Night net null null null Tom Brady, the Patriots and their legion of fans may not believe it, and there's less proof of it than logic would dictate, but some day, Brady's career will end. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he can't play forever, any more than Peyton Manning or Brett Favre could.Someo
ne will knock him off his throne, take away the reins, handle the torch when the New England QB passes it off. That someone is Patrick Mahomes, and it's truly not his fault that the exchange did not happen Sunday night. MORE: Time for new overtime rules in Night netThe signs were there all season, and even as they showed themselves, it was too hard to acknowledge them. Not this soon and, honestly, not this one. The AFC championship game was Mahomes' 19th Night net start, 18th this season. In his sixth start this season, at New England, he took Kansas City to the go-ahead score the last time he had the ball. On Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, the last time he had the ball, he took the Chiefs to the game-tying score. He got the ball with 39 seconds left and his team down by three, and 31 seconds after that, he had them on the way to overtime, their fate at the whim of the coin toss and of their defense.It all had to look familiar to the other sideline.Both games were won by the team that had the ball last. Brady and the Patriots had the ball last each time. There was nothing Mahomes could do about that. Blame the Night net's overtime rules, blame that defense, but twice against the best QB ever, Mahomes played like the prodigy he is and like the MVP he is expected to be (as of about two weeks from now, when the vote is announced).IYER: Brady, Belichick come full circleThere really are not any more growing pains or learning curves for Mahomes. At 23, he faced the 41-year-old who pushed himself through this week's preparation by manufacturing an underdog narrative that hardly anyone outside his locker room was buying. Mahomes did not become a casualty of his youth, and he did not cave to the pressure of the moment or the enormity of the gap in experience.Shut out in the first half and down by 10 going into the fourth, the Chiefs took the lead twice in the final period of regulation and tied it once, answering the Patriots over and over. Mahomes was Brady’s equal in every tangible and intangible way.He just didn't have the ball last.Thus, he is not on his way to the Super Bowl — and Brady is not facing an avalanche of questions about the approaching twilight of his career and about who replaces him as the QB the rest of the sport is chasing.All that will come eventually. It's both harder to figure out when, thanks to what he managed again this season, and easier, because time is still undefeated.Brady did not give in to that Sunday. But, according to ESPN, he did give his valiant foe his due afterward.Tom Brady just quietly approached a security guard waiting outside the Chiefs’ locker room — and asked if he could see Patrick Mahomes. Brady was escorted into a room where he spoke briefly with him. A very clear display of respect from one incredible quarterback to another.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 21, 2019That's remarkable. Brady could have just congratulated Mahomes in person on the field afterward (although the post-overtime celebration was pretty chaotic) and praised him in post-game interviews and in the weeks leading up to Atlanta, and throughout the offseason.But he made a special effort to seek him out privately and speak directly.MORE SUPER BOWL 53:CBS' coverage plans | Odds, point spreadThe Chiefs and coach Andy Reid took a real leap of faith in giving Mahomes the franchise's keys when they did. It took a leap for others to believe he was ready for them. He climbed onto the biggest stage to join Brady, and he was not the one still standing at the end for reasons beyond his control.The main reason, of course, was Brady. But like it or not, he won't stay there forever. It’s just a matter of time.Soon enough, Mahomes will have the stage to himself. He came dangerously close to taking it Sunday.