It's the 43-year-old GOAT versus the 25-year-old magician. The 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're also meeting for the first time since Mahomes was named Super Bowl champion last year and since Brady found a new home in Tampa Bay.
Not only are they two of the best in the league with a penchant for big moments and big games – they're generation icons who have achieved universal recognition that extends beyond their sport.
It was always a game of chess with Brady. His success is due to his methodically breaking down the defense and using the ball in tight spaces – although he takes a lot more risks on Bruce Arians' offense than he tries to defy fatherhood.
Mahomes, on the other hand, appears to be defying the laws of physics and human anatomy on a weekly basis, twisting his arm into impossible angles to perform equally impossible throws. While Brady brings will and determination – which drove him from a seven-string quarterback in Michigan and the 199th draft pick to a six-time Super Bowl winner – Mahomes brings the "wow".
They have already had three exciting matchups, all of which were decided with a score or less. With Brady now on NFC South and seeing AFC West only every four years, this could be the last time they'll compete unless both teams make it to the Super Bowl before Brady retires.
Here's a look back at those matchups and what fans can expect when the two compete against each other on Sunday.
Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
What it meant: The Chiefs were 5-0, and Mahomes set the NFL on fire with 1,513 yards and 14 touchdown passes in his first year as a starter. The Patriots were 3-2, but won two games.
The game, which was fit for a Mahomes-Brady matchup, had a high score. There were 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, three minutes from time, to score the score at 40, but Brady then led a drive that ended in the winning goal and a 43-40 Patriots win. The Chiefs hit a 12-4 record and ranked # 1 in the AFC playoffs, with the 11-5 Patriots right behind.
The hook. @ RobGronkowski | #KCvsNE | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/yOYmcpKikb
– New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 15, 2018
Best Moment / Decisive Game for Any QB: Brady's three longest passes in the game came in the fourth quarter. None was greater than a 39-yard throw to Rob Gronkowski, who positioned the Patriots 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) did a lot of big ones – the one at the end of Tyreek was a great throw and he had some other great throws. It's so hard to stop these guys. They scored a goal." many points all year round. They'll be pretty hard 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 he has done in this game and throughout his career. He has had success in this league because he has won games with such last minute drives. For us you just have to find a way." Win games like this. If you want to get where you want to be, you have to win games that get tight and you play against really good opponents. "- Mahomes
Who won this round? Mahomes and the Chiefs showed their presence, but Brady established supremacy in the rivalry early on.
What it meant: The stakes were bigger this time around when Mahomes and Brady met for the AFC Championship. The first half looked very different from the first game between the quarterbacks. Mahomes and the High Scoring Chiefs were frustrated with the face-to-face coverage of the Patriots and were 14-0 down at halftime. However, the expected shootout developed in the second half.
After three touchdown passes from Mahomes, the Chiefs were ready to advance to the Super Bowl when Brady intercepted a pass in late fourth quarter that saw the Chiefs ahead 28-24. But the game was canceled by a penalty and the game eventually went into overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and scored the touchdown for a 37-31 win. Mahomes never touched the ball in extra time.
Brady's best litters in the AFC championship. pic.twitter.com/25JCwrB0GR
– New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 21, 2019
Best Moment / Decisive Game for Any QB: Brady was at his best in extra time on the winning run as he completed three passes in third and tenth place to allow the Patriots to convert. Mahomes tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams in the fourth quarter to give the Chiefs the first lead.
What they said, "I think we've overcome a lot this year. Down but not out, and we've found a way in the last four games to do our best – Buffalo, Jets, had the goodbye, played great against them Chargers and Played Today's going to be really good. We're going to need another great game. That was a great way to end it. I was probably as excited as I have been in a long time. Lots of things, a game here or a game there could be anything change, but that's football. I'm just proud of our team. "- Brady
"It's just the way the coin flips, you'd say. It's one thing that he's had a great ride on. He's had a lot of third-down conversions. In big moments, guys have big catches for (Brady) It's an all you can do is support your teammates, trust your teammates, and when you get the chance, get out there and try to make games. "- Mahomes
Who won this round? Brady went with the award, a trip to the Super Bowl that 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. Having started slowly 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 bounced back in the second half but fell short when the Chiefs tossed a fourth pass into the end zone by just over a minute ahead. Mahomes eventually won the rivalry when the Chiefs won 23-16.
. @ PatrickMahomes finds @ MecoleHardman4 for 6️⃣ #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/6pGiIB1zSj
– Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 8, 2019
Best Moment / Decisive Game for Any QB: Mahomes tossed Mecole Hardman a 48-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give the Chiefs an edge they wouldn't give up. Brady lost a touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter when officials mistakenly decided the receiver had gotten out of hand before reaching the end zone.
What they said: "Every game has a different feel and situations are a little different and it's a different team every year. So I may have some experience with things, but this particular team as a whole doesn't have it." So you've been trying to work through them all season and we have three big games left and we have to win football again. "- Brady
"First of all, 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 do your best. But it's a Team play, your team has to beat their team. This is a really good football team, it's a very difficult environment to play in and so we had to find a way to win a game – it wasn't like that. It was this not nice all the time, it was just a tough, hard-fought win. "- Mahomes
Who won this round: Mahomes. Both teams ended the season 4-12, but the head-to-head win earned the Chiefs a playoff reunion that forced Brady and the Patriots to play a wildcard weekend when they beat the Tennessee Titans at age 20 : 13 lost.
Round 4, November 29, 2020
What it means for Mahomes: If the teams don't end up in the Super Bowl, it probably is for Mahomes-Brady. A win would allow Mahomes to one day tell his kids that he was even against Brady in four games. Brady would undoubtedly be proud of a 3-1 record against Mahomes if the Bucs won.
What it means to Brady: The Bucs are battling for a place in the playoffs after falling from first place in NFC South in week 9 to New Orleans and to sixth seed in NFC after losing to Rams in week 11 . They know that the next game will define the course of their season. This offense set up big numbers but is still very inconsistent at times and has been struggling with deep ball for the past few weeks which has affected his big play ability. Coach Bruce Arians believes this has less to do with Brady's arm and more to do with the lack of continuity with so many new pieces.
By talking to former players, coaches and key figures, Peyton Manning pinpoints the history of football and its cultural implications. Watch on ESPN +
Brady challenge the Chiefs: Brady looked his age after the Bucs lost to the Rams on Monday night. The challenge for the Chiefs is whether they can pressure him as much as the Rams. The Chiefs' pass rush has not been productive this season. The Chiefs need big games from Chris Jones and Frank Clark.
Challenge Mahomes presents the Bucs: Todd Bowles' defense is high risk, high reward. If crime can strike the lightning, they can get chunk games – and Mahomes is one of the best players in the league when it comes to striking the lightning. Andy Reid also does a fantastic job of keeping his recipients open and finding those vulnerable positions in zone defense for Mahomes.
Who has the edge in one sentence?
It's tough to hold your own against Mahomes, who may be on his way to claiming the second MVP award of his young career. – ponds
Mahomes has it. The pass defense of the Bucs has been shaky in recent weeks and looks even more vulnerable without Jamel Dean (concussion). – Laine