Tom Brady’s best game in three tries against New Orleans kept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moving on in the NFL playoffs, and has Saints quarterback Drew Brees headed home — perhaps for good.
Brady and the Bucs’ offence turned three of four Saints turnovers into touchdowns and Tampa Bay beat New Orleans 30-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday night.
Two of those touchdowns came on short passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette. And after linebacker Devin White snagged the second of thee interceptions thrown by Brees, Brady drove the Bucs to the 1, from where he scored himself with 4:57 left to virtually ensure his 14th trip to a conference championship game — his first in the NFC. That game will take place in Green Bay next week, where the 43-year-old Brady will try to advance to his 10th Super Bowl in a showdown with Packers All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers.
“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.” Meanwhile, the Brees era in New Orleans could be over after 15 seasons.
While just 3,750 tickets were distributed in the 73,000-seat Superdome to comply with local COVID-19 restrictions, the fans made themselves heard with an eruption of cheers when the 42-year-old Brees first took the field for New Orleans (13-5), seemingly sensing this could be their last chance to see him play at home.
Brees, under contract for one more year, declined to say whether he’s retiring. After he’d changed in the locker room, he walked back onto the field and watched his four children play, at one point sharing a long embrace with his wife, Brittany.
“I appreciate all that this game has given to me,” Brees said. “There are obviously so many incredible memories.” Meanwhile in the AFC divisional play offs, the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs lost star QB Patrick Mahomes to a concussion but held off the Cleveland Browns 22-17 to advance to their third straight championship game, where they will face the Buffalo Bills.
With their star quarterback reduced to a spectator, the oft-forgotten defence forced the Browns to punt in the waning minutes. Then, his 35-year-old backup showed some moxie with a 13-yard third-down scramble and audacious fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill that gave the Chiefs (15-2) a first down with just over a minute left and allowed them to run out the clock.
Mahomes hadn’t played in 21 days, since the Chiefs clinched the AFC’s top seed in Week 16, but he hardly missed a beat before leaving midway through the third quarter. He finished 21 of 30 for 255 yards and a TD, and ran for another score.
Roughly 17,000 fans allowed in the stadium due to pandemic were left sitting in stunned silence when Mahomes was tackled around the head with 7:27 left in the quarter and left crumpled on the turf near midfield.
Mahomes, already hobbled by a foot injury, stumbled as he tried to get to his feet. He was eventually helped to the blue tent on the sideline, then ran to the locker room, where he was evaluated for a concussion.
“It kind of knocked the wind out of him and everything else,” Reid said after the game. “He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we look at this. He passed all the deals he needed to pass and we’ll see where it goes from here.” Harrison Butker added three field goals for the Chiefs, who nearly blew a 19-3 lead but survived to become the first AFC team to host three consecutive conference title games. They’ll face the Bills next Sunday.