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GOAT vs. MVP: Eye-opening

There just a few times in history when, in any sport, the GOAT of a sport competes against the universally regarded “best player in the sport” in a meaningful game.

Last Sunday afternoon in Tampa, I was able to witness one of those special moments when Tom Brady’s Buccaneers played Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs.

The last time I saw Mahomes play live was just his third career start on Sept. 16, 2018 in Pittsburgh, when out of nowhere this second-year QB threw six touchdowns to torch the Steelers’ defense.

While I have seen Brady live over a dozen times — usually destroying my Steelers — it did appear surreal to see him in a Bucs’ uniform.

I arrived at Raymond James Stadium two hours before the game to watch the warmups. With only 15,000 fans at the game, there were no lines anywhere in the stadium, and no one sat within 20 feet of my seat, as I was the only person in my row.

I have never seen a QB with a quicker release than Mahomes. As he was warming up, there was a football passing machine throwing to Tampa Bay’s defensive backs. Not far away, Mahomes’ delivery was actually faster as the ball just exploded off his arm for one perfect pass after another.

While Brady has the best set of receivers he has ever had in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown — plus Gronk, one could see in warmups that he was still working on establishing timing — as injuries, COVID and the recent signing of Brown limited the Bucs’ practice opportunities.

In the first quarter, the Bucs play-calling on offense was mind boggling. On four straight third-and-short situations, the Bucs chose to throw long passes — failing to get any first downs.

One has to witness the Chiefs’ offense in person to fully comprehend the speed and precision of their passing game.

Mahomes, besides having a rocket arm, moves around in the pocket like a champion boxer, avoiding defenders and finding the perfect passing angles.

Just like in the Steelers game of two years ago, the Chiefs jumped out to a huge lead in the blink of an eye.

KC wide receiver Tyreek Hill (200 yards receiving in just the first quarter) made the Bucs defenders look helpless as he varied his speed and cut on a dime.

Add the NFL’s top tight end in Travis Kelce and Mahomes’ ability to buy time by moving in the pocket and the result is multiple Chiefs are wide open on many plays.

After the Chiefs jumped out to a 17-0 lead, instead of scoring 50, they continued a trend they have been doing all year, started to let up and lose focus. Suddenly the Chiefs dropped passes, fumbled and ran the wrong routes — knowing that at any time they can just win the game.

I sat behind the Bucs bench, and you could just feel the fire and passion of Brady as he talked to his teammates and coaches along the sidelines. As the all-time leader in fourth-quarter comebacks, Brady’s confidence filtered down to his teammates as they erased the KC lead.

But just when everyone was waiting for Brady to get the ball for another comeback, Mahomes threw and ran for three first downs to run out the clock — denying Brady a final chance.

The Super Bowl is Feb. 7, 2021 in Raymond James Stadium, and while I hope the Steelers can find a way to upset the Chiefs, I would not be surprised if the Chiefs and the Bucs, the GOAT vs. the MVP, play one more epic game.

Kaufman is an Altoona native, attorney and traveling sports fan. He hosts a radio show called “Ira on Sports” in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is available on Sound Cloud and iTunes under Ira on Sports.

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