NFL Divisional Takeaways: Mahomes vs. Allen is NFL’s best new QB rivalry

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Brady vs. Manning. Marino vs. Montana. Young vs. Aikman. Bradshaw vs. Staubach…

Mahomes versus Allen.

Football’s got a new budding quarterback rivalry already worthy of a spot on the all-time list, and the duo delivered a thriller Sunday night that felt like it may as well have been the Super Bowl. If the Divisional Round matchup, a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship, is a sign of what’s to come over the course of the next decade, we’re in for a wild, wonderful ride. Buckle up.

This one was, in so many ways, the perfect football game — a modern-day classic worthy of its own bust and a place in the Hall of Fame where it may live forever in football lore.

Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen both delivered flawless performances that, when compared side-by-side, were nearly identical:

Mahomes: 378 passing yards, 69 rushing yards, four touchdowns (including one rushing TD)
Allen: 329 passing yards, 68 rushing yards, four touchdowns (all passes)

The game featured 974 yards combined total offence for 78 points; punts (six) and penalties (four) were kept to a minimum; fourth-down efficiency was 100 per cent (four-for-four for Allen, and one-for-one for Mahomes); no fumbles were lost, nor interceptions thrown; and by the final touchdown catch in overtime, the game had seen enough momentum swings and lead changes to produce a win probability tracker that looked more like our collective heart-rate monitor.

Mahomes and Allen took turns one-upping one another right down to the final seconds of regulation and into overtime, which ultimately ended on a Travis Kelce catch in the end zone on the first possession of extra time for a 42-36 Chiefs victory.

For the fourth straight year — and in Mahomes’ fourth season at the helm — the Chiefs are off to the AFC Championship. But this one wasn’t without a little ire from Football Twitter…

Chiefs’ quick OT victory reignites NFL overtime debates
So tightly-contested was this game, so evenly matched its opponents and conservative its betting-line point spread, you could have said prior to kick-off that the outcome of this one may as well come down to a coin flip.

But, like… nobody actually meant that literally.

The coin tossed to open overtime flipped in favour of the Chiefs Sunday night, giving Mahomes the ball first – and, as it turned out, last. This game was always going to be won by the last possession, and when Mahomes connected with Kelce on the opening drive, it was game-over. After being spoiled with four quarters’ worth of some of the finest football we’ve seen, it felt particularly cruel that just one half of this great, new rivalry should get to take his shot in overtime.

The NFL’s polarizing overtime rules were once again thrust into the spotlight, with opinions flying in all directions – some in favour, many opposed:

Bills’ Davis sets NFL playoff record in losing effort
Sunday’s game in Kansas City produced several game-breaking heroes, most of whom were the usual suspects. But perhaps the most stunning performance of the night came courtesy of Buffalo Bills tight end Gabriel Davis, whose four touchdown receptions – including two in the final two minutes of regulation – set a new league record for most TD catches in a single playoff game. His remarkable outing (eight catches for 201 yards) is even more stunning considering he had 549 yards and six TDs all season.

Kupp comes up clutch as Rams’ Super Bowl search lives on
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl on home turf. This year, with the NFL’s championship game headed to L.A.’s sparkling new SoFi Stadium, the Rams have been next in line to do the same.

It’s fitting, then, that the Rams should have to travel through Tampa and conquer the defending champs in order to keep that dream alive.

For three quarters of the game they made it look easy, the Rams’ lethal pass rush causing all kinds of problems for Tom Brady & Co., who were down 27-3 in the third quarter.

And then Brady started doing Brady things, the game was tied in the final minute, and L.A.’s hopes of hosting and playing in Super Bowl LVI were fading before their very eyes.

That’s when Cooper Kupp stepped up.

Over the course of the regular season, we watched in awe on a weekly basis as Matthew Stafford’s new best friend tallied incredible numbers en route to winning the triple crown as league leader in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16).

Two games into the Rams’ post-season campaign has brought more of the same.

Kupp’s pair of back-to-back receptions on L.A.’s game-winning drive – particularly that last dash for 70 yards to set up Matt Gay’s walk-off field goal to win the game 30-27 – show the league exactly why those MVP whispers we’ve been hearing should be shouted from the rooftops of SoFi.

What’s next for Brady?
For the first time since 2009, neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers will be competing in a Conference Championship game after both veterans were eliminated from playoff contention this weekend.

So, is this the end of an era? The changing of the guard as the game’s young guns officially take over? Or just a one-year blip before both No. 12s return for another shot in 2022?

Like Rodgers following the Packers’ 13-10 loss to the 49ers Saturday night, Brady didn’t have any definitive answers about his future in the immediate aftermath of his own (rare) post-season loss.

“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it,” Brady told reporters. “So, we’ll take it day by day and see where we’re at.”

After a follow-up, Brady said, “I’m thinking about this game, and not thinking about anything past five minutes from now.”

While it’s safe to say we cannot (and, in all fairness, probably should not) read much into these non-post-game comments, intrigue was stirred earlier Sunday when ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington released a report that TB12 is “noncommittal” when it comes to his football future. What makes this newsy is the fact that Brady, 44, has been adamant for quite some time now about his drive to play until he’s 45, which means suiting up for the 2022 season.

While his words may not bring clarity, his numbers probably should – in his second season with the Buccaneers, Brady is still playing at his absolute best. He led the league in regular season passing yards (5,316), pass attempts (719), completions (485), and touchdowns (43).

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