On Feb. 3, 2002, one might recall, Tom Brady quarterbacked the Patriots against the St. Louis Rams for his first Super Bowl win.
Patrick Mahomes was 6 years old.
Brady and Mahomes will meet Sunday in Kansas City, with the winner going to the Super Bowl.
The stars — be it those on the field or those above — occasionally produce these lucent matchups, these irresistible meetings of two athletes so different, yet so similar.
It’s the quarterback standard versus the man who re-imagined the position.
Even non-football fans could and should be drawn to this story (and indeed, many in this city have given up on the NFL since the NFL gave up on us).
Of course, over the years, Brady has faced numerous “next Bradys” in postseason play. Andrew Luck, most notably.
But what makes this one different is just the way Mahomes, 23, plays quarterback.
Not only was his 2018 season as good as (actually better than) Luck’s 2014 season, but it was so unconventional. It’s as if before Mahomes even mastered one full season as a starting NFL quarterback, he already had mastered the position, ho-hum, so he tried new angles and levels of difficulty of throws.
He’s football’s Evel Knievel.
Mahomes finished the regular season with 50 touchdown passes (Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott combined for 47). He made throws while contorting his body on the run, like he was a shortstop of sorts. He even threw and completed a pass with his left hand as a pair of Denver boulders nearly ran him over.
And he threw with a speed that made pigskins sizzle.
There was an old video on YouTube on Mahomes before the NFL draft. Mahomes was clocked by the radar gun in the studio — he threw a football at 62 miles per hour. Quarterbacks are not known for eclipsing 60.
He is, of course, the son of a major-league pitcher. Ran across this on Monday. It was from the from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sept. 18, 1995.
In the “etc.” part of the Twins notes: “Reliever Pat Mahomes left the team Sunday to be with his girlfriend in Texas. She just delivered their child, a boy. Mahomes will return to the team today in Kansas City.”
Of all the cities the father Mahomes could’ve been in.
Now the old pitcher’s son is something of a sports savior for that town. Our friends four hours across I-70 haven’t been to the AFC title game since the 1993 season. And it was the Chiefs’ only time in the AFC title game since the 1970 merger of the NFL and AFL.
It’s pretty magical when an athlete does that to a city. Albert Pujols did that to St. Louis in 2001. And in 2001, Brady did that for Boston.
Brady’s magical run extinguished St. Louis’ football team’s chances. To think, the Rams could’ve won two Super Bowls within three years. Instead, the Feb. 3, 2002, loss began the unprecedented, unfathomable run of the quarterback drafted in the sixth round.
He is the greatest quarterback and winner this game has ever seen. His body of work is like something the Kennedy Center would honor. Eight Super Bowls, five Super Bowl wins (and he missed essentially one full season in his prime).
This is the eighth season in a row that Brady and the Patriots have reached the AFC championship game; they’re a rarity amid parity. And for all of his accomplishments, perhaps this is the grandest — Brady might even be the greatest athlete to ever come out of his high school (depending on your views of Barry Bonds).
During training camp this season, Brady turned 41 . Much has been made about his training and his diet and his approach to winning football. He didn’t have a statistical season like Mahomes did, but he picked apart a playoff defense Sunday, completing 34 passes, tied for the most he did in any regular-season game this year.
Watching Brady is just as mesmerizing as watching Mahomes, but in a different way. Brady dominates and you watch and wonder — how is he still this good? With Mahomes, it’s more of, “How does he do that?” A loss in this game will do nothing to Brady’s legacy; a win could do everything to Mahomes’.
And so, Brady and his team will touch down in Missouri this weekend for the biggest football game our state has hosted since Jan. 27, 2002, the NFC championship game for the 2001 season.
Andy Reid coached in that one, too. The Rams hosted the Eagles and St. Louis won 29-24, earning a date with coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots. This Sunday, Reid and Mahomes will host Belichick and Brady.
The winner plays in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, same calendar date as Brady’s first Super Bowl win.
“I definitely watched a good amount of (Brady film) in college” at Texas Tech, Mahomes told reporters in Kansas City. “Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury actually played with Tom at one point (for New England). He liked to show me some things that he did where he was in the pocket, his pocket movements and things like that. I have definitely taken some things from him. He does it at such a high level, it’s something you have to strive to be like.”