Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are set to square off in one of the more anticipated quarterback matchups in Super Bowl history when they take the field at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Feb. 7.
But before they take the biggest stage in the sports world, both superstar signal-callers had the opportunity to play the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium during the NFL’s inaugural season in Las Vegas.
The Chiefs and Buccaneers both left the desert with victories, but the games were quite different.
Brady had one of his best outings against the Raiders in an Oct. 25 game that had the added intrigue of revisiting offseason speculation that the Raiders had been one of Brady’s possible landing spots when he left New England.
Enhanced COVID-19 protocols left the Raiders shorthanded for much of the week and concern about the team’s ability to field a full team prompted the game to be moved out of prime time, but Brady wasn’t fazed.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden lamented his team’s inability to generate any kind of pass rush against the six-time Super Bowl champion.
“If you let Tom Brady stand back there and survey the field, he’s proven for 20 years and he proved it for 21 years, that he is still one of the very, very best,” Gruden said after the loss.
Brady is widely regarded as the best quarterback in NFL history. He’s certainly the most decorated. Mahomes, however, is giving every indication he could challenge those titles.
That’s not great news for a Raiders franchise that will have to compete against him twice per year in the AFC West for years to come.
The Raiders did manage to finally beat Mahomes this season, though he got revenge in the rematch in Las Vegas.
Round one went to the Raiders in Kansas City as the Chiefs fell for the only time this season in a game started by Mahomes.
Unlike the Bucs game and most of the rest of the season, the Raiders were able to generate a pass rush in that first meeting with the Chiefs and it showed up in the results.
They almost earned a sweep in the return game on Nov. 22 at Allegiant Stadium.
Mahomes was picked off again in that game, giving the Raiders two of the six interceptions against him this season.
But he had a clean pocket far too often and wasn’t sacked in the game. Mahomes engineered a game-winning drive after the Raiders went ahead with 1:43 to play.
Gruden described why it’s so difficult to generate pressure against Mahomes, particularly when he’s so adept at beating extra rushers.
“Mahomes sees the blitz and he has the quickest trigger in the league, probably,” Gruden said. “He knows how to buy time and they have some great audibles that defeat the blitz.”
Mahomes combined for 688 yards and four touchdowns in the two games against the Raiders this season.
The Raiders will play the Chiefs twice next year, but the Buccaneers are not on the schedule.