So now we know. TB12 is still QB1.
While Chiefs' wunderkind Patrick Mahomes made the most astonishing plays in Sunday's game with New England, it was the Patriots' Tom Brady who made the most important ones -- and stop if you've heard this before. The first was a 4-yard scramble that produced a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The second was a 39-yard bomb to Rob Gronkowski that set up a game-winning field goal with no time left.
Put them together, and you have Tom Terrific all over again.
Of course, we're used to that by now. Except at 41, Brady's not supposed to be able to do most of what we just witnessed. In fact, history tells us that NFL quarterbacks typically hit the wall in their late 30s (see Peyton/Eli Manning), with guys like Warren Moon and Brett Favre the exceptions … Favre leading Minnesota to the NFC championship game at 40, then cratering a year later before he retired.
But Brady is beyond all that.
At 40, he was the league MVP. He's been to three Super Bowls in the last four years, winning two of them and throwing for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards (again, at 40) in the one he didn't. And now this … because there is no overstating the importance of this victory to a New England team that would've fallen to 3-3 and three games (three-and-a-half with the tiebreaker) behind Kansas City had it lost.
But it didn't. And it didn't because Brady wouldn't let it.
Consider this: Of the Patriots' 12 series, nine resulted in scores. Now, subtract their opening possession and a four-second kneel down at the end of the first half, and you have New England scoring nine of the last 10 times it had the ball. You also have the Patriots never punting.
A general manager I respect once told me he measures quarterbacks not by passer rating, yards or touchdowns but by how they perform in big games when outcomes hang in the balance. Well, nobody does that better than Brady. He did it with game-winning comebacks in the last quarters of Super Bowls XLIX and LI, and he did it again on the last New England series Sunday.
Yes, Mahomes made the extraordinary throws. And, yes, he may be the quarterback of the future, too, I don't know. Give the guy a few years, and then we can decide. But let's get something straight: Tom Brady is the quarterback of the here and now, just as he's always been.
And he just proved it. Again.
WHAT'S UP (OR DOWN) WITH NEW HEAD COACHES?
Change is good, right? Not in this year's NFL it's not.
There are seven new head coaches, including Super Bowl champ Jon Gruden, and guess what? They're, uh, not so good.
Only one (Chicago's Matt Nagy) has a winning record, not one won this week and the seven are a combined 12-28 for the season, with four (Gruden, Steve Wilks, Pat Shurmur and Frank Reich) tied for the league's worst record at 1-5.
So where is there the most hope? The better question is: Where isn't there any?
There's competition galore at the bottom, with the Raiders the leader in the clubhouse because they have the distinction of stinking on two continents. But tell that to Giants' fans, who wish Eli were going, not staying … or Colts' fans, whose team is 5-17 under GM Chris Ballard … or Arizona fans, who wonder if a Fire Sale includes star cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Bottom line: Be careful what you wish for. Remember: Tennessee was a playoff team a year ago. Now the Titans are 3-3, just got blanked and have put up no more than 12 points in three of their past four starts. The Detroit Lions were 9-7 a year ago. Now they're 2-3. The Cards were 8-8 in 2017, and … I think you get the idea. The Magnificent Seven these coaches are not.
GURLEY OR GORDON?
When it comes to running back, Los Angeles is more like Shangri-LA, with Melvin Gordon over here, and Todd Gurley over there. Both are elite players. Both can score from anywhere. And both are fantasy cash cows. All together now: "I love L.A."
So now the question: Who's better?
The Rams are the better team. We know that. They've already beaten the Chargers, and nobody has beaten them. But which back would you rather have? Gurley just ran for a career-best 208 yards and scored two more TDs. That gives him 623 yards and nine scores rushing this season.
Now look at Gordon. He put up three touchdowns and 132 yards Sunday. He's run for 466 yards and has six rushing scores and nine overall for the year. Gurley has 11 TDs overall.
Gordon has 30 catches, while Gurley has 21. But Gurley has three 100-yard rushing games this season and one 200-yarder. Gordon has two centuries.
So whom would you rather have?
Me? I'll take Gurley. He's on schedule to finish with 29 touchdowns, which would be the best single-season total since LaDainian Tomlinson's 31 in 2006, and a second straight NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Plus, he's the critical element on a club that hasn't lost.
- Tyreek Hill vs. Usain Bolt in the 40. Who you got?
- If I were Le'Veon Bell, I'd hustle back into work, too, mostly because I just left $6 million on the table but partly because my replacement, James Conner, has been sensational. He's one of the league's leading scorers, pushing his total to seven touchdowns with two Sunday. And he might've had one more, except for some reason, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin didn't appeal an apparent third score that was ruled down at the 1. The Steelers are back in the middle of the AFC North again after clutch wins the past two weeks, and thank you, James Conner. He's combined for 314 yards from scrimmage (including 221 yards rushing) and four TDs the last two games.
- I still like Baltimore in the AFC North. Three reasons: Defense, defense and defense. The Ravens haven't allowed a second-half touchdown all season, surrendered just 15 second-half points all year and not only threw up their second shutout in a year where scoring is at an all-time high but produced a franchise-record 11 sacks.
- A week ago, unhappy Dallas fans went on Twitter to plead for the return of Tony Romo. I believe those users have been blocked now.
- Which is worse: The AFC South or NFC East? May be too close to call, but give me the AFC South. No one has a winning record, co-leader Houston (3-3) is on one of the least inspiring three-game runs in recent memory and there's no defending Super Bowl champion within the division.
- Before punching Super Bowl tickets, Bears' fans should let this sink in: Your team just lost to a quarterback cut by Cleveland.
- Oh, and before you ask, no, I have no idea why Matt Nagy went conservative in OT, playing for a 53-yard field goal when 53-yard field goals are no gimmes -- as Cody Parkey demonstrated.
- With that win, Brady and Belichick ae now 4-0 vs. teams that were 5-0 at kickoff (the 2004 Jets, the 2007 Cowboys, the 2013 Saints and now the Chiefs). They're also 24-0 during the Brady/Belichick era in regular-season games against quarterbacks younger than 25. Patrick Mahomes is 23.
- Heads up, Nathan Peterman. They're now hiring at the Anchor Bar.
- Denver needs more than John Elway. It could use Randy Gradishar, too. The past two weeks the Broncos' run defense has been gashed for 593 yards on 77 carries, or 7.7 yards per, and three TDs. Worse, they're the first team since the 1978 Bills to get shredded for at least 270 rushing yards in back-to-back games.
- No, Cleveland isn't that bad. But the Chargers may be that good. Their only two losses have been to Kansas City and the Rams, who are a combined 11-1.
- This just in off the Tony Romo Corona hot line: The game the NFL schedules next month in Mexico City? Try Kansas City vs. the Rams on Monday night, Nov. 19.
- It doesn't matter if the Raiders are in Oakland or Vegas. Their fans don't deserve this.
- Time to face facts, Jags' fans: Now, more than ever, you need Leonard Fournette.
- Not sure who's the Cowboys' most effective running back: Dak Prescott or Zeke Elliott.
- No, Sam Darnold isn't the next Broadway Joe, but he may be the next Sam Goody.
- Hard to imagine, but Houston's offensive line could be worse than Buffalo's. There's no way Deshaun Watson lasts the season if he's not wrapped in a Zircon encrusted jersey.
- If, as Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said last week, the Tennessee Titans' strength "starts with their quarterback,' then how do the Titans let Marcus Mariota get sacked 11 times?
- With that loss, Tampa Bay's Dirk Koetter just put his right foot on a banana peel and his left on black ice.
- I don't know what the Vikings' Stefon Diggs used for that Geico commercial that makes his hands stick to everything, but the Colts should find out … then cover Andrew Luck's receivers with it. They're the Colts' version of Gary Sanchez at catcher.
- The Raiders shouldn't deal Amari Cooper to the highest bidder. They should trade Jon Gruden for a bag of Doritos.
- Kicker Jason Sanders didn't just spare Kenyan Drake tough questions. He spared the Dolphins' coaching staff, too. I don't care how gassed Frank Gore was in OT. There's no way Drake should've carried on that third-and-goal in OT. Gore should have.
- Memo to Adam Gase: Get Albert Wilson more touches. Immediately.
- Next time we hear from NFL officiating boss Al Riveron, I'd like to know how the line judge blew an obvious illegal procedure penalty on Chargers' left tackle Russell Okung on the Bolts' third TD. I swear, I thought Angel Hernandez had switched sports.
- Consider that a history-making effort by the Chargers. It marked the first L.A. Chargers' touchdown on an opening series since 1960. Nope, we don't make 'em up.
FIVE THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
- Ben Roethlisberger is now 25-4-1 in Ohio, including 14-2 vs. the Bengals at Paul Brown.
- Under rookie Sam Darnold, the Jets have scored 40 or more points twice this year. The last time that happened was 2008 … with Brett Favre at quarterback.
- Marcus Mariota suffered one more sack (11) than he had completions (10).
- The past six NFL international games have been decided by an average of 26 points (190-34). None has been closer than 17 points, and in all but one the losing team hasn't scored more than 8 points.
- Brock Osweiler has never lost to the Bears. Honest. He's 3-0 in his career. He's also 4-0 in overtime games.
BELIEVE IT OR DON'T
The Chargers have run through seven kickers during Anthony Lynn's tenure as head coach. Lynn was hired last year, which means … uh-huh, seven kickers in 22 games, or, roughly, one every three starts.
BELIEVE IT OR DON'T II
Dating back to 2013, the New England Patriots surrendered 40 or more points only three times in regular-season games … and all three have been to Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. This was the first time that New England won.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE OF THE DAY
"We lost, but I've got a beautiful wife I get to go home to. I'm going to try to make some babies, man." -- Oakland DE Bruce Irvin on how he will spend next week's bye.
With this as a close second ...
"We're better than them. They ain't better than us. Period." -- Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on the Pittsburgh Steelers, after (pay attention, Dre) the Steelers won Sunday.
SUNDAY'S BIGGEST WINNER
NBC'S FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA. It didn't give us a football game. It gave us a track meet with a photo finish, a riveting 43-40 last-second New England victory that had everything -- great runs, spectacular passes, critical takeaways and two of the best quarterbacks in today's game. Basically, Baltimore-Tennessee it was not. In the end, it was Tom Brady who prevailed, and why is that different than any other year? The Patriots don't have the best record in the AFC, but they demonstrated why they may again wind up the conference's best team and why NBC and the NFL would be smart to schedule either of these teams for more Sunday night games..
SUNDAY'S BIGGEST LOSER
JACKSONVILLE COACH DOUG MARRONE. He has to explain to his boss -- Tom Coughlin, not Shahid Khan -- what's happened to the Jags' once vaunted defense. The past two weeks it's been torn apart, with Kansas City and the Cowboys putting up 70 points, 802 yards and scores on 12 of 22 possessions. That is not how you get back to the top of the AFC South. Nor is it how you get back to the conference championship game. And it's not how you sell tickets at Wembley Stadium, Mr. Khan.