December 6, 2023

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Case Closed!

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By Frank Long

The Super Bowl is hands down the most watched sporting event in America. The 99.9 million people who tuned in to watch the game last Sunday night were blessed by what seemed to be the greatest match up between NFL quarterbacks in Super Bowl history. Tom Brady at 43 years old and widely considered the best to ever play the position, squaring off against the former champ and 25 year old superstar Patrick Mahomes, who is viewed as the best quarterback in the game right now. It was a good old fashion battle of the past versus the present. What I and many others believed is that Patrick Mahomes has a chance to match Brady’s career success and maybe even surpass him. What led me to this idea was Patrick’s early success. In just his first year as a starting quarterback, Patrick won the NFL MVP award, becoming the youngest to ever do so. He tied season records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. His playoff run that season was cut short by the same man he faced off with last night, Tom Brady. In his second season, Mahomes made history leading his team to three playoff game comebacks and beating The San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, becoming the the only quarterback in the past decade since Russel Wilson to win a Super Bowl in their second year as a starter. Mahomes accomplished more in two years than most have accomplished in their whole career. But Patrick’s unreal performances in January and February were not the hottest story in the offseason. The largest story was produced by none other than Tom Brady. 

Tom Brady announced after a heartbreaking loss to the Titans in the AFC Wild Card game that he was planning on parting ways with the New England Patriots. New England was where Tom Brady made all of his history and created the greatest dynasty sports has ever seen. Over two decades with the Patriots, Brady won 3 regular season MVPs, including a season when he threw 50 touchdown passes and went undefeated in the regular season, joining only two other franchises to do so, The Chicago Bears in 1934 & 1942, and the Miami Dolphins in 1972. Apart from his regular season greatness, Tom Brady truly distinguished himself in the postseason. Only missing the playoffs once while with the Patriots, Brady would give his opponents nightmares every time he stepped on that field. Leading the Patriots to 9 Super Bowl trips, winning 6 of them, and earning 3 Super Bowl MVP awards, and broke the Super Bowl passing record for most passing yards. 

While Brady’s greatness has never been questioned, the credit for the Patriots success has been.  In some corners, the Patriots’ historic achievements were as much the result of the skill of their head coach, Bill Bellichick, as they were to Tom Brady.  Brady would never comment on that issue directly, but he did send a certain message in early 2020 when he announced he was leaving the New England Patriots. After not re-signing with the Patriots, Brady quickly announced that he was joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The whole sports world was in shock and the move was quickly questioned. Some claimed that even with Brady, the Buccaneers were still not a playoff caliber team.  Others stated that Brady was in decline, and his skills were no longer sharp enough for a successful season.  But these skeptics made a critical mistake, and that is to underestimate Brady. 

The 2020 Buccaneers had several young talented players, including star offensive weapons such as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Tristan Warfs. Adding to this group was Brady’s favorite partner in crime, former Patriot Rob Gronkowsk, who came out of retirement. The Buccaneers were also impressive on the defensive side, with notable players Devin White, Vita Vea, Shaquli Barret, Lavonte David, and rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. The Buccaneers were poised for a strange, but potentially explosive year, with only one goal at hand, a Super Bowl. 

As the season started, the Bucs were not looking like a Super Bowl team. They played inconsistently and even had weeks when they played flat-out poorly, limping into Thanksgiving weekend with a 6 – 4 record.  That week, Brady would face off against the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs. Brady versus Mahomes. In their previous matchups Tom Brady had gotten the best of Mahomes twice, and the game was highly anticipated because of the two stars, although few at this point saw it as a Super Bowl preview.  After dominating early behind Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill’s 200 receiving yards in just the first quarter alone, the Bucs rallied back but fell short.  

Something about that loss must have gotten to Brady. For the rest of the season, he didn’t lose a single game. The Bucs finished 11-5 led by Tom Brady and his lately signed friend Antiono Brown. Brady finished second in the league in passing touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers, and third in the league in passing yards. Tom Brady broke up with Patriot coaches Belichick and McDaniels, and got ready to walk the aisle with his new brides, Buccaneer coaches Bruce Arians, and Todd Bowles. 

But for once in his career, Brady was not the biggest story heading into the playoffs. Courtesy of Patrick Mahomes and his high powered offense, Brady would have to take the back seat for this year’s playoffs. If there’s something you should know about Brady it is that he does not like taking the back seat. The rest of the NFL quickly found that out as Tom brushed passed The Washington Football Team in the first round, throwing three touchdown passes in what was oddly a close game. Brady was now set to face off against Drew Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. This was the oldest match up QBs in a NFC divisional round game ever as both are over the age of 40. Some observers debated whether Brees was a better player at this point than Tom Brady, given that Brees got the better of him twice during the regular season.  The game started off slow and seemed to be a defensive battle, but eventually Brady led the Buccaneers to scoring drives and the Bucs opportunistic defense intercepted Brees twice.  Brady got his revenge. In the AFC, Patrick Mahomes had to leave his playoff game after suffering a concussion and an injured toe. The Chiefs were still able to hold on and after  a huge scramble on third down by Chad Henny and a risky fourth down conversion to Tyreek Hill. The stage was set and Brady and Mahomes were both set to play in each of their conference championships.  Patrick Mahomes was cleared to play after his concussion but his toe was not 100 percent. It was reported that he would need it to be operated on after the season. But he was still willing to battle it out against the Buffalo Bills and break out quarterback, Josh Allen. On the other side, Tom Brady was set to match off against his counterpart, Aaron Rodgers. Football analysts have been comparing these two for years, and it was their first time matching up in the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers was MVP of the League and led his team the Green Bay Packers to the number 1 seed in the NFC. 

Tom Brady opened up with a good first half throwing two touchdowns, one was a great pass with no time left in the half to Scotty Miller. The Bucs led at half, but Rodgers came back. It was 31-23 Bucs on top as Aaron Rodgers was nearing a score. Rodgers had an opportunity on third down in the Red zone to score. He had a chance to scramble but instead tried to force a ball into coverage for his top wideout Devantae Adams. The ball was incomplete and sparked a compelling fourth down for Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur. LaFleur ultimately made the choice to kick the ball. He gave the greatest player in NFL history three chances to win the game. Brady got it done on two after a defensive pass interference call. Tom Brady walked away winning the game and heading to his 10th Super Bowl. 

After spending just one year in the NFC, Brady has the same amount, if not more NFC titles than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Matt Stafford, adding to his already legendary playoff resume. After Patrick Mahomes won against Josh Allen and the Bills by 14 points the stage was set: Brady versus Mahomes the most anticipated Quarterback matchup in NFL history since Joe Montana versus Dan Marino. NFL commentator Tony Romo stated that for Patrick Mahomes to ever pass the legend that is Tom Brady, he would need to win this game. Right away, everyone jumped to the quarterback matchup. 

For me, I believed that this game would be won on the defensive side of the ball. Both defensive coordinators, Steve Spagnuolo for the Chiefs and Todd Bowles for the Bucs are both the most blitzing defensive coordinators in the NFL, having called blitzes on more than half of their defensive snaps this whole season. Historically, Tom Brady adapts very well to blitzes because he gets the ball out of his hand so fast. But with different weapons on Tampa Bay and a different offensive play book, Tom struggled against the Spagnulo’s blitz in the regular season, having a poor 39 percent completion percentage that week. In contrast, Mahomes threw for 119 yards, a touchdown and 69 percent completion against Todd Bowles’ biltz. Based on this, if you were Todd Bowles, you would think that you can’t blitz Mahomes. However, since Chiefs offensive tackles Mitchell Swartz and Eric Fisher were both out for the game, Mahomes would be left with poor protection. 

From the start, something was most definitely off with the Chiefs. Mahomes constantly being forced to scramble the poor offensive line play was an obvious factor. The Chiefs scored the first points of the game with just a field goal. But then came Brady. He drove down the field and delivered a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, making them the most prolific duo in playoff history. Penalties also put the Chiefs at a disadvantage. The Chiefs secondary gave up the most yards off of penalties in a half of football in Super Bowl history. The Chiefs found themselves in a 21-6 hole. To start the second half, the Chiefs marched down the field but were held short yet again. It seemed as if Patrick Mahomes was running for his life out there. The Chiefs settled for a field goal. Little did Patrick know that it would be their last points of the game. Bucs Running Back Leonard Fournette bursted off a touchdown run and pushed the score up to 28-9. Again the Chiefs drove down the field, but on fourth down Todd Bowles sent another linebacker blitz and a stunt using Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh. The pressure got to Mahomes and he was able to make amazing effort firing a pass as he was falling in mid air. The pass was dropped and the Bucs would score with another field goal and wrap up the game. When it was all said and done it was a fantastic performance from Tom Brady, as he finished with only 8 incompletions and 201 yards and three touchdowns. The battle was won in the trenches as the Bucs offensive line was able to hold off the blitz and run the ball down Kansas City’s throats. Tom Brady became the only player in NFL history to take down three former Super Bowl MVPs in one playoff run, and now has more rings than any franchise in football. Another man I would love to give credit to is Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. He has been the only coordinator to ever hold Patrick Mahomes to zero touchdowns in a game, and drew up a genius game plan on Tyreek Hill. He took advantage of a weak offensive line to get pressure on Mahomes: 29 out of his 56 drop backs and forcing him to have to scramble a total of 497 yards avoiding the pass rush. The Bucs and Brady pulled off the upset and will forever be remembered. Tom Brady answered all questions about if he could do it without Bill, and he proves he can. He is the most successful athlete in sports history. As for The Chiefs, this team has a fantastic future and they will be back here very soon. Patrick Mahomes showed all the heart in the world and is the best player in the national football league, I fully believe they will be back. But NFL fans, you know who else is going to be back? Yep, that’s right. Tom Brady will return and prove to us yet again, that age is just a number. He has been breaking your dad’s heart and stealing your mom’s heart for years, and he isn’t going anywhere. Tom Brady puts an end to any debates or any arguments against his status as the greatest of all time. He’s the greatest quarterback in NFL history, case closed.


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