Patrick Mahomes has now gotten the better of NFL’s current GOAT quarterback, Tom Brady, for a second time. Mahomes (37-of-49 passing, 462 yards, three touchdowns, 124.7 passer rating, 9.1 yards per attempt, 28 yards rushing) was definitely better than Brady (27-of-41 passing, 345 yards, three TDs, two interceptions, 116.4 passer rating, 8.2 yards per attempt) — and very much needed to be — in the Chiefs’ 27-24 road win over the Buccaneers on Sunday.
While Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, keeps pushing toward his second regular-season MVP at age 25 after only three years of starting, Brady showed more of his fade at age 43 with his third multiple-turnover effort in the past four games, all losses. With the Chiefs not bothering to test Tampa Bay’s No. 1 run defense much, Mahomes went wire to wire with his aggressive big-pass playmaking. He made his game of long pitch-and-catch with wide receiver Tyreek Hill (13 receptions, 269 yards, three TDs) look especially easy.
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For Brady, meanwhile, it was a grind. He had more issues pushing the ball deep until finding much-needed success in that area in the second half. In the end, he didn’t rejuvenate himself enough to outduel Mahomes and was unable to compensate for his mistakes.
For those keeping score, Mahomes is now 2-2 in his head-to-head matchups with Brady. Really, Mahomes could easily be 4-0. He lost a 43-40 shootout to the Patriots in 2018 despite being the slightly more efficient passer. Mahomes also was awesome in relation to Brady in the playoffs that season, only to see a big comeback effort ruined by a late offside penalty on the Chiefs’ defense — and then never touching the ball in overtime of that 37-31 AFC championship game setback.
Last season, in their third meeting, both QBs were off their game with the Chiefs’ and Patriots’ defenses playing well, but Mahomes was still the better QB by the numbers in a 23-16 Chiefs victory. The fourth and possibly final meeting — barring a rematch back in Tampa in Super Bowl 55 — confirmed the passing of the torch.
For passing-analyst purists, “wins” aren’t really a quarterback stat. So the fact Mahomes “evened the score” with the Chiefs beating Brady’s new team is more for poetic license. But one cannot deny that in the heavily offense-leaning NFL where fewer teams are “have-nots” at quarterback, the game’s most important position carries more weight in winning games than ever before.
Just look at what happened to the Broncos at the end of the other quarterback extreme in Week 12. They were playing another NFC South foe in the same late-afternoon window as Bucs-Chiefs, but they didn’t have a legitimate QB to start. And that game against the Saints was over before it started.
The Chiefs played mostly shaky defense against the Buccaneers despite Brady’s two mistakes, and things could have been worse had the Buccaneers’ running game not been taken out of the equation early because of a negative game script. The Chiefs, meanwhile, were one-dimensional by choice on offense. That’s the very definition of putting the outcome of a game entirely on your quarterback, but Kansas City knew full well that Mahomes, as always, was up to the task.
Brady, whenever he retires, presumably in the next five years, will still be considered the greatest quarterback of all time. Six rings and a whole lot of big wins and stats give him a ton of GOAT equity. Elite older contemporaries such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger don’t have enough time on their side. Russell Wilson, who turned 32 on Sunday, still has plenty of catching up to do.
That leaves Mahomes as the only active QB with a chance to displace Brady at the top, a company of one. For a long time, that mantle was held by Brady’s boyhood idol, Joe Montana, wih his four rings and cool efficiency. Only in early 2017, when Brady added his fifth ring — before Mahomes was drafted into the NFL by the Chiefs — did that narrative change to Brady becoming the GOAT.
Brady’s longevity has been one of the most impressive things about his unparalleled resume. Minus one season, 2008 when the Chiefs took him down in Week 1, he has been an unprecedented winner in the sport. Mahomes will need health and playing time to get there, but no one has been better out of the gate in chasing GOAT status.
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After his “redshirt” year behind Alex Smith with the Chiefs in 2017, Mahomes is about to go 3 for 3 in AFC West titles and 2 for 3 in league MVP voting. He also has a good chance to go 3 for 3 in reaching conference championship games and 2 for 3 in earning Super Bowl MVP.
Mahomes has gone 37-9 in his 46 starts, including playoffs, and the worst loss of his young career — in Week 5 against the Raiders this season — was by eight points. Mahomes has thrown 119 touchdown passes to just 22 interceptions and averages 313 passing yards per game. No other NFL QB has posted those types of early numbers and been so great, so fast, ever.
Getting the first ring is the hardest thing, and Mahomes has already accomplished that. It was hard to think when Brady was going all Michael Jordan that there would be soon be another potential LeBron James. But Mahomes is that quarterback, in every sense.
Mahomes keeps finding new ways to amaze and has done more than his fair share of it in a short time. While Brady is trying to pad his GOAT lead by bringing the Buccaneers a ring, the attempt is looking futile; it won’t hold off Mahomes. Brady can still do a few more things to hold back Father Time, but there’s nothing he can do about Mahomes being on a trajectory toward clearing what not long ago looked like an impassable bar.