Well, that wasn’t quite what we expected.
Most people, including yours truly, projected a high scoring affair full of huge plays and all-around dynamic offense with few defensive stops.
That was halfway true.
On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field against the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, for their first Super Bowl appearance since 2002. The game resulted in the Bucs winning 31-9 through a truly all-around dominant effort, giving quarterback Tom Brady his record seventh title.
Sports twitter reacted in awe of Tampa Bay’s dominance.
Brady had an extremely efficient game, going 21-29 for 201 yards and impressive three touchdown passes. Two of these touchdowns were connections to long-time teammate and fellow all-time great Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski would have one of the more surprising performances of the night, having his most productive game of the season since Week 12 at Kansas City. Ending with six receptions for 67 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns, he led the Buccaneers weapons on a night in which pro bowl wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were held to a combined 3 catches across the board.
Running backs Leonard “Playoff Lenny” Fournette and Ronald Jones II would do their part as well, hammering the Chiefs defense for a combined 150 yards and a touchdown on an average of 5.5 yards per carry.
Tampa Bay’s young and energetic defense showed up ready to play, holding the explosive Kansas City offense to just three field goals across the board. They also picked off the usually dominant Patrick Mahomes twice and held him to 270 yards on a season-high 49 attempts.
Devin White, the sophomore standout from LSU, had an inspired game, leading the team with 8 tackles, an interception, and a pass defense. Rookie stud Antoine Winfield Jr. pitched in an interception while veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh tallied 1.5 sacks.
All around, the Buccaneers played remarkably well.
The opposite can be said about the Chiefs.
Mahomes and the offense struggled from the beginning, punting on their first four drives and looking generally lifeless. Mahomes opened the second half with a 9-16 passing line and 67 yards to boot. Aside from a few early scrambles, the dynamism that Mahomes has displayed for the entirety of his career was notably absent. As the game progressed, however, Mahomes showed a lot of fight, making incredible effort plays. However, his effort ultimately wasn’t enough.
A horrendous showing from his offensive line certainly made things worse. Mahomes, per NGS, was forced to scramble outside the pocket on an incredibly high 28.6% of his snaps, and the results on those plays weren’t pretty: 5-14 with an interception. The team sorely missed standout tackle Eric Fisher, who exited the conference championship with a torn Achilles. Replacement Mike Remmers was horrible at best.
Even with such poor line play, it would be easy to expect the impressive duo of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to have big games, and while their stat lines in the box score will show solid outings (7 catches for 73 and 10 for 133, respectively), a heavy portion of yards came while the game had already been decided. The early drops and miscues by the Chiefs’ receivers will live on far longer than the stats.
Defensively, there’s hardly a good thing to be said about the Kansas City unit.
Despite forcing a three and out on the first possession, the defense looked lost for most of the game. The team was penalized 8 times for a record 95 yards in the first half alone in an uncharacteristically undisciplined showing.
The team ended up sacking Brady just once, and defensive tackle Chris Jones was a notable no-show. Safety Tyrann Mathieu made his presence felt in a negative way, having two straight penalties to end the first half and verbally getting into it with Brady.
All around, the Chiefs showed a lack of fight for a team trying to be the first to repeat a national championship since the 2003-2004 Patriots, and of all games, the Super Bowl is not the one to disappear in. However, with Patrick Mahomes locked down for the next ten seasons, it’s easy to picture seeing these guys back again soon.
As for Tampa Bay, congratulations on an incredible season. It’s anything but easy to win a Super Bowl, and in a year with as much opposition as 2020, winning was harder than ever. There’s plenty to be said about the career of Tom Brady, but as a 43-year-old QB in his first season on a different team, this may be his most impressive season ever.
All stats are courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise stated.
Media by Isaiah Atkins.