It’s the 43-year-old GOAT versus the 25-year-old Magician. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, of the Kansas City Chiefs will meet for the fourth time in three years on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS). They also meet for the first time since Mahomes was anointed a Super Bowl champion last year and since Brady found himself a new home in Tampa Bay.
They aren’t just two of the league’s best with a penchant for big moments and big games — they are generational icons who have achieved universal recognition that transcends their sport.
With Brady, it’s always been a chess match. His success has come from methodically carving up defenses and fitting the ball into the tightest of spaces — although he’s taking many more chances in Bruce Arians’ offense as he tries to defy Father Time.
Mahomes, on the other hand, seems to defy the laws of physics and human anatomy on a weekly basis, contorting his arm into impossible angles to make equally impossible throws. While Brady brings will and determination — what propelled him from a seventh-string quarterback at Michigan and the 199th overall draft pick to a six-time Super Bowl winner — Mahomes brings the “wow.”
They’ve already had three riveting matchups, all decided by one score or less. With Brady now in the NFC South and seeing the NFC West only every four years, this could mark their last time facing off, unless both teams reach the Super Bowl before Brady retires.
Here’s a look back at those matchups, and what fans can expect when the two face off Sunday.
What it meant: The Chiefs were 5-0, and Mahomes, in his first year as the starter, was already setting the NFL on fire with 1,513 yards and 14 touchdown passes. The Patriots were 3-2 but on a two-game winning streak.
The game, appropriate for a Mahomes-Brady matchup, was high scoring. It featured nearly 700 passing yards, split almost equally between the two, and five touchdown passes, four from Mahomes. Mahomes threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill with three minutes left to tie the score at 40, but Brady then led a drive that ended with the winning field goal and a 43-40 Patriots victory. The Chiefs went on to a 12-4 record and the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with the 11-5 Patriots immediately behind.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 15, 2018
Best moment/pivotal play for each QB: Brady’s three longest passes of the game came in the fourth quarter. None was bigger than a 39-yard throw to Rob Gronkowski that put the Patriots in position for the winning field goal. Mahomes had two long touchdown passes, the 75-yarder to Hill and one of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt.
What they said: “[Mahomes] made a lot of big ones — the one at the end to Tyreek was a great throw, and he had some other great throws. So tough to slow those guys down. They’ve been scoring a lot of points all year. They’re going to be pretty tough to stop, so glad we had our last shot and glad we took advantage of it.” — Brady
“I have the ultimate respect for Tom and everything that he did this game and his whole entire career. He’s had success in this league because he’s won games with last-minute drives like that. For us, you just have to find a way to win games like this. If you want to get to where you want to get to, you have to win games that are going to be tight and they’re going to be against really good opponents.” — Mahomes
Who won this round: Mahomes and the Chiefs sounded their presence, but Brady established early supremacy in the rivalry.
What it meant: The stakes were bigger this time as Mahomes and Brady met for the AFC championship. The first half had a much different look than the first game between the quarterbacks. Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs were frustrated by the man-to-man coverage of the Patriots and trailed 14-0 at halftime. But the expected shootout developed in the second half.
Behind three touchdown passes from Mahomes, the Chiefs were poised to advance to the Super Bowl when Brady threw an interception late in the fourth quarter, with the Chiefs ahead 28-24. But the play was wiped out by a penalty and the game eventually went into overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and scored the winning touchdown for a 37-31 victory. Mahomes never touched the ball in overtime.
Brady’s best throws in the AFC Championship. pic.twitter.com/25JCwrB0GR
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 21, 2019
Best moment/pivotal play for each QB: Brady was at his best on the winning drive in overtime, when he completed three passes on third-and-10 to allow the Patriots to convert. Mahomes threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams in the fourth quarter to give the Chiefs their first lead.
What they said: “I think we have overcome a lot this year. Down but not out, and we found a way to play our best the last four games — Buffalo, Jets, had the bye, played great against the Chargers and played really well today. We are going to need one more great game. That was a great way to end it. I was probably as excited as I have been in a long time. A lot of things, one play here or one play there could change everything, but that is football. I am just proud of our team.” — Brady
“It’s just how the coin tosses, I guess you’d say. It’s a thing where he had a great drive. He had a lot of third-down conversions. In big moments, guys made big catches for [Brady]. It’s a thing where all you can do is support your teammates, trust your teammates, and when you get your opportunity, go out there and try to make plays.” — Mahomes
Who won this round: Brady left with the prize, a trip to the Super Bowl, which he won to earn his sixth ring. Mahomes & Co. left with motivation for the next season.
What it meant: The Patriots were 10-2 and the Chiefs 8-4. After getting off to slow starts in his first two games against Brady and the Patriots, Mahomes had 226 yards, a touchdown pass and a 20-7 lead after the first 30 minutes. Brady and the Patriots rallied in the second half but fell short when a fourth-down pass into the end zone was knocked away by the Chiefs with just over a minute remaining. Mahomes finally got his win in the rivalry as the Chiefs won 23-16.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 8, 2019
Best moment/pivotal play for each QB: Mahomes threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman in the second quarter to give the Chiefs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Brady lost what would have been a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter when officials incorrectly ruled the receiver stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone.
What they said: “Each game takes on a little different feel and the situations are a little different, and it’s a different team every year, too. So I may have certain experience doing things, but this particular team as a whole hasn’t been through different situations. So you just try to work through them over the course of the whole season, and we have three big games to go, and we’ve got to get back to winning football.” — Brady
“First off, I don’t think this will be [Brady’s] last season. He’s still playing at a high level. But yeah, you want to beat the best, you want to go out and play against the best and give your best effort. But it’s a team game, your team has to beat his team. That’s a really good football team, this is a really tough environment to play in, and so for us to find a way to win a game — it wasn’t pretty the whole time, it was just a tough, hard-fought win.” — Mahomes
Who won this round: Mahomes. Both teams finished the season 12-4, but the head-to-head victory earned the Chiefs a playoff bye, which forced Brady and the Patriots to play wild-card weekend, when they lost 20-13 to the Tennessee Titans.
Round 4, Nov. 29, 2020
What it means for Mahomes: Unless the teams wind up in the Super Bowl, this is probably it for Mahomes-Brady. A win would allow Mahomes to someday tell his kids he was even against Brady in four games. Brady would undoubtedly take pride in a 3-1 record against Mahomes, if the Bucs win.
What it means for Brady: The Bucs are fighting for a playoff berth after falling out of first place in the NFC South with a loss to New Orleans in Week 9 and falling to the sixth seed in the NFC after losing to the Rams in Week 11. They know this next game will define the course of their season. This offense has put up big numbers but is still wildly inconsistent at times and has struggled with the deep ball in recent weeks, which has impacted their big-play ability. Coach Bruce Arians believes this has less to do with Brady’s arm and more to do with their lack of continuity with so many new pieces.
Challenge Brady presents to Chiefs: Brady looked his age in the Bucs’ Monday night loss to the Rams. The challenge for the Chiefs is whether they can pressure him as well as the Rams did. The Chiefs’ pass rush hasn’t been productive this season. The Chiefs need big games from Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
Challenge Mahomes presents to the Bucs: Todd Bowles’ defense is high-risk, high reward. If offenses can beat the blitz, they can get chunk plays — and Mahomes is one of the league’s best at beating the blitz. Andy Reid also does a fantastic job of scheming his receivers open and finding those vulnerable spots in zone defenses for Mahomes.
Who has the edge in one sentence?
It’s difficult to pick against Mahomes, who might be on his way to the second MVP award of his young career. — Teicher
Mahomes has it. The Bucs’ pass defense has been shaky in recent weeks and is looking even more vulnerable without Jamel Dean (concussion). — Laine
NFL mandatory minicamps 2021 — Derek Carr’s stance, Julio Jones’ debut, Tua Tagovailoa’s rough day and more
From quarterback Derek Carr making a bold statement about his commitment to the Las Vegas Raiders to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throwing five interceptions in a heavy rainstorm to wide receiver Julio Jones taking the field in the Tennessee Titans‘ No. 2 uniform, some of the big names in the NFL made waves on Tuesday during NFL mandatory minicamps.
Eighteen NFL teams opened their mandatory three-day minicamps this week. Ten held theirs last week, with four teams electing to cancel. Teams that opted out of mandatory minicamps this week are the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers. The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team to skip theirs when they did so a week ago.
While practices were underway for half the league, much of the talk of Tuesday’s camps included the players who haven’t stepped foot on the field because of ongoing contract negotiations. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams were among the notable players absent from their respective team facilities.
Teams already have been going through organized team activities, but this marks the first time that many veterans will take the field since the end of the 2020 NFL season. That includes some players who joined new teams this offseason, including prized free agents and edge rushers Matt Judon (Patriots) and Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders).
Here are some snapshots, many from ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters who are on the scene at this week’s activities, from Tuesday’s minicamps:
Top news of the day
Carr says he has no desire to leave Raiders
Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr re-asserted his desire to remain with the team that drafted him in the second round in 2014. “I’d probably quit football if I had to play for somebody else,” Carr said.
Derek Carr explains why he has no interest in playing for a franchise other than the Raiders.
Howard not at Dolphins camp over ‘unique’ situation
Xavien Howard, who hasn’t shown up to any portion of the Dolphins’ voluntary offseason program this year, was not in attendance for minicamp meetings Tuesday, and he’s officially a holdout as he seeks a new contract. Coach Brian Flores noted the cornerback’s situation is “unique” in regard to his contract because Howard feels like he has outplayed the five-year, $75.25 million extension he signed in May 2019.
Dolphins coach Brian Flores discusses the team’s desire to keep Xavien Howard amid a contract dispute.
Packers’ Rodgers jokes about ‘quiet offseason’
Aaron Rodgers, who has dominated the NFL headlines this spring because of his dissatisfaction with Green Bay, showed his sense of humor during a promotional video in advance of the July 6 golf match featuring Rodgers and PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
Adam Schefter says Green Bay’s front office isn’t doing itself any favors when it comes to keeping Aaron Rodgers.
More NFL headlines:
Julio Jones footwork drill with WR coach Rob Moore. Nice grab at the end. pic.twitter.com/SnLSPThdT6
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) June 15, 2021
Cam Newton with a little hop in his step upon arrival. pic.twitter.com/y37cfPjGKr
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 15, 2021
Joe Burrow News Conference https://t.co/Ve1fqIbpv6
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) June 15, 2021
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 15, 2021
Day 1 of minicamp is in the books after this play by the first team in the red zone. Chad Beebe make a catch in the corner of the end zone; think Mackensie Alexander was supposed to be on him. pic.twitter.com/Q9HNDbyIjx
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) June 15, 2021
I got you!! 😂 https://t.co/jlh7Zwe7nb
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) June 15, 2021
we missed this pic.twitter.com/1q4J8FDpg4
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) June 15, 2021
Off & running at Day 1️⃣ of minicamp! pic.twitter.com/bcVONrlpsI
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) June 15, 2021
Day 1 of Dolphins mandatory minicamp. Tua Tagovailoa going through some warmup reps. pic.twitter.com/31nTB9DXY3
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) June 15, 2021
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) June 15, 2021
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) June 15, 2021
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 15, 2021
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) June 15, 2021
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) June 15, 2021
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 15, 2021
Quotes of the day
“I played with Julio [Jones], Mohamed Sanu, since Day 1, those guys, I feel like I’ve been moving toward that way of I can do it by myself. Obviously I’m not by myself, we have other players who are really good, but I feel like I’ve been ready and I just needed an opportunity to get in those positions.”
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley
“I was surprised. … You never like to see things like that.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Le’Veon Bell’s comments about coach Andy Reid
“I wore 9 in college my senior and junior year. I’m one of 10 children, so I got 9 siblings – every time I go out there, I represent them. I like 9; that’s one of the reasons I rock it. And 99 was taken, so I chose to use the new rule.”
Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon on his jersey number
“You don’t feel like yourself, even when you pass the symptoms. There’s a certain level or feeling you have when you’re ready, and COVID made it a little harder to get to that good feeling.”
Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell has had no post-COVID issues the past couple of months
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) June 15, 2021
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) June 15, 2021
Here to 𝗛 𝗨 𝗦 𝗧 𝗟 𝗘. pic.twitter.com/2GuxKobTs3
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) June 15, 2021
Just the beginning 🔥 pic.twitter.com/FuwE7uoKBH
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 15, 2021
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers jokes about his ‘quiet offseason’ in interview for July 6 golf match
Through everything that has happened surrounding Aaron Rodgers this offseason, one thing is clear: He still understands sarcasm.
The reigning MVP, who has dominated the NFL headlines this spring because of his dissatisfaction with the Green Bay Packers, showed his sense of humor Tuesday during a promotional video in advance of the July 6 golf match featuring Rodgers and PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau against Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson.
TNT’s Brian Anderson, who hosted the video conference, set up Rodgers with this: “You’ve really kept a low profile this offseason, I’ve hardly seen your name at all and you haven’t hosted any TV shows or been involved in any kind of controversy or anything. It’s been a nice, peaceful offseason for you, it sounds like.”
Rodgers’ reply was both deadpan and dripping with irony.
“It’s been one of those quiet offseasons you dream about, where you can kind of just go through your process on your own, quietly,” Rodgers said. “And that’s all you can ask for as an older player in the league and someone who’s been around for a long time and just enjoys that time to yourself, just relax, to not be bothered, to not have any obligations or anything going on.
“I think that’s what this offseason has been about. It’s been about really enjoying my time and spending it where I want to spend it, not feeling like I have to go anywhere but still be an NFL player at the same time. It’s been great.”
Rodgers skipped his only actual obligation, the Packers’ mandatory minicamp last week, and is subject to fines of $93,085. He also missed the entire offseason program, thereby forfeiting his $500,000 workout bonus.
The Packers have publicly maintained their desire to have Rodgers back for “2021 and beyond,” as team president Mark Murphy put it earlier this offseason, but it’s unclear whether Rodgers will report for training camp next month or will hold out and try to force a trade. Since the news of Rodgers’ unhappiness with the Packers broke on the afternoon of this year’s draft, the Packers have insisted they will not trade him.
Earlier this month, Murphy wrote that the situation has divided the Packers’ fan base and added that the less said publicly about the situation, the better. However, Murphy didn’t heed his own advice last week when, during a speaking engagement, he referred to Rodgers as “a complicated fella,” saying he was echoing how former Packers general manager Ted Thompson once described him.
It’s unclear whether the T-shirt Rodgers wore for Tuesday’s videoconference, which read “I’m offended,” was in response to Murphy’s comment.
Carolina Panthers WR Robby Anderson says he sees new ‘glow’ in QB Sam Darnold
“When I walked in the building I could see a new energy out of him, like a glow, charisma that I didn’t really see in New York,” said Anderson, who played with Darnold in 2018-19. “I can definitely see the difference in him so far.”
Anderson was the only Carolina player not seen by media for any of the voluntary portions of on-the-field offseason workouts.
So Tuesday, the first of a three-day mandatory camp, was the first time Anderson had a chance to work with Darnold since the Jets’ 2019 finale against Buffalo when they connected three times for 18 yards.
“You know when a person can see like a glow, energy, their aura?” Anderson said. “I could kind of see that when I walked in the building.”
Anderson was Darnold’s favorite target with the Jets. He had 102 catches for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns during their time together.
Stopping short of making a prediction, Anderson expects better things for them in Joe Brady’s system at Carolina, where in 2020 Anderson had a career-best 95 catches for 1,096 yards and three touchdowns.
“The New York system was a little more complex, had a lot of nuances that was more difficult for everybody, not just him, not just me,” Anderson said. “This system is a little more graspable.”
New Carolina edge rusher Haason Reddick hasn’t played with Darnold before, but he likes what he has seen.
“Sam’s completing passes,” said Reddick, an offseason free-agent signing from Arizona. “It looks like he’s playing intelligent football.”
Coach Matt Rhule just wants Darnold, who struggled with consistency with the Jets, completing only 59.8% of his passes and going 13-25 as the starter, to continue playing “good” football in practice.
“I don’t want him to have great days right now … just steady progress to make good days roll into great days,” he said of the quarterback Carolina traded for before the draft.
Anderson, who should help Darnold’s growth because of their past chemistry, didn’t go into detail on why he stayed in South Florida throughout the voluntary portions of OTAs.
“I’m to the point of my career where I know how to get myself ready,” he said. “So it wasn’t nothing against the team or nothing like that. I feel I capitalized on this time. The work I was putting in with my trainer, I was on a good program.
“I didn’t want to step away from that.”
Rhule said it was great to have Anderson back even though Anderson wasn’t in all the team drills.
“Robby is a guy that brings energy to the practice field,” he said. “He’s in great shape. You can tell he’s been working hard. We had a goal of like three to four reps in a team drills. I’m not going to over-rep anybody.”
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