Tampa Bay won convincingly 31-9. It was a fairly disappointing game if you’re a football fan in general but not if you’re a Buccaneer fan. Tom Brady got his seventh Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes got bombarded by defenders, and the Chiefs receiving core had some sore facemasks.
Anticipation was through the roof for a high-scoring game boasting two high- powered offenses. The Bucs became the first team to score 30 points in every playoff game through a Super Bowl run, and the Chiefs are, well, the Chiefs. They had the best QB, the best TE, and a top three WR in the league as well (depending on who you ask). All the signs were there for a nonstop shootout thanks to some explosive players. One of the teams delivered, and the other did not.
My prediction going into the game was that the Tampa Bay defense was going to need to slow down Kansas City’s weapons. They ended up doing something that worked much better, they shut down Patrick Mahomes. To the best of their ability at least. Tampa Bay was all over Mahomes from start to finish, you seldom found Mahomes to have an easy throw in a clean pocket to an open receiver; if he was getting a throw off it was going to be on the run and outside of the pocket.
Somehow, someway, Mahomes was still making some of the most incredible throws we’ve seen in Super Bowl history. If there was an award for greatest throws that ended up in incompletions, Mahomes would have been a unanimous winner. Three, THREE separate times the former MVP hit his target square in the face with an unreal, under pressure throw that was dropped. Two of which would have been for touchdowns.
Midway through the first quarter Mahomes rolled out to his left and threw a dot to Tyreek Hill in the endzone. Hill made a great play on the ball, and it went straight through his hands and hit in the facemask. Usually a sure fire-target for Mahomes, this felt like a rare occurrence that the Bucs wouldn’t get the fortune of again, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Later in the second quarter on a massive third down, Mahomes was once again almost instantly flushed out of the pocket. He managed to fire a strike 20 yards down the field to his number one target Travis Kelce, hit him right between the numbers, and he dropped it. Going into this game Kelce had only dropped two passes all season. Last but certainly not least, in the final quarter the Chiefs marched their way down the field and got themselves a chance at getting into the endzone on fourth down. Patrick Mahomes, just like he had been all night long, was forced out of the pocket. He proceeded to make what could be the greatest throw in not just Super Bowl history, but possibly NFL history. While being parallel with the ground Mahomes threw a lofting pass that hit RB Dexter Williams in the endzone, right in the face, and he dropped it. The look on Mahomes face after the fact is the look of a man defeated.
Make no mistake, as much as the Chiefs were sputtering on offense the Buccaneers looked right at home. Tom Brady had three passing touchdowns, two of which were to his favorite target of all time Rob Gronkowksi thus setting a record for most passing touchdowns in postseason history between a QB and receiver. Leonard Fournette also found his way into the endzone to go along with his 89 yards off of 16 carries. Kansas City’s defense was unable to stop anything the Bucs threw at them.
There were two stats in particular that stood out to me as the biggest reasons as to why the Chiefs couldn’t get any success on offense, and the Buccaneers had an easy path to victory. The first being Mahomes’s and Brady’s pressure numbers. Mahomes was the most pressured QB in Super Bowl history and Tom Brady was the least pressured. The second being how many yards Patrick Mahomes spent scrambling to simply get a throw off. 497. Mahomes ran for 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage alone to be able to get the ball out of his hands. He ran for more yards than the Chiefs or Bucs had total offense. If that’s what it has to take to get a pass off, then you’re going to have a bad time.
Defense ended up being the name of the game in Super Bowl LV. Tampa Bay got pressure, and the Chiefs didn’t. Passing is the dominant force in today’s NFL and if you’re able to slow down the other teams passing attack that puts you in the best position to win games.
On the bright side, or the blinding side depending on how you look at it. The Weeknd gave us a solid performance and forced my hand into putting some of his songs back into my daily rotation.
Image Courtesy of Patrick Smith at Getty Images.