Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are more similar than they are different. Both were promising baseball players before committing to football. Both players entered the NFL with little fanfare despite successful college careers. Both quarterbacks sat behind an establish veteran as rookies before taking the reins during their second seasons. Both players took full advantage of their opportunities.
Super Bowl LV will be the fifth matchup between Brady and Mahomes. Brady won the first two games in the series before Mahomes responded with two wins of his own. Each game was close, with Mahomes' Chiefs out-scoring Brady's teams a combined score of 121-120. Given how close their first four games were, don't be surprised if the outcome of Super Bowl LV remains in doubt with precious few ticks left on the game clock.
Speaking of their previous games, we decided to take a look at the first four matchups between Brady and Mahomes. Along with comparing statistics, we'll look at the one or two main stats that determined which quarterback was on the winning side that day. This should give us an indication of what could transpire when the two quarterbacks face off in Tampa on Feb. 7.
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2018 Week 6: Patriots 43, Chiefs 40
Brady: 24 of 35, 340 yards, one touchdown
Mahomes: 23 of 36, 352 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions
In a thrilling "Sunday Night Football" matchup, New England momentarily squandered a 24-9 lead before winning the game on Stephen Gostkowski's 28-yard field goal as time expired. Mahomes' 67-yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt jumpstarted the Chiefs' comeback bid. His 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill tied the game with 3:03 left. Brady -- as he had done six times earlier in the game -- immediately responded to a Chiefs score with a score of his own. After three runs and a 16-yard completion to James White moved the ball close to midfield, Brady's 39-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski set up the game-winning field goal.
Key stats: The Patriots' offense, along with keeping pace with Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense, rushed for nearly twice as many yards as the Chiefs. New England rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries, while Kansas City gained 94 yards on 17 carries. The Chiefs' two-of-five efficiency in the red zone also contributed to their first loss of the 2018 season.
2018 AFC Championship Game: Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 (OT)
Brady: 30 of 46, 348 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions
Mahomes: 16 of 31, 295 yards, three touchdowns
Similar to their first matchup, the Patriots raced out to a double-digit lead before withstanding a Chiefs rally. Kansas City did appear to be on their way to the Super Bowl when Charvarius Ward picked off Brady with one minute left in regulation. But after an offsides penalty on Dee Ford wiped out the pick, the Patriots re-gained the lead before Harrison Butker forced overtime with a 39-yard field goal. After winning the coin toss, the Patriots needed 13 plays to punch their ticket to Miami. Brady, who threw eight consecutive passes on the drive, hit Gronkowski for 15 yards on his final pass of the game. The completion set up Rex Burkhead's game-winning, two-yard touchdown run.
Key stats: The Patriots dominated on the ground again, rushing for 176 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries compared to the Chiefs' 41 yards and a score on 12 carries. The Chiefs were perfect in the red zone this time around, but their defense allowed Brady to convert on 13 of his 19 third down opportunities. The Chiefs' defense also failed to sack Brady, who completed passes to eight different receivers. Conversely, Mahomes was sacked four times, with three of those sacks contributing to Kansas City punts. Mahomes did have success throwing to Damien Williams, who caught five passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
2019 Week 14: Chiefs 23, Patriots 16
Brady: 19 of 36, 169 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Mahomes: 26 of 40, 283 yards, one touchdown, one interception
The Patriots and Chiefs were moving in opposite directions by this point. Injuries, Antonio Brown's off-field issues, and Gronkowski's offseason retirement had decimated New England's receiving corps. Against the Chiefs, Brady solely relied on Julian Edelman, who was dealing with a knee injury of his own. But while Edelman caught eight passes for 95 yards and a score, Brady completed just 11 of his 24 attempts to his other teammates. Brady was also sacked three times that included two third-down sacks that led to punts. Mahomes, meanwhile, completed passes to seven different teammates. His 48-yard touchdown to Mecole Hardman gave the Chiefs the lead for good. Butker's three field goals contributed to Kansas City handing the Patriots their third loss after an 8-0 start.
Key stats: Unlike the first two games, the Patriots failed to rush for over 100 yards. They were also just 2 of 12 on third down and 1 of 3 on fourth down. And while their defense was mostly up to the task, New England's offense was unequipped to keep pace with Kansas City's offense, as the Patriots responded to a Chiefs' score on just one occasion. A blocked field goal near the end of the first quarter didn't help the Patriots' cause, either.
2020 Week 12: Chiefs 27, Buccaneers 24
Brady: 27-for-41, 345 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions
Mahomes: 37-for-49, 462 yards, three touchdowns
Fans will be in for a treat if the Super Bowl is anything like this game. Unlike his first two games against Brady, Mahomes was the one who got out to a fast start. His first-quarter touchdown passes of 44 and 75 yards to Hill contributed to the Chiefs' early 17-0 lead. Hill's third touchdown, a 20-yard pass from Mahomes, gave Kansas City a 27-10 lead midway through the third quarter. Brady and the Buccaneers responded in the fourth quarter. He hit Mike Evans on 31 and seven-yard touchdowns to cut Tampa Bay's deficit to three points with 4:10 left. The Chiefs would not give the ball back to Brady, however, as two designed runs by Mahomes and an eight-yard completion to Hill put the game on ice. This was the last loss of the 2020 regular season for Tampa Bay, who has won seven straight games heading into the Super Bowl.
Key stats: For the first time, a Mahomes-led offense out-rushed a Brady-led offense. The Chiefs rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries, while Tampa Bay attempted just 13 carries for 75 yards. Kansas City's offense ripped up Tampa Bay's defense to the tune of 543 total yards. The Chiefs' main weapon that day was Hill, who caught 13 passes for 269 yards. Tampa Bay also suffered self-inflicted wounds, as two penalties wiped out what would have been two Mahomes interceptions. The Buccaneers' best player that day may have been Gronkowski, who caught six of seven targets for a season-high 106 yards.
What did we learn from these games?
A quick start is pivotal for both teams. While Mahomes has made a habit of making early deficits disappear, that is harder to do against Brady, whose team has trailed in the postseason for less than 15 minutes. Rest assured that Brady will also lean more on his rushing attack this time around. Leonard Fournette has been in the starting lineup ever since he received just three carries in Tampa Bay's loss to Kansas City. Fournette amassed 313 total yards and three touchdowns during the Buccaneers' first three playoff games.
While the ability to put pressure on Brady is a well known key to having success against him, Mahomes has also proven to be less effective when faced with pressure. His least effective game against Brady-led teams was in the '18 AFC title game, when he was sacked four more times than his counterpart. That is certainly good news for Shaquil Barrett and the rest of the Buccaneers' defense, who sacked Aaron Rodgers five times in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa Bay will look to take advantage of an offensive line that will be without Eric Fisher, who suffered an Achilles injury in the Chiefs' AFC title game win over the Bills.
The ability to respond to the opponent's score will also be pivotal. Only once has Brady had an offense that was incapable of keeping pace with Mahomes. Given their recent performances, the Buccaneers should be able to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs if the Super Bowl turns into a shootout. Speaking of offense, the quarterback who does a better job dispersing the ball will likely have more success. That may give the edge to Brady, who has done a stellar job sharing the wealth between Evans, Fournette, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Cameron Brate, and Antonio Brown, whose knee injury is not expected to keep him out of the Super Bowl.