When the Kansas City Chiefs visited the New England Patriots in Week 6 of 2018, one of the stories surrounding the game was a potential passing of the torch in the AFC. That’s a reminder of how good quarterback Patrick Mahomes was during his first year as a starter — and how the football community was preparing for the end of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s career.
Four years (and two more championships) later, Brady has only added to his incredible resume — and is still playing. Now leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this weekend’s game will be the sixth time that Brady has started against Mahomes.
It will be the 13th time that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has managed a game against Brady — including two Super Bowls and two other postseason games — and Reid still thinks Brady is a dangerous opponent.
“He looks pretty good to me,” the head coach remarked to reporters before Wednesday’s practice. “He still can sling it. Very accurate — always look at things outside the hashes and the numbers — still very accurate with that. He has enough arm down the field. He’s a good football player.”
Brady has never shown off the physical attributes that a quarterback like Mahomes displays. He was never touted for his arm strength or athleticism during any part of his career — yet he has earned seven championships and three MVP awards. Mahomes can’t help but admire what his counterpart has accomplished.
“It’s special to see the things he has done in this league,” said Mahomes during his turn at Wednesday’s press conference. “The way he was able to change the position — the longevity of great success. That’s the crazy part: looking at his career, he has never really had a down year.”
In fact, the closest Brady has come to a down year is what he’s going through right now. He is leading a 2-1 Buccaneers team that is ranked 24th in points scored and 27th in total yards.
But Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill knows better than to underrate Brady based on those numbers. The fourth-year defensive back has faced Brady four times, learning that the quarterback has earned his reputation.
“As always, facing Tom Brady is going to be a competitive game,” Thornhill acknowledged on Wednesday. “He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time — and he doesn’t get that label out of nowhere.”
One of the reasons the Buccaneers have started slowly has been injuries. Their offensive line is missing starting center Ryan Jensen — who is out for the season — and they have had to deal with injuries to wide receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. Meanwhile, wideout Mike Evans was suspended for last week’s game.
But even with that long injury report, Thornhill thinks the Tampa Bay offense is just as dangerous as it was the last time these two teams played.
“They have just as much talent as they did in the Super Bowl,” he observed. “This is going to be a good game. I’m just looking forward to face a great team.”
As Thornhill patrols the back end of the defense, he’ll be looking to make plays on the ball — which he believes will be possible if the Kansas City pass rush can be disruptive.
“When a quarterback has guys rushing in his face all the time, he’s not comfortable,” Thornhill explained. “[He is] seeing the opposite color, trying to find a way to get the ball out. That gives us opportunities to make plays on the ball. So we want to make him as uncomfortable as possible.”
With Brady’s age-defying career continuing to amaze the NFL world, reporters had to ask Mahomes if he sees himself playing as long as Brady has.
“I want to play as long as I can play — and still have the chance to help the team get better,” he replied. “It’s hard to play until you’re 45 years old — and I don’t want to be out there just hanging on. [What] you see with Tom is that he’s playing at a very high level, so it’s hard for him to give it up; when you’re playing at a high level, you don’t want to leave it.
“For me, I’m just going to try and keep my body in the best shape possible — and as long as they let me play and I can play at a high level, I’ll be out there.”
Brady’s career has (and will continue) to alter the expectations for how long any other quarterback can play. It’s why he is arguably the greatest player in team-sports history — but also why the Buccaneers’ rough start shouldn’t get any other NFL team’s hopes up. With Brady under center, his team can never be counted out.
So you can expect a great battle in Week 4’s matchup. Just like Kansas City, Tampa Bay will be looking to avoid a 2-2 start. Brady’s competitiveness — the very trait that has fueled him to play this long — will make his team a very tough out.