WASHINGTON: Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns and ran for another Sunday to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New Orleans in the NFL playoffs while defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City withstood Patrick Mahomes suffering a concussion to oust Cleveland.
Six-time Super Bowl champion Brady and a defensive unit that forced four turnovers sparked the visiting Bucs over the Drew Brees-led Saints while Mahomes threw for one touchdown and ran for another before exiting in the third quarter of the Chiefs' 22-17 triumph. "The defense was the key to the game. It was huge," Brady said. "Our defense really balled out, got the turnovers we needed."
Both winners advanced to within one game of next month's Super Bowl in Tampa, the Buccaneers booking a date next Sunday at chilly Green Bay in the NFC Championship game while the Chiefs will host the Buffalo Bills in next Sunday's AFC Championship game.
In his first Bucs season after 20 years in New England, 43-year-old Brady beat 42-year-old Brees in a duel of the all-time NFL passing yardage leaders. That earned a showdown with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who lost 38-10 to Tampa Bay in October. "It's great for our team. We worked hard to get to this point," Brady said. "We're going to be playing a great football team. Aaron Rodgers is playing incredible."
Mahomes, last year's Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, completed 21-of-30 passes for 255 yards but suffered a concussion when slammed to the turf by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. "When any of our teammates go down, we all step up for one another," Chiefs receiver Tyrann Mathieu said.
Mahomes must complete NFL concussion protocols before he can return to face the Bills, who lost to the Chiefs 26-17 in October. "He's actually doing very well. He's feeling pretty good," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "He got hit in the back of the head and kind of knocked the wind out of him and everything else with it. He's doing great right now... we'll see where it goes from here."
At New Orleans, Brady drove the Bucs 61 yards in 11 plays over 5:52 to set up Ryan Succop's 36-yard field goal and put Tampa Bay ahead 23-20 early in the fourth quarter. Devin White, who already had a fumble recovery, intercepted Brees on the Saints' next series to set up Brady's 1-yard touchdown run with 4:57 remaining to produce the final margin.
Mike Edwards intercepted Brees for a fourth Bucs takeaway with 4:17 left and Tampa Bay ran out the clock. Brady completed 18-of-33 passes for 199 yards while Brees, who led New Orleans to a 2010 Super Bowl victory, completed 19-of-34 for 134 yards in what could be his NFL farewell. "He's an incredible player," Brady said.
Wil Lutz kicked field goals of 23 and 42 yards to put the Saints ahead, but the Bucs took a 10-6 lead on Succop's 26-yard field goal and a 3-yard touchdown pass by Brady to Mike Evans. New Orleans answered with a trick play 56-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Tre'Quan Smith but Succop's 37-yard field goal ending the second quarter pulled Tampa Bay level at 13-13.
Smith caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brees 5:17 into the third quarter for a 20-13 Saints lead. White recovered a fumble by Jared Cook to set up Brady's 6-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Fournette -- his 77th career playoff TD toss -- to equalize at 20-20, setting up the final drama.
At Kansas City, Baker Mayfield flipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry to lift Cleveland within 19-10 early in the third quarter. On Kansas City's next possession, Mahomes was slammed down by Wilson and knocked out of the game. "I pray you back next week," Wilson tweeted after the game. "Go be great like you have been." In reply, Mahommes tweeted: "All good brother!"
The Chiefs added a 33-yard Harrison Butker field goal but Cleveland marched 75 yards on 18 plays in 8:17 and pulled within the final margin on Kareem Hunt's 3-yard touchdown run. After a Karl Joseph interception ended a Chiefs drive, Kansas City forced a Cleveland punt and the Chiefs ran out the clock, thanks to a 13-yard run by reserve quarterback Chad Henne and his 5-yard pass to Tyreek Hill for a fourth-down conversion. "HenneThingIsPossible," Mahomes tweeted after the victory.
"I'm proud of Chad and the way he handled everything," Reid said. Mahomes opened the scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce for a 13-3 Chiefs' lead. Butker field goals of 28 and 50 yards brought a 19-3 halftime lead. "We hurt ourselves in the first half and they capitalized," Mayfield said. "We gave it our all. It's just unfortunate to come up short. It sucks." - AFP