One step away from completing a miraculous comeback, Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell 30-27 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in the NFL divisional round, ending the hopes of the legendary ‘quarterback’ to add an eighth title, while that closing Pat Mahomes and his KC Chiefs achieved an epic victory over the Buffalo Bills 42-36 for the American Conference.
In a game of infarction, the Buccaneers, current champions of the American Football League (NFL), came to lose 27-3 seven minutes from the end of the third quarter.
Brady led a dramatic comeback to tie the game at 27 with 42 seconds remaining, but kicker Matt Gay kicked a decisive field goal for the Rams at the buzzer that silenced Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Considered the best player in history, Brady has seven trophies to his name, an NFL record, and his sporting future is shrouded in doubt at 44 years of age.
“I haven’t thought much about it yet. I’m going to go day by day and see where we are,” said the quarterback when asked about a possible withdrawal.
Brady still has a valid contract with the ‘Bucs’, a franchise he came to and led to the title last season, but US media reported on Sunday that he is considering ending a career of 22 successful seasons.
The ‘quarterback’ did deny that during the game it crossed his mind that it could be the last of his career.
“No, I only think about winning,” stressed the Californian. “It’s my mentality, go out there and try to win, give my team the maximum chance of victory.”
The Rams, who aspire to qualify for the Super Bowl on February 13 at their SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, will play the final of the National Conference against the San Francisco 49ers, executioners of the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.
The Los Angeles team, fourth seeded in the National, had not played a conference final since 2018, when it later fell in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, then led by Brady.
Brady completed 30 of 54 passes for 329 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
It wasn’t until the second half that the quarterback was able to shake off the hounding and takedown of an elite defense that brings together all-stars Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller.
Frustrated, Brady came to play with a bloody lip in the second quarter after colliding with Von Miller.
– Heart-stopping ending –
On the way back, the game got even worse for Tampa, which conceded a one-yard touchdown from Stafford with which the Rams led 27-3 with seven minutes and seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Brady missed some of his biggest offensive weapons, especially wide receivers Chris Godwin, who was injured, and the controversial Antonio Brown, who had a rocky exit from the team two weeks ago.
The champions needed an era comeback but Brady’s presence gave them a ray of hope, as the quarterback already led the Patriots to turn around a 28-3 Super Bowl 2017 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Tampa pulled back on a Ryan Succop field goal and a Leonard Fournette 1-yard touchdown that made it 27-13 and set them up for a dramatic fourth quarter.
Nerves got the better of the Rams, who breathed new life into Tampa when Matt Gay missed a 47-yard field goal with 6 1/2 minutes remaining.
Brady threw a spectacular 55-yard pass to Mike Evans for the touchdown that brought Tampa within 27-20 with 3 minutes, 20 seconds remaining.
The Rams had 42 seconds to avoid overtime and humiliation, and Stafford managed to carry the ball 30 yards, where Gay kicked the field goal that eliminated Tampa.
– Mahomes was in luxury –
In Kansas City, with a spectacular touchdown pass in overtime by quarterback Pat Mahomes, the local Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills 42-36 in a heart-stopping finish.
The Chiefs will play next weekend for the AFC title against the Cincinnati Bengals, who beat the Tennessee Titans 19-16 on Saturday.
Earlier, a field goal by kicker Harrison Butker with three seconds left sent the Chiefs into overtime, tying the score at 36.
Before that, a spectacular touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Alenn to Gabriel Davis with 13 seconds left put the Bills up 36-33, which seemed to end the game.
Another legendary touchdown pass from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill with a minute left had put the Chiefs ahead 33-29.
With this victory, the Chiefs reach the American Conference championship game for the fourth time in a row, where they will seek to advance to the Super Bowl for the third time in a row.
Mahomes finished his job by completing 33 of 44 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns, while his Bills counterpart, Josh Alenn, went 27 of 37 for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was a great game between two great teams,” Mahomes said after the game. “Josh (Bills quarterback) was huge.”
– NFL Divisional Round Results:
Tennessee Titans vs Cincinnati Bengals 16-19
Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers 10-13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs LA Rams 27-30
Kansas City Chiefs vs Buffalo Bills 42-36