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As Patrick Mahomes takes on Lamar Jackson, the Mahomes vs. Tom Brady race is also at stake

Another AFC title would make Mahomes the 8th starting QB to reach 4 Super Bowls

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Tom Brady turned on all-caps.

“BEASTS,” the seven-time Super Bowl champion tweeted Monday. “When you one up gronk you’re doing something right.”

Brady was responding to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce resetting the NFL record for postseason touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo. Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski held it at 15 before Mahomes and Kelce connected for a pair of touchdowns in Sunday’s 27-24 AFC divisional-round win over the Buffalo Bills.

But while Brady’s latest praise centered on the comparison of two elite duos, it also reminded the NFL world how deeply the Chiefs’ 28-year-old quarterback has earned Brady’s respect.

The latest “BEASTS” endorsement comes on the heels of the Chiefs’ sixth straight AFC title game in the Mahomes-Kelce era. After the first, a 37-31 overtime win by Brady’s New England Patriots over Mahomes’ Chiefs, Brady visited the Chiefs' locker room to show his respect for Mahomes.

Back then, Mahomes’ MVP-caliber play dazzled, but his chase of Brady’s Super Bowl rings was still a dream. Fast-forward five years, and Mahomes certainly hasn’t caught Brady, but he is marching steadily in that direction.

So as Mahomes and the Chiefs prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, don’t consider the heavyweight quarterback matchup to be between only Mahomes and Jackson. Because in chasing his fourth Super Bowl stage and third Lombardi Trophy, Mahomes is also competing against Brady.

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)
During his time as the Chiefs' starter, Patrick Mahomes' seasons have ended in either the AFC championship game or the Super Bowl. (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports) (Yahoo Sports)

How Mahomes’ career compares to Brady’s in same stretch

This is not a suggestion that Mahomes is anywhere near catching Brady. Super Bowl campaigns routinely fade from grasp. The club of quarterbacks to sustain success in a league of parity is exclusive.

If the Chiefs beat the Ravens, Mahomes will become just the eighth starting quarterback ever to advance to at least four Super Bowls. If the Chiefs win it all again this year, Mahomes will become just the fifth starting quarterback with at least three rings. (The Chiefs currently have the third-best odds to win, they're +350 behind the Ravens’ +200 and 49ers’ +145, per BetMGM.) And he is six years into his starting career.

That said, the clubs of seven-time champions and of 10-time Super Bowl participants include the same number of quarterbacks: one. Brady remains unparalleled, and it’s way too early to meaningfully assess Mahomes’ attempts to catch the quarterback who played until age 45 and won his last title at 43. Mahomes is 28.

“I’m trying to catch Tom,” Mahomes told reporters last year before the Super Bowl. “But Tom’s a long ways away. You can ask me when I’m, like, 38 years old.”

To this point, Mahomes compares favorably to Brady through the same early-career stretch on the record they each care about most: postseason performance.

Through Brady’s seventh pro season (sixth starting), he had advanced to five playoffs. His Patriots won three Super Bowls in that stretch and advanced to the AFC championship game four total times.

Through Mahomes’ seventh pro season (sixth starting), his teams have advanced to seven playoff berths. The six Mahomes has overseen have included two Super Bowl titles, a third Super Bowl loss and two more AFC championship losses. Result No. 6 remains to be seen.

A scrappy Mike Macdonald defense stands in the way, with the Ravens having held Houston Texans star rookie C.J. Stroud to zero touchdowns one week after he tossed three against the also highly respected Cleveland Browns defense. The Ravens threaten to smother any opponent and force errors at will, as they did last month against the San Francisco 49ers, who will host their own conference title game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

But Mahomes is never finished, as he showed against an early-season explosive Miami Dolphins team in the wild-card game and again Sunday in Buffalo — especially if he has his trusty sidekick, Kelce. The duo’s two touchdowns against Buffalo snapped Kelce’s seven-game scoreless streak in addition to Brady and Gronkowski’s vaunted mark.

“Passing anything that has Brady and Gronk in it is special because those are two of the greatest players,” Mahomes said. “Tom is the greatest player, and [Gronkowski is] one of the greatest tight ends of all time and postseason players. So to be mentioned in that and passing that, you appreciate that.”

Fans should appreciate, too, the legacy Mahomes is building. He certainly does.

“I mean, these are the games I watched growing up: great quarterbacks going up against each other with great football teams, great organizations,” Mahomes said. “That's what I remember. So hopefully we’re making those memories for other little kids that are growing up watching football.”