Grand hopes for the Kansas City Chiefs of becoming the NFL's next dynasty were expunged emphatically by the one-man dynasty known as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A slow start for both squads transitioned to Brady and Todd Bowles' Bucs defense dominating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the latter's bid for a title repeat. Brady threw for three touchdowns and the Bucs' pass rush stymied Mahomes as the Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs, 31-9, on Sunday in Super Bowl LV at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their host stadium and Brady brought home his seventh Super Bowl title in his first season with Tampa Bay after six title runs with the New England Patriots.
1) The Greatest Of All Time wrote another chapter in his legendary career. Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl and fifth SB MVP award. TB12 connected with his old New England buddy, Rob Gronkowski, for two first-half TDs as the Bucs sprinted out to a double-digit lead they never relinquished. Behind a dominant offensive line, Brady was comfortable start to finish, getting the ball out quick and taking shots when needed. The 43-year-old completed 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three first-half touchdowns. Gronk, who unretired to join Brady for another Super Bowl run, exploded, gashing the Chiefs up the seam time and time again. The TE led the Bucs with six caches for 67 yards and the two TDs. Gronk's best two games this season came against K.C. (6/106 in Week 12). With Mike Evans (1/31) and Chris Godwin (2/9) slowed, it was Gronk who carried the passing load. The future Hall of Fame TE returned to chase a fourth Super Bowl ring. In the biggest game of the year, Gronk stole the spotlight. After a slow start to the season, the Bucs gelled down the stretch, as Brady teams often do. Winning three road playoff games earned the Bucs the chance to play a home Super Bowl game. In front of those home fans, the Bucs lifted their second franchise Lombardi Trophy.
2) Todd Bowles was the true MVP of Super Bowl LV. The Buccaneers defensive coordinator called a masterful game that had Patrick Mahomes scrambling for his life and holding the ball, and gave the Chiefs no deep shots. Bowles dropped safeties deep to negate Tyreek Hill's speed and funnel everything underneath. The Bucs were ready for Andy Reid's normal counter, sniffing out every screen K.C. tried. Devin White was a menace, discombobulating every snap. Lavonte David helped smother Travis Kelce. Blanketing the field deep, not allowing a completion of 20-plus air yards to an offense that feasts off such plays, the Bucs controlled the game. The most dominant aspect of the game came from Tampa's defensive front, which throttled an injured Chiefs O-line. The Bucs often were through the line a second after the snap, causing Mahomes to retreat on first step. Tampa destroyed backup Chiefs offensive tackles with Shaquil Barrett constantly in Mahomes' face. The Bucs pressured Mahomes on 32.7% of his snaps while only blitzing on five snaps, per Next Gen Stats. The Bucs held Mahomes to 114 yards through three quarters and kept the Chiefs out of the end zone, earning two INTs of the star QB. It was as thorough a beating as Mahomes has experienced, and the first double-digit loss of his NFL career.
3) The Chiefs offensive line struggled brutally. We knew entering with backup tackles on both the left and right sides would make life difficult on Mahomes. The extent to which they struggled, particularly Mike Remmers on the left side, can't be overstated. Mahomes was running for his life all game, needing a Herculean effort just to get the ball out. Some of the best plays of the game came from the Chiefs QB scrambling for his life to heave prayers that fell incomplete. Even the brilliance of Mahomes couldn't overcome the offensive line issues Sunday. Mahomes was forced to scramble on 28.6% of his snaps, per NGS, completing just five of 14 throws with an INT on such plays. Even when the QB appeared to have time, it was clear he didn't trust it would last long enough to sit tight in the pocket. It's the latest reminder that even with speed, talent and weapons for days, football is still a game won in the trenches.
4) While the K.C. offensive line struggled, the Bucs' hogs dictated the contest from start to finish. The Tampa offensive line opened up holes for a churning rushing attack that milked the clock late and allowed Leonard Fournette to scamper untouched to the end zone for a second-half TD. Ryan Jensen, Tristan Wirfs, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith and Aaron Stinnie deserve praise for controlling the contest. Brady was sacked midway through the first quarter, and the Chiefs' rush barely touched him from thereon. When K.C. tried to dial up pressure, it was for naught, as the Bucs blockers, occasionally with help from Gronk, sealed the pocket. Brady was sacked just once and hit twice the entire game. The Bucs gave up pressure on just four snaps, per Next Gen Stats (compare that to Mahomes under pressure on 14 snaps). When the GOAT is given that sort of time, he's free to thrash the defense.
5) Penalties played a huge role early as the Chiefs dug themselves a hole for which they could never recover. In the first half, K.C. was flagged eight times for 95 yards, the most penalty yards against any team in the first half of a game this season, per NFL Research. The self-inflicted wounds began after what appeared to be a massive goal line stop to keep it a one-score game. A hold led to a re-punt that Tommy Townsend shanked. Another defensive penalty wiped out a would-be Tyrann Mathieu interception, and an offside on a field goal prolonged a drive leading to a TD. Another DPI late in the first half gave the Bucs another score to close out the half. Some of the calls were ticky-tack, but the way they cascaded upon K.C. was uncharacteristic for Reid's squad. The Chiefs finished with 11 penalties for 120 yards. The Bucs were called for four penalties for 39 yards.
6) Playoff Lenny became Super Bowl Lenny this Sunday. Leonard Fournette, the former No. 4 overall pick, led an efficient Bucs rushing attack, gobbling up 89 yards on 16 carries for a 5.6 yards-per-carry average. Fournette's 27-yard TD run midway through the third quarter essentially put the game on ice. The RB also added four catches for 46 yards, second-most on the Bucs. Fournette combined with Ronald Jones (12/61) to provide the most efficient rushing attack we've seen from Tampa. Down the stretch, the two churned out first downs, helping milk the clock as the Chiefs' futile comeback bid floundered. Cast aside from Jacksonville before the season, Fournette's 2020 was an up-and-down affair. But as the Bucs offense gelled in the postseason, the RB played his best football. Now the once discarded running back can flash his own Super Bowl ring.
7) The Bucs' run from 7-5 to Super Bowl victory is another reminder that the best teams play their best ball in December and January. Brady's formula in New England had always been to use the early part of the season to figure out what the club does best, then roll through the end of the schedule. TB12 took that to another level in Tampa. The Bucs won their final four games against weak opponents. Then they streaked through the playoffs as a wild card, winning three road games. Sunday against a Kansas City team many expected to keep rolling, Tampa proved it was the hottest team, burning the Chiefs. Bruce Arians deserves credit for helping build a coaching staff with Bowles and Byron Leftwich that adjusted to its players' strengths as the season progressed