Yes, yes, yes. We get it. Patrick Mahomes won’t spend one second of Sunday night’s AFC divisional playoff game guarding Josh Allen. Allen will not spend one second of the game checking Mahomes. This isn’t a hoops game on West Fourth Street playground or Rucker Park — or 1953, for that matter, when single-platoon football still ruled the day.
In theory, Mahomes will have zero effect on Allen.
In principle, Allen will have zero influence on Mahomes.
In practice, this is Round 4 of what promises to be the best mano-a-mano NFL battle of present day, an update of the old Peyton-versus-Brady days of the earlier part of this century, when Patriots vs. Colts became something else: a showcase for world-class quarterbacking. History shows Tom Brady won that particular match, though Peyton Manning was a fine and worthy foil.
Mahomes versus Allen?
This is still being written, and unless something very odd happens in either Kansas City or Buffalo, this is what we’re going to get regular helpings of across the next 10, 12, 15 years. And we’ve only just begun.
“I think Patrick’s career already speaks for itself,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this past week. “There’s nobody I’d rather see in that position with my season on the line.”
“What Josh has managed to do is make this team confident it can play with anyone,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “Before you can win big games, you have to believe you can win them. I think that’s where we are with this football team.”
Between 2001-15, Brady and Manning met each other 17 times. They played almost every year in the regular season, despite being in different divisions since 2002 — because they were often paired up as first-place teams from the year before. And they met five times in the playoffs. Brady won 11 of the 17 overall, and three of the five in the postseason. It sounds one-sided, and sometimes it was.
But every time, it was the most-anticipated game of the week.
As this one is.
“They let us have it earlier in the year,” Mahomes said. “This ought to be some game.”
“You play football to play games like this one,” Allen said. “It’s going to be something.”
This will be the second straight year the Bills and Chiefs meet at Arrowhead in the postseason, and the fourth time the teams will meet overall since Mahomes became the league’s signature quarterback and Allen scratched his way into the conversation.
The Chiefs won last year’s AFC Championship game, 38-24, after spotting the Bills and early 9-0 lead, and though Allen played well (287 yards passing, 53 rushing, two touchdowns and a pick), Mahomes was better (325 yards and three TDs). Earlier that season, inside an empty stadium in Buffalo, Mahomes had also outplayed Allen in a 26-17 Chiefs win.
But on Oct. 10 this season, a Sunday night, with a packed house and a fascinated nation beyond looking on, the Bills trounced the Chiefs, 38-20. Mahomes was shaky (two TDs, two picks, two sacks) and Allen was brilliant — throwing for 315 yards and three scores, running for 59 yards and another score. If that night didn’t necessarily sound a changing of the among the NFL’s elite young quarterbacks, it certainly announced that Mahomes had company in the team photo.
And much like Manning/Brady, both quarterbacks recognize greatness in the other, and respects it.
Mahomes on Allen: “He’s able to run the ball, he can throw the ball. He has the arm strength to throw it anywhere on the field, and he makes great decisions. We’ll probably play them a lot of times, it’ll be great competition, and it’s definitely a great challenge for us as a team to compete with them.”
Allen on Mahomes: “He’s done all the major things that you want to accomplish in your career, and, obviously, he wants more. I know the type of guy Pat is. I know he’s got his foundation set up that helps a lot of people. And that’s something I really admire about him as well that he’s a real good person off the field as well.”
Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Round 4 of what promises to be the NFL’s heavyweight rivalry for years and years to come. Have your calculator handy. This one’s going to be fun.