Tom Brady isn't ready to give up his throne just yet. But one day, and one day soon, someone else will sit on it. Some brilliant young passer will become the face of the NFL. And based on what we saw Sunday, it will probably be Patrick Mahomes.
No, Mahomes will probably never equal the statistical and historic greatness of Brady. Or the overall greatness of Aaron Rodgers. It's possible no quarterback ever will.
But what Mahomes showed in one of the great, entertaining, awe-inspiring shootouts of the year is that he will someday be considered by all the best quarterback—and most important player—in football. When Brady retires and Rodgers is governor of California, Mahomes will carry on their tradition of greatness at the quarterback position.
Mahomes wasn't perfect Sunday, but he was damn good. And more importantly, he stared down the most formidable duo in football history in Brady and Bill Belichick, and he didn't flinch.
The Patriots won 43-40, but maybe the biggest winner of the night was Mahomes, who made clear to anyone who watched that he's the future of the position.
Mahomes was at times confused by Belichick's schemes. He was excitable, overthrowing passes early. Belichick ran a number of different looks at Mahomes, and they got to him.
But only for so long.
You simply do not see such a young player come into the Patriots' house and toss around the furniture and stay throw for throw with Brady. They almost always crumble under the pressure and get eaten alive.
Mahomes didn't. As the game went on, he got better. He watched what Belichick did in the first half and adapted in the second. He used his weapons, like the stunning Tyreek Hill. He was calm. He was relentless and unwavering.
You could see what Mahomes was going up against all game. Belichick is the best defensive mind in the history of football, and against Mahomes he pulled out all of the tricks. On one of Mahomes' interceptions, Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower crowded the line of scrimmage, like he was going to blitz, and then slipped out into one of the passing lanes. Mahomes never saw him and threw the ball right to the spot where Hightower wasn't supposed to be.
"I just lost him," Mahomes told reporters after the game.
On another play in the first half, five Patriots defenders stood near the line of scrimmage in two-point stances, faked like they were going to back up into coverage and then suddenly blitzed. Mahomes felt the pressure and overthrew a wide-open Travis Kelce.
There were times when Mahomes' head looked like it was spinning. It's understandable. He was going up against Belichick.
"I missed some throws," Mahomes said. "That happens in this league. When you're playing good football teams, you can't miss those throws."
Entering the game, quarterbacks in their first starts against the Patriots at Foxborough during the Belichick-Brady era were 5-44 in the regular season with 11 straight losses, according to the NFL. The last QB to win his first start there was Colin Kaepernick in 2012. Kaepernick was also the youngest to win there since 2001, according to ESPN Stats and Info, at 25. QBs younger than 25 were 0-23 at New England in the regular season since 2001. Mahomes is 23.
But you could almost literally see Mahomes' pulse lower as the game went on.
We have seen Mahomes look superhuman much of the year, and we saw it again in the second half. The throws he missed were connecting. Belichick's tricks weren't working. Then Mahomes flashed his special, dynamic and mind-bending abilities, contorting and twisting his way to explosive plays that are reminiscent of Steve Young and Mike Vick.
Belichick was the hunter early on. The Patriots became the hunted as Mahomes calmed and decoded Belichick. He became Brady-like in every way. The skill. The fearlessness. The absolute confidence.
Brady would rely on his array of weapons, and so too would Mahomes. His strikes to Tyreek Hill were almost as entertaining as Hill going into ludicrous speed after catching them.
Mahomes finished 23-of-36 for 352 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
"You learn from everything in the league," Mahomes said. "You learn from every single experience you have."
One of the things I liked most about Mahomes was how he handled himself after the game. He was disappointed but levelheaded and introspective. He even cracked a joke when asked about a specific play to Hill.
"A magician never reveals his tricks," he said, laughing. "I'll just leave it at that."
After the game, Brady sprinted across the field toward Mahomes and congratulated him. You could see it. Brady knew. He knew.
He knew he just saw the future.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.