“Hell of a game.”
Those were the words that Patrick Mahomes II told Tom Brady on Sunday night moments after falling to the Patriots, 43-40. Brady and Mahomes, the old and new guards, met each other at midfield, spoke for just a few seconds, and dispersed before the cameras could envelop them. The meeting was brief, but the significance may last much longer.
Mahomes completed 23 of 36 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns and tossed two interceptions in the loss. Brady completed 24 of 35 attempts for 340 yards and one touchdown and lost one fumble. In a game that featured 17 scoring drives, four turnovers, and one punt, Mahomes and Brady were the stars of the show, gifting us the past and future of the league in the present.
At first, it seemed as though Mahomes was unraveling in the biggest test of his young career. As he fought to keep the Chiefs’ undefeated season intact in Foxborough, he missed wide open receivers left, right, and long. New England sent pressure and faked sending pressure to throw Mahomes’s timing off, and the second-year pro repeatedly missed throws to Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and others—including a handful of passes that could’ve been easy touchdowns with different placement.
Kansas City settled for nine first-half points but could easily have had 20 if not for two Mahomes interceptions and three drives that ended in field goals. As the Chiefs entered halftime down 24-9, it seemed fair to wonder whether the road game against the five-time champions was too strong of a test for Mahomes to handle.
Not quite. On the first dropback of the second half, he found Kareem Hunt for a 67-yard touchdown pass.
6️⃣7️⃣ yard touchdown pass!— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 15, 2018
Patrick Mahomes ➡️ Kareem Hunt pic.twitter.com/cSMyudDwKr
Later in the third quarter, a Brady fumble led to a Chiefs touchdown that cut the lead to one. After a Pats field goal, Kansas City took the ensuing kick return to the New England 3-yard line, from where the Chiefs took a 33-30 lead. The Patriots answered with a touchdown—a Brady touchdown run—and on the Chiefs’ next drive, they did something neither team had done yet: punt, which seemed to tacitly open the door to defeat. But after the Patriots scored a field goal on their next drive, Mahomes needed only one play to tie the game at 40, as he found Hill for a 75-yard catch-and-run.
After the game, Brady said he was rooting for Hill to score quickly.
“When Tyreek was running to score, I said, ‘Good, score quick,’” Brady said. “They had one timeout left and gave us enough time to go down and kick the field goal.”
Not counting a kneel down to end the first half, the Patriots scored on nine of their 11 drives. Brady found players new (Josh Gordon had a team-high nine targets), rusty (Julian Edelman had his first touchdown of the season), seemingly exiled (Chris Hogan had a crucial catch late), and familiar (Rob Gronkowski set up the game-sealing field goal). He even ran the ball in for a touchdown after defensive lineman Breeland Speaks mistakenly thought Brady had thrown the ball and let him go to avoid the penalty, only to watch Brady prance toward the end zone.
The victory was the 200th regular-season win of Brady’s career and the first career loss for Mahomes, who spent the first month of the season shattering not just records but the very vocabulary we use to discuss quarterbacks. He is on pace for 48 passing touchdowns at 23 years old after leading Kansas City to a 5-0 (now 5-1) start, and though he is just beginning his career, he may be the best suited of all young players to join Brady in the pantheon of legendary quarterbacks. In the grand scheme of Brady’s career, crossing paths with Mahomes will be as fleeting as their midfield meeting, but it could become symbolic of something much larger: the prologue to a passing of the torch.