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Brady-Mahomes rubber match has a lot to live up to

Let’s stop assuming Super Bowl 2021 is the final Tom Brady-Patrick Mahomes matchup.

That was an incorrect prediction in November, and who is to say they won’t meet again in next year’s Super Bowl? Or the one after that? Or in the 2024 regular season, when Brady will be 47 years old?

Let’s just enjoy Brady-Mahomes V for what is: the Greatest of All-Time against the Greatest at This Time. To get warmed up, here is a look back at their four previous matchups:

Brady-Mahomes I

Patriots 43, Chiefs 40

Oct. 14, 2018

No matter which stance you took headed into this game — “Mahomes can’t really be this good!” or the “Patriots’ reign of dominance is over!” — you were wrong.

In his first season as a starter, Mahomes was setting the NFL on fire with 1,513 yards and 14 touchdowns during the Chiefs’ 5-0 start. Facing a Bill Belichick- defense was supposed to cool him off.

The Patriots slept through September — as they often did in the 2010s — and were 3-2 when the Chiefs visited.

Brady needed everything he had to earn his 200th career win as a starter. The Chiefs rallied from a 24-9 halftime deficit by scoring on five of six second-half possessions, with Mahomes throwing three of his four touchdown passes to Tyreek Hill. Kareem Hunt had 185 yards from scrimmage in one of his final games before he was cut for shoving and kicking a woman.

The teams combined for 30 fourth-quarter points, but Brady had the ball last, driving to set up a 28-yard goal in the final seconds. The quarterbacks combined for 689 passing yards.

Super Bowl 2021
Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady
AP

Brady-Mahomes

Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 (OT)

Jan. 20, 2019

Again, Brady had the ball last, so the Patriots won. This time, in the AFC Championship game to set up a Super Bowl win.

The Chiefs trailed 14-0 at the half — frustrated by man-to-man coverage — but led 28-24 until the crazy last minute of regulation. An interception of Brady should’ve ended the game, but Dee Ford lined up offsides, and his penalty gave the Patriots a second chance. Rex Burkhead’s go-ahead touchdown wasn’t enough because Mahomes hit back-to-back passes covering 48 yards to set up the tying goal.

The Patriots won the coin toss and Brady converted three third-and-10s on the winning 13-play drive to make sure Mahomes never touched the ball in overtime.

Brady-Mahomes III

Chiefs 23, Patriots 16

Dec. 8, 2019

Two big differences from the previous matchups: Mahomes got off to a fast start, and the Chiefs — with the additions of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and safety Tyrann Mathieu — had a capable defense.

Brady and Edelman connected on a first-quarter, flea-flicker touchdown, but the Chiefs led for the final 43 minutes after Mahomes’ 48-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman.

With the Patriots trailing 23-13 early in the fourth quarter, officials blew a by ruling N’Keal Harry out of bounds at the 3-yard line as he dove into the end zone. The Patriots were unable to challenge — replays showed two inches of space between Harry’s foot and the sideline — and settled for a goal.

Both teams finished the season 12-4, but the Chiefs got a bye, and the Patriots had to play (and lost to the Titans) in the first round of the playoffs because of this head-to-head tiebreaker.

Brady-Mahomes IV

Chiefs 27, Buccaneers 24

Nov. 29, 2020

Mahomes threw for 462 yards, including 269 and three touchdowns to Hill — who had 203 receiving yards and two TDs in the first quarter alone. It was the third straight home loss for the Buccaneers, who fell to 7-5 as a fringe playoff contender headed to a bye week.

The big-play Hill became the third player since 1980 with 200 receiving yards in a single quarter, but his last catch of the day — an 8-yarder on third-and-7 — was significant because it allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock. Brady threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Mike Evans and finished with 345 yards, so one more possession might have turned the game.

The Buccaneers have not lost since.

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