2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Sunday Night


Daniil Medvedev, the fourth seed, struggled in his third round matchup against Filip Krajinovic, losing the third and fourth sets in spectacular fashion. Medvedev cycled between yelling at himself in Russian, his coach in French, and Krajinovic’s well placed volleys in English. In the fifth set, Medvedev settled back in and won six straight games.For McDonald to pull off an upset, he will need to exploit Medvedev’s natural volatility. Medvedev should be able to keep McDonald at bay if he can keep calm and use his varied shots to pull the American around the edges of the court.Rod Laver Arena | 11 p.m. SundayRafael Nadal vs. Fabio FogniniRafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed, has struggled with a small back injury throughout the first week of the Australian Open. However, this has not stopped him from rolling past his opposition without dropping a set. Nadal’s powerful topspin shots have consistently pushed his opponents around the court, depriving them of the time necessary to impose their own ideas upon a rally.Fabio Fognini, the 16th seed, has had a roller coaster week. He struggled in a five-set contest against a fellow Italian, Salvatore Caruso, but then dispatched the 21st seed, Alex de Minaur, in just three sets. Fognini, who won a doubles title at the Australian Open in 2015, has been to the round of 16 in Melbourne four times, and will have a difficult time overcoming Nadal.Rod Laver Arena | 3 a.m. MondayAshleigh Barty vs. Shelby RogersAshleigh Barty, the world No. 1, has moved through to the fourth round without dropping a set. In her third round victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova she played smart tennis, not going for big shots and allowing Alexandrova to overplay and extracting 30 unforced errors.Shelby Rogers, an unseeded player, has reached two major quarterfinals, but has never won a WTA tournament. Her inconsistency on tour can partially be blamed on ruptured cartilage in her knee, which required surgery in 2018.Barty and Rogers faced off in the quarterfinals of the Yarra Valley Classic last week, with Barty winning in a third-set tiebreaker. For Rogers to reverse her fortunes, she’ll need to play aggressively without over-hitting, a tough needle to thread.

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‘Hard Quarantine’ เป็นประโยชน์ต่อผู้เล่นใน Australian Open อย่างไร


เบรดี้กล่าวว่าเป็นเวลา 14 วันที่เขานอนหลับมากกว่าปกติโดยมักจะไม่ตื่นนอนจนกระทั่ง 23.00 น. เขาฝึกวันละสองครั้งตอนเที่ยงและประมาณ 17.00 น. Michael Geserer โค้ชของ Brady กล่าวว่า Brady ใช้ลูกเทนนิสจักรยานที่อยู่กับที่ งานที่สำคัญที่สุดของ Geserer คือจิตใจ “ เราไม่สามารถจำลองการใช้งานภาคสนามได้ แต่เราพยายามอย่างเต็มที่เพื่อปรับตัวให้เข้ากับสถานการณ์ใหม่นี้” เขากล่าว สิ่งที่สำคัญที่สุดคือความคิด เราไม่ได้บ่น เรากำลังเอามัน “Geserer กล่าวว่าเขาชื่นชมทัศนคติเชิงบวกของ Brady และกล่าวว่า” เขามีวันที่เลวร้าย แต่เขาก็พยายามใช้ประโยชน์สูงสุดจากวันที่เลวร้ายของเขา ” “มันสำคัญเช่นกันในแมตช์: คุณจะไม่ได้เล่นเทนนิสที่ดีที่สุดของคุณ แต่มันกำลังพยายามหาทางชนะ” การคว้าแชมป์ WTA ครั้งแรกเมื่อฤดูกาลที่แล้วถึงยูเอสโอเพ่นและอันดับที่สูงขึ้นเบรดี้หยุดพักจากการถูกจำคุกภาคบังคับในรอบรองชนะเลิศ “ เมื่อฉันออกมาจากที่กักกันพูดด้วยตัวเองฉันก็มีจิตใจที่สดชื่นขึ้นมาก” เบรดี้กล่าว “ ปีที่แล้วเป็นปีที่ยาวนานสำหรับฉัน ฉันไม่ได้หยุดพักจริงๆ ลึก ๆ แล้วฉันโชคดีนิดหน่อยที่ได้ออกไป 14 วัน มันช่วยให้ฉันเริ่มต้นใหม่ทั้งทางจิตใจและร่างกายได้เช่นกัน “ เมื่อการกักกันสิ้นสุดลงเขารู้สึกโล่งใจเมื่ออยู่ในสนามขณะที่เขากลับไปออกกำลังกาย” สองครั้งแรกที่ฉันทำคือพยายามที่จะรู้สึก“ โดยไม่ต้องพยายามหักโหมมากเกินไปฉันแค่รู้สึกว่า สนามและการเคลื่อนไหว” เบรดี้กล่าว“ ฉันกลัวว่าจะเจ็บปวดสุด ๆ ซึ่งจริงๆแล้วไม่ใช่เลย”

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Making Week 2 of a Grand Slam Is a Leap. And Not Just for an Extra $80,000 in Australia.


Shelby Rogers, the 57th-ranked player from South Carolina, saw that her friends had advanced and, not wanting to be left behind, went out and beat the No. 21 seed Anett Kontaveit on the first night match at Rod Laver Arena.“I think there is this little bit of aura around the second week of a slam,” said Rogers, 28, who has reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam twice, at the 2016 French Open and the 2020 United States Open. Her fourth-round opponent will be the world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty of Australia.Pegula, 27, is the only one of the U.S. trio who is breaking new ground by reaching the fourth round in singles. She upset No. 13 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, in her opening match and has dropped 13 games in three matches. She said the groundwork for her victory on Saturday was laid in her straight-sets defeat to Petra Kvitova, a former world No. 2, in the third round of the U.S. Open last year.“With women’s tennis, I think the depth is so good right now,” said Pegula, whose next opponent is the fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina. “Sometimes figuring out how to scrape by the first week is really important when you’re not playing well. I think the best players find ways to win on their worst days.”Nadal, the world No. 2 who is bidding for a record 21st Grand Slam singles title, has found a way to scrape by during the first week with a balky back. His opponent on Saturday night was his British doppelgänger, Cameron Norrie, a lefthander who hits with a heavy topspin and defends well.Norrie, 25, has never advanced past the third round and his breakthrough will have to wait. Nadal, 34, handed him a 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 defeat at Rod Laver Arena. Norrie described the match as a good experience and said he’ll take “a lot” of positives from it. “I left the court feeling like I want to get better,” Norrie said.He added, “I did everything to try to make the second week. Rafa was too good.”

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Serena Williams and Tom Brady: Ageless Wonders With a Difference


MELBOURNE, Australia — As fans fished for autographs by tying cords around oversize tennis balls and dangling them over the rail for Serena Williams, her mind drifted to the other side of the world.“How amazing!” Williams muttered, as much to herself as anyone else, while she scribbled her signature after her 6-1, 6-1 first-round victory against Laura Siegemund at the Australian Open on Monday. “Can you imagine winning the Super Bowl at 43?”In the lead-up to this year’s Open, Williams, 39, had repeatedly expressed her admiration for Tom Brady, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who delivered his seventh Super Bowl title on Sunday night. His determination and excellence have inspired her “since when he beat Kurt Warner,” she said, referring to the New England Patriots’ victory over the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl.Brady’s only misstep, Williams joked last week, was his choice of teams last year as a free agent. “I mean, he just should have come to the Dolphins, really,” said Williams, who owns a minority stake in Miami’s N.F.L. franchise along with her sister Venus.Williams, 39, sees in Brady a kindred spirit, someone whose appetite for competition and desire to succeed have not receded over time. “I look at Tom Brady, it’s so inspiring,” she said.With his latest title, his first outside New England, Brady brought to a boil the long-simmering debate about sports’ greatest athlete. That discussion must include Williams, a 23-time major winner whose next Grand Slam singles title will tie Margaret Court’s career record. And Williams, 39, may be the only member of greatest-ever debate to have won one of her titles while pregnant. She delivered her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, via an emergency C-section on Sept. 1, 2017, nearly seven months after she won the Australian Open. She said they haven’t spent a day apart since.“Is that healthy?” Williams said Monday. She laughed. “Not at all. Not even close. But every single day I just want to be around her.”Williams’s choice to be a doting parent, come hell or hard quarantine, may be where her path most clearly diverges from Brady’s. Two weeks before the Super Bowl, Brady was reportedly alone in his Tampa mansion, having sent away his wife and three children so he could give his undivided attention to football for the 12 days leading to the big game.Two weeks before the Australian Open, Williams was finishing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation, which required her to hole up in a hotel for 19 hours a day with her husband, the tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, and their high-spirited daughter.Williams acknowledged that Brady’s preparation made more sense, but said, “I wasn’t strong enough to do the banishment.”She added: “I would not have been able to function without my 3-year-old around. Not even close. I think I would be in a depression.”Elite athletes typically don’t do much in their down time on the days or weeks in which they are competing, preserving their energy for the bursts of effort their sports demand. For Williams, the accelerating and downshifting processes are compressed. She’s a drag racer, going in a flash from mama to megastar.One of her matches at a tuneup event last week at Melbourne Park ended just after 8 p.m., leaving Williams caught in parenting territory similar to the terra incognita between the service line and baseline. Olympia’s bedtime was 8:30. Should she rush back to tuck in her baby or go through her usual post-match paces and make peace with not seeing her daughter until the morning?Her instinct was to rush home. “But I’m a little torn,” Williams said in her post-match news conference that day. “I’m like, maybe I should just let her go to bed so she doesn’t get too moody.”Williams added: “She’s too hyper. She needs her rest. She’s a busy kid. She has a fully booked schedule.”Like mother, like daughter. “She really is,” Williams said with a reflective sigh.Before another of Williams’s matches last week, Ohanian walked to his seat. In his arms he carried a squirming Olympia, who pointed to Williams on the court and said, “Hey, that’s my mama!”Williams said her daughter knows that the court is her office. But does she assume every working woman plays tennis? Williams isn’t sure. Sometimes when Olympia attends matches or practice sessions, she’ll freak out Williams by mimicking everyone else and calling her Serena.Williams said: “I’m like: ‘You can’t say Serena. You have to call me Mama.’”Williams’s second round opponent will be a 24-year-old Serbian, Nina Stojanovic, who was younger than Olympia when Serena won the first of her 73 W.T.A. Tour titles. Stojanovic would do well to tune out the player introductions Wednesday since it requires a sizable chunk of the six-minute warm-up period to recite Williams’s achievements.“When the announcer said on the court, ‘23 Grand Slam titles, seven Australian Opens,’ he was like, ‘14 doubles titles,’ then he starts talking about mixed doubles, I’m like jeez,” Williams said last week.But none of what Williams has done matters as much to her as what is left to accomplish. When Brady said before the Super Bowl that his favorite championship is his next one, it resonated with Williams. “That would absolutely be my answer, for sure,” she said.Why?“Because otherwise you’re living off of what you already did,” she said.That mind-set is why Williams can conduct a tour of the trophy room in her house in Miami, as she recently did for Architectural Digest, and struggle to identify which trophies are from which tournament.It was why she is unbothered that one of her seven Wimbledon trophies disappeared after a party she threw with Venus several years ago. Or maybe it was one of Venus’s five that vanished. “Was that my Wimbledon trophy or was that her Wimbledon trophy?” Williams said. “The argument is still going on.”She added wryly, “Conversations in the Williams home.”Since her daughter’s birth, Williams has appeared in four Grand Slam finals but has yet to win one. With her next Grand Slam title, she can show everybody, as Brady did Sunday in Tampa, that she still has the power to amaze.“You can’t say it was the system he was at formerly,” Williams said, referring to Brady’s six Super Bowl titles under Coach Bill Belichick in New England. But she knows better. “It’s definitely Tom Brady.”

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A Painful Lesson for the Chiefs: It’s Hard to Repeat as Champions


If the Kansas City Chiefs needed a reminder of how difficult it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions, they needed only glance across the field at Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.Brady won a record seventh Super Bowl on Sunday night as the Buccaneers dominated Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on their way to a 31-9 victory in Tampa, Fla.He has appeared in 10 of the last 20 Super Bowls. But he has won two in a row just once, in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Like the New England Patriots in the 2017 season and the Seattle Seahawks in the 2014 season, the 2020 Chiefs failed in their bid to win a second straight title.“I think what makes it such a challenge is it is hard to win one Super Bowl,” Brady told reporters last week. “You cannot go buy a football team. You have to develop players.”The Buccaneers, coached by Bruce Arians, had a lot of young talent, but their roster was largely constructed in the off-season when they signed Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and others.The Chiefs, though, seemed destined to repeat. They finished the regular season with an N.F.L.-best 14-2 record and were favorites heading into the Super Bowl. Their offense looked unstoppable with quarterback Mahomes, last year’s Super Bowl most valuable player, playing well.But before the game, Mahomes acknowledged that parity in the N.F.L. made it difficult for teams to repeat as champions.“I mean, literally, you could be the worst team in the league one year and work all the way up to the Super Bowl the next,” he said.The salary cap, which limits how much money teams can spend on player contracts, is a big reason for that parity. That wasn’t the case decades ago. The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s, and the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled repeat wins in the 1970s. (The Steelers did it twice.)Quarterback Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to consecutive titles in the 1980s, and the Dallas Cowboys were repeat champions in the early 1990s. But since the N.F.L. introduced a salary cap in 1994, only the Patriots and John Elway’s Denver Broncos have repeated.As is often the case in the N.F.L., injuries can derail teams in an instant. The Chiefs struggled on Sunday, in part, because they were missing their two starting offensive tackles, including Eric Fisher, one of the best tackles in the game, who missed the Super Bowl after tearing an Achilles’ tendon two weeks ago.Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, an offensive guard who has a medical degree, opted out of the 2020 season to work in his native Canada to help combat the coronavirus. Tackle Mitchell Schwartz played only the first six weeks of the season before injuring his back.The Chiefs also faced a last-minute coaching change. Their outside linebackers coach, Britt Reid — the son of the head coach, Andy Reid — missed Sunday’s game after being involved in a car crash in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday night.The Buccaneers took advantage. They sacked Mahomes three times and pressured him on 29 of his 56 drop backs, according to ESPN Stats & Info, the most in Super Bowl history. Mahomes spent most of the game scrambling from defenders behind the line of scrimmage. He threw two interceptions, no touchdowns, and needed 49 passes to accumulate just 270 yards, most of them late in the game.Retaining a roster that has made it to three consecutive A.F.C. championship games will be difficult. The Chiefs are almost $18 million over next year’s salary cap, according to Over the Cap, an independent site that tracks N.F.L. contracts and salaries. A number of key players are free agents, among them receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, center Austin Reiter and defensive backs Daniel Sorensen and Bashaud Breeland.The Chiefs will face another hurdle: The salary cap, which is based on the league’s total revenue, was about $198 million this season. It could fall to as low as $175 million next season because the league lost billions of dollars in ticket sales during the pandemic.For their part, the Buccaneers will have an estimated $28.9 million in cap space, which will give them room to re-sign players and attract free agents.The Chiefs will, however, retain Mahomes, a transcendent quarterback who signed a 10-year contract last summer worth up to $500 million. At only 25, he has many years ahead — barring injury — to match Brady, Elway, Montana, Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese and Bart Starr as quarterbacks who have won back-to-back Super Bowls.After the game, a downtrodden Mahomes acknowledged the difficulty of winning in the N.F.L. “When we joined together we knew it wasn’t going to always be successful and we weren’t going to be able to win a thousand championships in a row,” he said. “We knew we would go through times like this, through adversity.”

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Buccaneers Beat the Chiefs and Tom Brady Is a Champion Again


A nearly flawless Tom Brady claimed his record seventh Super Bowl title on Sunday, winning a duel with his young rival Patrick Mahomes and burnishing his legacy as the greatest quarterback in N.F.L. history by leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.Brady’s Super Bowl title — coming at age 43 and in his first season with the Buccaneers — joins the six he won as a member of the New England Patriots (2002, 2003, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2018). He now has one more win than both the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the two most decorated franchises in N.F.L. history.He finished 21 of 29 for 209 yards and three touchdowns, including two to his former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski, who joined him in Tampa this season. His three touchdown passes gave him 21 in his Super Bowl career, one more than the combined total of the two quarterbacks behind him, Joe Montana (11) and Terry Bradshaw (9).Tampa Bay, the first team to play a Super Bowl on its home field, became the first one to win on there, too. It is the Buccaneers’ second championship; the team won its first in 2002.“I think we knew this was going to happen, didn’t we?” he asked his teammates from the stage after being handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy.Mahomes, 25, a former league most valuable player and a Super Bowl champion last season, finished 26 of 49 for 270 yards, but he was intercepted twice and harried throughout the second half.Brady, in 10 previous trips to the N.F.L.’s championship game, had never enjoyed an easy win in one until Sunday. All but one of his six previous wins saw both teams within one score of each other at the end.The closest Brady ever came to a Super Bowl “blowout” was a 13-3 win by the Patriots over the Los Angeles Rams two years ago. And the last 3 points of that game came in the final minute and 16 seconds.The second-largest margin of victory in a Brady win was a 6-point victory in overtime of Super Bowl LI in February 2017, when James White scored a touchdown on a toss play to give New England the championship.With his three children standing by his side, Brady declined to compare this year’s Buccaneers to his Patriots teams but said the team came together at the right time and indicated they were loaded with confidence heading into the game.“Every year is amazing,” he said, “and this team is world champions forever, you can’t take it away from us.”

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Tom Brady’s Super Bowl Win Is a Familiar End to an Odd Season


Mahomes had won 16 of 17 starts this season, but he and his team collapsed amid a deluge of penalties, drops and pressure from the Buccaneers, who, exploiting the Chiefs’ diluted offensive line, reveled in it, inflicted it, even embraced it. At halftime, Mahomes had 67 yards, and Kansas City trailed by 15 points, tied for its largest deficit of the Mahomes era, according to Pro Football Reference.The only other time Mahomes’s team had been behind by that many points across his three seasons as Kansas City’s starter occurred in October 2018, in a loss to Brady at New England. Brady spent two decades there, where he and Belichick were the immovable objects of the postseason, winning six championships as the most famous quarterback-coach tandem of this generation.What Belichick must have been wondering Sunday night as New England wept, watching Brady throw each touchdown to a former Patriots teammate — two to Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement for the chance to play again with his old pal, and one, just before halftime, to Antonio Brown.Brady’s time in New England will forever be a part of him, but now he wears a skull and crossbones on his helmet, can dress in shorts to practice in the winter and reports to a 68-year-old coach, Bruce Arians, who, coming out of retirement to coach the Buccaneers, represents the stylistic antithesis of Belichick. When asked recently about pursuing Brady during the off-season, Arians responded with a rhetorical question: “Do you sit and live in a closet trying to be safe, or are you going to have some fun?”Brady’s arrival in Tampa reflected a certain harmonic convergence, a confluence of foresight, audacity and serendipity largely alien to the Buccaneers, who hadn’t won a playoff game since capturing their only title in the 2002 season. Their quest was nicknamed Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson, a wink to the prophesy from the movie “Field of Dreams”: “If you build it, they will come.” Brady valued how General Manager Jason Licht had assembled a team that solved problems around him instead of asking him to solve them himself.

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A Key to Brady’s Super Bowl Success? Gronkowski of Course


In an amusing television commercial for T-Mobile that aired in the days before the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski spoofed how they both ended up playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.The ad pretends to go back in time a year, with Brady calling Gronkowski for advice on whether to retire. Gronk recommends retirement, but because of a bad wireless connection, Brady hears the opposite — and also thinks that Gronk wants to return to football and play with him in Florida. So that is what happens.It was funny for everybody except the Kansas City Chiefs, who certainly were not laughing Sunday when Brady and Gronkowski seemed to turn back the clock not one year but a decade. Their honed, or cosmic, connection was the headlining collaboration that buried the Chiefs in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory in their home stadium.Brady threw two touchdowns to Gronkowski in the first half as the Buccaneers took a commanding 15-point lead at halftime. They were the 13th and 14th touchdowns for the duo in the postseason, an N.F.L. record.At the start of the third quarter, after Kansas City cut its deficit by three points, there was Gronkowski poking the defending Super Bowl champions in the eye again. He slyly slipped into the middle of the field uncovered so he could snag another Brady pass and rumble through defenders for a 25-yard gain that set up another Buccaneers touchdown, crushing the Chiefs’ hopes.In the end, it was another example of what Brady brought with him when he left the New England Patriots behind in March and surprised the pro football world by alighting in Tampa, where playoff success was an 18-year-old memory — a Super Bowl win after the 2002 season. Brady was brilliant and precise Sunday, completing 21 of 29 throws with three touchdown passes, and it is now that much clearer how he can lift an entire franchise with his determination, talent and consequential presence.But Brady can also apparently revive careers other than his own. At the end of the 2018 season when Gronkowski retired at age 29, he said: “Football was bringing me down, and I didn’t like it. I was losing that joy in life.”Roughly a month after Brady signed with the Buccaneers, Gronkowski helped engineer a trade from the Patriots to Tampa Bay. According to Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians, Brady was adamant about wanting Gronkowski, his former tight end from New England, on his new team. Gronkowski said he would have never returned to the N.F.L. for any other quarterback.At first, their reunion was treated like an amusing sideshow, especially because the likeliness that Brady would succeed after relocating was treated with skepticism as well. The cynicism began to have a mocking tone when Tampa Bay won only three of its first five games and Gronkowski had just 12 catches for 140 yards. Even Brady looked subpar and confused by his new role.All that was irrelevant late Sunday evening after Brady led the Buccaneers on an unforeseen eight-game winning streak — four victories to end the regular season and four in the postseason. Along the way, there was Gronkowski, finishing with 45 catches for 623 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches.As the Buccaneers advanced through the playoffs, there had been talk that Brady, 43, had found the long rumored fountain of youth in Florida. Apparently, he let his favorite tight end have a few sips, too, because on Sunday Gronkowski looked like he was 22 again.A little more than four minutes into Sunday’s game, with Tampa Bay driving, Brady turned to his left and saw Gronkowski open in the flat. The pass hit its target in stride and Gronkowski, who is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, accelerated away from two defenders to dash into the end zone untouched. The 8-yard score put the Buccaneers ahead 7-3, a lead they never relinquished.About halfway through the second quarter, Gronkowski worked free near the back of the end zone and Brady fired a bullet, a rising pass that can be hard to corral in traffic. But Brady and Gronkowski have executed on that connection countless times in practices and games. With practiced ease, Gronkowski leapt and secured the catch for a 17-yard touchdown.The Buccaneers have a wealth of top young wide receivers, but perhaps it was not surprising that in the final, most important game of the season, Brady looked for his old reliable friend most often, throwing in Gronkowski’s direction seven times. Six of those passes were caught as Gronkowski racked up a team-high 67 yards.On the sideline late in Sunday’s game, Brady and Gronkowski, the old/new teammates, embraced repeatedly as the final seconds wound down.“We did it,” Gronkowski yelled.Brady smiled and slapped Gronkowski’s back as the two hugged yet again.It would have made a good scene for a television commercial.

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Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes: A Battle of the Ages


Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes function within the same general constructs that have governed the N.F.L. for more than a century — playing on a field measuring 360 by 160 feet, accompanied by 21 other players, trying to gain 10 yards in four downs.Their approaches, though, are a gulf apart, with each quarterback at the pinnacle of styles that define the modern offensive era. Brady, 43, is a pocket passer extraordinaire, an archetype that is waning as teams try to build around dual-threat quarterbacks like Mahomes, 25, who can lead the dynamic offenses that have reimagined how football is played in 2021.For as much as either player seems to be a representative of their generation, a model to be copied, the truth is their singular brilliance cannot be replicated.Brady has won six Super Bowls — and appeared in three others — by shredding defenses with his arm, his eyes, his brain. Mahomes, though, captures what it means to play entertaining football in 2021. He deploys more arm angles than an octopus, dodges defenders with glee and can throw 60 yards off his back foot, skills he has displayed in a bid to become only the second quarterback to win two Super Bowls in his first four seasons.The other? Brady, of course.To understand their distinctive artistry ahead of Super Bowl LV, we evaluated the key points of the difference between how Brady and Mahomes attained their successes this season.Tom Brady flourishes inside the pocket. Patrick Mahomes wreaks havoc outside it.Today’s N.F.L. puts a premium on agile quarterbacks. Gone are the days when a passer could stand still in the pocket behind a protective wall of offensive linemen and not expect to be crushed by defensive linemen and edge rushers.The quarterbacks who flourish against pressure now either launch the ball quickly and with deadeye precision, like Brady, or they evade and elude like Mahomes, extending plays to create lanes to run or pass, stressing defenses with possibility.Mahomes’s improvisational aptitude means opponents don’t know whether he’ll run or pass — only that he can produce special outcomes with both. Defenses pressure quarterbacks to unnerve them and goad them into mistakes, but with Mahomes, the more chaos churns around him, the better he plays.“Once the play breaks down,” Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David said of Mahomes, “he finds a way to make the play happen again.”In the 2020 regular season and playoffs, Mahomes posted a league-best 126.7 passer rating when teams rushed with at least five players, according to the sports data service Sportradar. Against the blitz, Mahomes completed a greater percentage of passes than Brady did (67.3 to 58.9), and he also outshined him in yards per attempt (8.8 to 7.8) and touchdowns (14 to 12) while throwing no interceptions to Brady’s six.Outside of the pocket, Mahomes can throw from anywhere on the field, at any time, using an array of arm slots — sidearm flicks, underhand spirals, even left-handed. Plotted together, the locations from where he throws in the course of a game look like an unfinished paint-by-numbers, scattered from sideline to sideline. By contrast, Brady’s points of release clot in a central location — the pocket, where he is most comfortable and assertive.“I’m a fan of Patrick Mahomes,” Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said, “but I don’t want Tom to play like him Sunday.”Brady’s throws travel far. Mahomes’s receivers do the same.Brady and Mahomes command the N.F.L.’s two most prolific and explosive passing offenses by targeting their teammates in completely different ways.The Chiefs prefer to maximize their fleet of pass-catchers by spreading out defenses, creating mismatches — and space — for their leading receivers, Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. Loaded with run-pass options, which prod defenders into hesitating or overcommitting because they can’t discern what’s coming, the Chiefs’ offense teems with creativity.Kansas City’s receivers always seem open, and by getting them the ball in space Mahomes enables them to run — and run and run. His average completion netted 5.8 yards after the catch (YAC), fourth in the league, and no matter which position Mahomes threw to, or how long the pass itself traveled, according to Football Outsiders and Sports Info Solutions, his passes led to significantly more YAC than Brady’s.One reason? The Chiefs excel at breaking tackles. Kelce — who ranked second in the league in YAC — broke 26 on receptions, while Hill had 17, according to Football Outsiders and Sports Info Solutions. The top Buccaneers receiver, Mike Evans, broke just seven tackles.The Buccaneers’ taller, refined receivers run their routes and beat their defenders at the moment they’re about to grab the ball, so a significant share of Brady’s passing yards are accrued when the receiver makes the catch itself. His 7.3 yards per reception at the catch ranked second in the N.F.L., according to Sportradar, echoing Coach Bruce Arians’s “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy.Brady signed with Tampa Bay in March amid conjecture that he couldn’t throw deep regularly anymore. When Christensen, his new quarterbacks coach, watched film of him before the Buccaneers pursued him in free agency, he came away positive that Brady had the arm strength, and the downfield accuracy, to thrive in their field-stretching offense.Improving as the season progressed, Brady led the league in attempts, completions and touchdowns — and interceptions — on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, according to Sportradar. However, Mahomes was more efficient downfield than Brady, completing a greater percentage of passes (36 to 34.1) with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.“We faced so many deep coverages with teams, where they’re taking way all our deep throws,” Mahomes said. “I had to learn when to just to take what’s underneath, and that’s something where I’ve kind of grown and matured.”Both Brady and Mahomes can change the game quickly.Three-tenths of a second. The difference is imperceptible to the naked eye but that’s how much more time, on average, Mahomes takes than Brady to throw the ball.Brady’s average release time of 2.4 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus, reflects what Arians called his “fast-twitch reactionary” brain. Before the ball is snapped, Brady anticipates defenses so well, and gets such outstanding protection from his offensive line, that he is able to get rid of the ball at the third-fastest rate in the N.F.L. among qualified quarterbacks (those who took half their team’s drop-backs) even as he throws deep passes regularly.Mahomes’s average release takes 2.68 seconds, but the Chiefs’ offense is loaded with plays meant for him to unleash the ball in under 2.5. When he does so, Mahomes completes 78.9 percent of his throws (to Brady’s 55.9) with a passer rating of 119.9 (to Brady’s 98.4).Those differences in delivery inform which routes Brady and Mahomes connect with in the passing game. The two share the same three most-frequent routes to throw to, according to Football Outsiders and Sports Info Solutions — curls, flies and outs — just in different incidences. Mahomes threw to curl routes 111 times this season, with Brady showing less impartiality among the three.But they then diverged, with Brady preferring digs and finding a greater variety of deep routes while Mahomes fancied mayhem, completing 45 passes when the designed play was a busted and he had to freelance. For Brady, broken plays didn’t even crack his top 10 most favored routes.“There’s no throw he can’t make, and there’s no throw he won’t make,” Buccaneers cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross said of Mahomes. “You think it’s not going to come your way and it will come your way.”Produced by Meg Felling and Dave Horn.

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Why the Chiefs Will Beat the Buccaneers: Super Bowl 2021 Prediction


After last season’s magical run, nearly everyone expected the Kansas City Chiefs to be back in the Super Bowl this year. An appearance by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming off a 7-9 season in 2019 but given new life by a 43-year-old quarterback, came as more of a surprise.Florida turned out to be a fountain of youth for Tom Brady, and his team’s late-season surge has continued into the postseason, setting up a clash of quarterbacks some people call the GOAT (Brady) and the Baby GOAT (Patrick Mahomes), as in “greatest of all time.”The quarterbacks did not get to the championship game on Sunday by themselves. Both teams finished in the N.F.L.’s top 10 in most points scored and fewest points allowed, and while this game may end up having a high score, there are likely to be big defensive plays along the way.Here is a look at how the game should play out.Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay BuccaneersSunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS | Line: Chiefs -3 | Total: 56When Tampa Bay Has the BallIt is not hard to figure out why Tom Brady wanted to play with the Buccaneers.After struggling to get anything going with a mediocre group of wide receivers in his last few seasons with New England, Brady saw limitless opportunities in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But if he was going to roll the dice with a new team, Brady didn’t want to stop with two Pro Bowl wide receivers, so he persuaded his old pal Rob Gronkowski, a tight end, to come out of retirement as well.When Tampa Bay’s season began with inconsistency and injuries, Brady lobbied the team to add wide receiver Antonio Brown, vouching for him as someone whose productivity would outweigh his troubles.There were flashes of brilliance and moments of frustration for the first three-quarters of the season. But after a loss to Kansas City in Week 12, the Buccaneers came out of their Week 13 bye looking like a new team. Over the next four weeks, Tampa Bay was 4-0 and averaged 37 points a game.That barrage has kept up in the postseason, with the Buccaneers scoring at least 30 points in each of their three road wins. They have a chance on Sunday to become the first N.F.L. team to have four 30-point games in a single postseason.While Tampa Bay can run effectively behind Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, the expectation on Sunday is for Brady to move the ball downfield with short and medium throws to his four elite pass catchers, relying on them to gain yardage after the catch.The Chiefs will counter with a pass rush spearheaded by defensive tackle Chris Jones and a secondary largely controlled by safety Tyrann Mathieu, a run stopper and takeaway machine. Bashaud Breeland, the Chiefs’ top defensive back in terms of pass coverage, will have his hands full trying to stop Evans, Godwin and Brown.Brady is likely to put up quite a few passing yards, but Kansas City has a bend-don’t-break defense. It may not be as intimidating as some units — Tampa Bay’s included — but it has allowed the 10th fewest points in the N.F.L. this season. So while a 300-yard game from Brady may be expected, a continuation of Tampa Bay’s 30-point streak, which is at seven games over all, is less likely.When Kansas City Has the BallMahomes isn’t fair. He uses speed and footwork to avoid sacks the way Aaron Rodgers does. He turns busted plays into huge runs the way Russell Wilson does, and he can zip an accurate pass to a receiver with a flick of the wrist the way Dan Marino used to. While it all plays out like a tightrope act, with Mahomes frequently drawing defenders in close before releasing the ball, he almost never panics, showing a precision in everything he does that belies the apparent improvisation.While it’s easy enough to explain his effectiveness by pointing to his 4,740 yards passing or his 38 touchdown passes this season, the two most significant statistics for Mahomes are probably his N.F.L.-best 1 percent interception rate and his 3.6 percent sack rate. You can let your eyes convince you that he is being reckless, but you would be emphatically wrong — as so many defenses have been.The Chiefs’ challenge was making sure they put players around Mahomes who could capitalize on his greatness, and they have two of the best in tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Kelce set a record for receiving yards by a tight end this season (1,416), and would probably have topped 1,500 had Kansas City not rested its starters in Week 17. Hill is a touchdown threat on every play, with his speed sometimes overshadowing his elusiveness, strength and ability to make difficult catches and break tackles.Speed is everywhere on Kansas City’s offense — Mahomes, Kelce and Hill have it, too — and the rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire added a threat to the running game that had been expected to be missing when Damien Williams opted out of the season.Considering Kansas City’s tendency to play its best when it is challenged most, this game seems to tilt in the Chiefs’ favor, with the biggest caveat being the team’s poor health on its offensive line. Kansas City is expected to be without its two starting tackles and multiple guards, leaving it short-handed against a Tampa Bay pass rush that has an extreme interior push from defensive tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh and elite edge rushing from Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.If Kansas City’s offensive line turns into a sieve — a possibility because it is essentially playing a backup at every spot — Mahomes will face a lot of pressure and his scrambling ability will be extremely tested. That, theoretically, could lead to a mistake or two on throws downfield — though relying on Mahomes to make mistakes is typically a fool’s errand.How It Will Play OutMahomes is in a place in his career where it is almost impossible to doubt him — something that should be familiar for Brady, who was once at the same peak with New England. It is easy to see the Buccaneers having a good day offensively, but even if they were to run up a significant lead, they should never feel safe, as the Chiefs have fallen behind by at least 9 points in four of their last five playoff games — including last year’s Super Bowl — and have won anyway.Mahomes has years of accomplishments ahead of him before his career can accurately be stacked up against Brady’s, but it seems like a safe bet that he will do something on Sunday that no quarterback has done since Brady: win back-to-back Super Bowls.Predicted Score: Chiefs 31, Buccaneers 26

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