady remains the greatest winner the sport has known and a megastar if only because of what he is still trying to achieve at 43 years of age.
Yet, this isn’t a fair fight, even if officially they are 2-2 in games played against each other. The gap between them, let alone their teams, is greater than the scoreboard.
If they were to match up again, it would have to be back in Raymond James Stadium for the Super Bowl. There’s a good chance Kansas City is there.
“Man, I hope so,” said Mahomes, who acknowledged trying to scout out stadium configuration, bus routes and local hotels.
The 7-5 Buccaneers, less so.
“Everybody tried to throw us the Lombardi Trophy in August,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “You don’t just throw names out there. You have to practice.”
“I have to do a much better job the last four weeks of the year,” Brady added.
Brady passed the baton before Chiefs’ Super Bowl run
This was an afternoon of fireworks and firemen — Mahomes lighting them off in the first half and then snuffing out any chance of a Tampa comeback late with a clock-grinding, game-clinching drive built more on guile than skill.
It was the total package quarterback performance — 462 yards and three touchdowns through the air, another 28 critical yards on the ground.
It was more than Brady could match, even if he never stopped trying, including barking in the face of Chiefs 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Tom Brady and Chris Jones exchanging some words 👀pic.twitter.com/5QiSBJCLGN
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 29, 2020
Brady’s stat line of 345 yards and three touchdowns looked good and should temporarily silence the critics who say he can’t throw it 20 yards in the air anymore. But there were also two interceptions and a view from the bench as Patrick did what Tom used to, stifle an opponent one third-down conversion at a time.
“We stop the run, we stop the pass, we don’t stop the quarterback scramble,” Arians said.
That’s Mahomes. The talent is too great. The understanding of the game is too vast. He’s the best this league has going. He has started 46 games (playoffs included). The Chiefs have averaged a whopping 32.5 points in them.
“Very, very few guys I’ve ever seen in this league can backpedal 8 to 9 to 11 yards in the pocket and throw a dime 25 yards down the field,” Arians said. “He has an unbelievable skill set … and he can read the defense as he does it.”
Brady is still pretty good, amazingly good considering his age. Beating Mahomes and the Chiefs requires near perfection though. Brady and the Bucs know that. Brady knew it two seasons ago, when somehow he and the Pats managed to do it.
Then, out of respect, he ducked into a depressed opposing locker room so he could tell young Patrick to just stick with the plan, because it was going to pay off and, without saying it directly, the NFL was going to be his.
Tom Brady sure was right about that.
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