Myth-busting Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady: The five worst Super Bowl 55 narratives for Chiefs-Buccaneers
Let the Super Bowl 55 hype continue to build until the Chiefs and Buccaneers take the field and play the latest, most anticipated championship game in NFL history on Sunday Feb. 7 (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Two weeks is a long time to wait for Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady in the greatest QB matchup the Super Bowl has ever seen. The storylines and narratives leading up to the game might seem endless, because until kickoff, they are.
Should Mahomes lead the Chiefs to another ring, it’s true he would be the first QB to repeat since Brady. It is also true that Brady, if he can get a seventh ring in 10 Super Bowls, would create a needed extra cushion in the GOAT conversation, with Mahomes looking like he has at least several more Super Bowls in his future.
But be careful when listening to the noise about everything else involving the headliner quarterbacks and their respective teams. To help turn that into radio and television silence, here is your myth-busting guide to Super Bowl 55:
Myth 1: “Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady is an even quarterback matchup”
Mahomes already has a league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP under his belt. He may not win the former again, but there’s a good chance he nails down another one of the latter back to back. Brady, 43, is a three-time MVP and six-time champion, so Mahomes is simply trying to get a third of the way there with his career.
Brady had one of his best regular seasons with his first-year Buccaneers numbers: 4,633 yards passing, 40 TDs, 12 INTs, 7.6 yards per attempt, 102.2 passer rating.
Mahomes, however, posted these better all-around stats in only 15 games: 4,740 yards passing, 38 TDs, six INTs, 8.1 yards per attempt, 108.2 passer rating.
Through the AFC championship game, these are Mahomes’ totals in his seven playoff games (6-1): 2,054 yards, 17 TDs, 2 INTs, 8.1 yards per attempt, 109.8 passer rating. He also has four rushing TDs.
This is what Brady has done in his past seven playoff games (6-1): 2,022 yards, 9 TDs, 7 INTs, 7.5 yards per attempt, 84.2 passer rating.
Mahomes and Brady have met four times, with their teams each winning two, but the “tie” has really been broken before Super Bowl 55. There’s no question Mahomes (348.8 yards per game, 11 TDs, 3 INTs) also has been more prolific and efficient head to head vs. Brady (300.5 yards per game, 6 TDs, 5 INTs).
Brady has the mythical past and strong present, but the reality of the moment is that Mahomes will again be the much better QB on the field in Tampa.
Myth 2: “It’s Chiefs’ youth against Buccaneers’ veterans”
Mahomes is 25. Brady is 43. The contrasting age memes already are in full force, led by Yoda and Grogu. By now, everyone knows Brady is way older and Mahomes was in kindergarten when Brady won his first of six Super Bowls with the Patriots. Mahomes’ coach, Andy Reid, is old at 62, but he’s still younger than Brady’s 68-year-old coach, Bruce Arians.
As Mahomes’ State Farm friend might say, here’s the deal: There’s not a lot of age for everyone on the Bucs. Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back LeSean McCoy, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and outside linebackers Shaquill Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are the only ones with Super Bowl experience. All came with other teams, with everyone except Suh winning.
The Chiefs are chock full of champions from last year’s team, with few exceptions outside of rookies. They have plenty of veterans with big-time seasoning helping Mahomes. Age is just a number and it’s irrelevant here. Reid also has coached in a ton of bigger games with longer sustained success than Arians. Don’t confuse Mahomes’ precociousness with Brady having some grand advantage when he’s the one dealing with trying to lift a younger team that needs all of it.
Myth 3: “If only Patrick Mahomes had as many offensive weapons as Tom Brady … “
For those looking at the Chiefs from the outside, they might think it’s only the Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce show. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers can trot out Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Cameron Brate, Scotty Miller and even Tyler Johnson to make plays for Brady. Leonard Fournette also gives the backfield some big-name castoff punch.
There’s no doubt Brady is loaded with the quantity, but Hill and Kelce have been ridiculous in their level of unstoppable quality this season. Plus, the Chiefs have plenty of other playmakers; they just do it by committee with less gloss. Mahomes picks the right spots to get the ball to ancillary wideouts and running backs. He also has the benefit of using his legs to make plays in key situations, which Brady does not.
Given how much energy and preparation it takes to stop either Hill or Kelce, bit players such as Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson are dangerous in different situations. There’s also a chance Sammy Watkins comes back to add to the quiver. So don’t feel bad for Mahomes. He makes everyone and everything a weapon, while Brady sometimes has trouble firing to his.
Myth 4: “Who needs a running game?”
The Bucs have a nasty run defense, No. 1 in the NFL. The Chiefs have a weak run defense, No. 19 in the NFL, but the Bucs have only the No. 28 rushing offense. Both teams can rev up the pass rush — the Bucs with Barrett and Pierre-Paul, and the Chiefs led by Chris Jones and Frank Clark. Both teams also have aggressive playmakers in the secondary.
Although pounding away on the ground won’t be the direct path to winning the game for either team, it’s an important element to keep two swarming pass defenses at bay for Mahomes and Brady and putting them into more comfortable third-down situations. Through some key short-yardage and red zone moments, some capacity to run well will be critical.
There shouldn’t be a forced balance or obligatory running on either first down or second down and long. But the Bucs picking ideal spots for Fournette or Ronald Jones and the Chiefs handing off to Edwards-Helaire or Darrell Williams when merited can work the clock, finish drives and limit some of the time that either Mahomes or Brady is on the field.
Myth 5: “Defense doesn’t win championships when it’s Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady”
Once again in State Farm Guy voice: Here’s the deal. Defenses did win AFC and NFC championships for the Chiefs and Buccaneers. Kansas City is here because it held down Cleveland and Buffalo. Tampa Bay is here because it stymied New Orleans and Green Bay. Take that, “quarterback wins are a stat” crowd.
Barrett and Pierre-Paul, who took over against the Packers, can disrupt another game against a Chiefs offensive line hurting at both tackles. Jones and Clark are loads up front and wreaked havoc on the Bills. The Chiefs and Buccaneers got some massive interceptions in the divisional playoff and conference championship rounds, too. The Chiefs overachieved against the run while the Buccaneers lived up to their reputation.
Mahomes vs. Brady might make Chiefs vs. Buccaneers look like the undercard in Super Bowl 55. But these teams wouldn’t be here unless they were complete. Mahomes and Brady do a lot to lift the offenses, but as elite as they are, they have zero effect on how the other one performs in the game.
The Chiefs made key defensive stops to spark their comeback-heavy run through Super Bowl 54. The Bucs were saved twice by defense in the second half to advance to Super Bowl 55. Mahomes and Brady are still playing a team game, and a few defensive-forced errors will make the difference, like they always do in Super Bowls, no matter how much each team scores.