Coordinators leave and the receivers are different each year, but one thing remains clear in New England after the Patriots' 43-40 victory against the Chiefs on Sunday. Tom Brady and the gang are Super Bowl contenders yet again, and there is no sense in doubting this reality.
Three weeks into the season, the Bill Belichick-led Patriots were 1-2, coming off two underwhelming performances against Jacksonville and Detroit. Reactive fans and critics chirped about Brady’s age. They claimed ‘Father Time’ was finally catching up to the five-time Super Bowl winner and three-time MVP. We were witnessing an end to the New England dynasty, they said.
Meanwhile in Missouri, a second-year quarterback named Patrick Mahomes II was breaking records set by Peyton Manning and leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 3-0 start. Their attack appeared unstoppable. Between Mahomes' rocket arm, his quick feet and a set of skilled position players unmatched in the league, the Chiefs were the new team to beat in the AFC.
Out with the old, in with the new. It was an easy trap for NFL watchers to fall into.
Two convincing Patriots wins later and a Chiefs defence showing signs of weakness (ranked last in the league in yards allowed entering Sunday) told a different story. Sunday’s contest would not be a match of young hares running circles around ageing tortoises.
In fact, it looked like quite the opposite when the 41-year-old Brady scampered toward the end zone and dove headfirst for a touchdown to give his team a late fourth-quarter lead.
Led by Brady’s 340 passing yards and rookie running back Sony Michel’s two touchdown runs, the Patriots exposed Kansas City’s defence, which finally broke down en route to the team’s first defeat of the season.
Mahomes finished with 352 passing yards and four touchdown passes, but two first-half interceptions proved costly. He returned to form in the third quarter, throwing two touchdown passes and showing the poise and skill that have drawn him comparisons to a young Brett Favre.
Even with a star performance by the Chiefs’ young quarterback, Brady was able to match Kansas City blow-for-blow, score-for-score.
With the game tied at 40-40 and 3:03 to play, the veteran marched his team down the field to set up a match-winning field goal try by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The 28-yard kick sailed through the uprights as time expired to give New England the 43-40 victory.
Like so many quarterbacks before him, Mahomes stood on the sideline, rendered helpless while witnessing the greatest quarterback of all time execute a perfect two-minute drill, snatching away victory with each precise pass.
Mahomes will have another chance - and perhaps chances - to take the torch from the ageless Brady. Although the teams will not play again this regular season, they appear on a collision course to an AFC playoff matchup.
Until then, this is still Tom Brady’s league. And as they have been for the past 18 seasons, the Patriots are still the team to beat.
Game of the weekend: Dolphins defeat Bears, 31-28
Despite allowing 28 second-half points and surrendering a momentum-shifting fumble in overtime, the Dolphins were able to hold off the upstart Chicago Bears, 31-28.
With 5:01 left in overtime, Miami running back Kenyan Drake fumbled at Chicago's one-yard line, gifting the Bears a touchback and a chance to win the game with a field goal. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky moved the team into field goal range, but Cody Parkey's 53-yard kick missed wide right, giving the Dolphins a shot at redemption.
After a quick 28-yard drive led by second-string quarterback Brock Osweiler, Dolphins' kicker Jason Sanders made good on the team's chance by converting a 47-yard kick to win the match as time expired.
Play of the weekend: Roethlisberger’s pass to Antonio Brown
Trailing 21-20 against division-rival Cincinnati Bengals with 15 seconds to play, Steelers quarterback Big Ben threw a dart over the middle to star wide receiver Antonio Brown, who sprinted through the Bengals’ defence for a match-winning touchdown.
After a cold start to the season, the Steelers have won their last two matches and will head into their bye week hoping for a Le’Veon Bell return in week eight.
Next week’s key matchup: Patriots at Bears
Coming off three straight home victories, the Patriots (4-2) will travel to Chicago and face the NFC North-leading Bears (3-2). New England's electric attack is finally clicking, but they will have a tough matchup against Khalil Mack and one of the NFL's top defences.