In his 21-year career in the NFL, Tom Brady has played in nine Super Bowls and seen nearly every kind of team the NFL has to offer. However, Kansas City will be the first team in 19 years with an MVP quarterback and championship experience to take on Brady in football’s biggest game.
Brady defeated defending champions the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He dug himself out of a 28-3 hole in the all-time greatest comeback against MVP quarterback Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Only once in all his years of postseason greatness, however, has Brady defeated a team like Kansas City. The St. Louis Rams he upset in Super Bowl XXXVI had won Super Bowl XXXIV and were led by MVP quarterback Kurt Warner and MVP running back Marshall Faulk.
Kansas City is arguably the most daunting opponent Brady has faced in all nine of his Super Bowl appearances. Kansas City was the NFL’s only 14-win team this season despite resting their offensive stars quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, in Week 17 after having already clinched the AFC’s top seed.
Since 2013, Kansas City has been led by Andy Reid, a veteran head coach who has led two separate franchises to the Super Bowl, Kansas City in 2020 and the Green Bay Packers in 1996 as an assistant coach.
All the pieces have been in place for Kansas City for three seasons. In Mahomes’ MVP season in 2018, his first as the starting quarterback, Kansas City lost the AFC championship game in overtime to the New England Patriots, with Brady appearing in his eighth straight AFC championship game on the way to the last of his six championships with New England. Last season, Mahomes led Kansas City to their first Super Bowl victory since Super Bowl IV.
In Brady’s first Super Bowl appearance in 2002, he played against the then-St. Louis Rams and MVP quarterback Kurt Warner. St. Louis boasted the league’s most prolific offense that year with more than 418.3 yards per game on the way to 503 total points. New England, meanwhile, had one of the league’s better defenses, allowing only 17 points per game on average.
Brady knew that a turnover-free performance was his best chance to keep the game close and give his defense the opportunity to make a big play. Brady did exactly that, not turning the ball over at all and setting his team up for a game-winning field goal.
Facing off with a recent Super Bowl champion requires a full 60 minutes of effort, with little margin for mental errors. Brady took on the defending champions, the Seattle Seahawks, in Super Bowl XLIX, where Brady threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter, but his two interceptions gave Seattle a real opportunity to win.
Only an interception by cornerback Malcolm Butler in the final minute gave Brady his fourth Super Bowl ring. A defending champion blowing the lead as late in the game as the Seahawks did was an anomaly, and Brady cannot expect the same luck this time around against a strong Kansas City team.
In his first trip representing the NFC, Brady will lead Tampa Bay in their first appearance in American sports’ greatest spectacle since Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. Against the best Super Bowl opponents, Brady tends to dig himself into a hole from which he ultimately climbs out scarred but unscathed. This Sunday, in maybe his most difficult matchup yet, look for Brady to fall behind. If he does, do not count out a miracle to vanquish the hopes of Kansas City repeating as champions.
Jake Wexelblatt is a junior in the College. Deja Vu All Over Again appears online every other week.