TAMPA — Instant Analysis from the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV:
▪ Tom Brady has had better seasons than this one, and he’s had more memorable performances than the one he had Sunday night.
But this accomplishment — taking the reins of a 7-9 Bucs team that hadn’t won a playoff game in 13 years, and leading it to a Super Bowl title this year at age 43 — is the single greatest achievement of Brady’s incredible career.
“How about that?” Brady said rhetorically as he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for a seventh time.
Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to thrive at Brady’s age. And they certainly aren’t supposed to win a championship in their first season with a new team, new offense and new cast of characters. Especially during a pandemic, when Brady didn’t have offseason practices or preseason games. To top it off, Brady took down the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks en route to the title — Drew Brees, MVP Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
Brady now has seven rings and five Super Bowl MVPs. He has won four titles since turning 37. He has shattered all norms for aging athletes.
What Brady did this year is almost inconceivable. It’s a shame that he didn’t win No. 7 in a Patriots uniform, but it’s impossible not to be in awe of him and what he accomplished.
▪ Think Brady didn’t want this one as much if not more than his previous six titles? Brady got upset before halftime and was jawing with Tyrann Mathieu right in his face. The old man can still talk trash with the best of them.
“I never really saw that side of Tom Brady, to be honest,” Mathieu said.
What’s scary is Brady and the Bucs won their final eight games of the season en route to a title, but still don’t think they have fully clicked on offense. Quarterback coach Clyde Christensen said before the game that Brady still needs four or six more games to master his new offense. Brady agreed.
“I think next year is going to be a lot better than this year,” Brady said during the week. “I feel like I’ll be in a much better place mentally. I’m going to train a lot better this year. Physically, next year, I’ll be in a better place. I know as soon as this game ends we’re on to next season.”
That is frightening for the rest of the NFL. Brady will be back in 2021. And probably 2022. And 2023. There is no slowing him down.
▪ Brady and the Bucs offense ran a clinic against the Chiefs defense, getting revenge against defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who famously shut down the Patriots in Super Bowl LXII. After a couple of early punts, Brady led the Bucs to four touchdowns and a field goal on their next six drives. The one drive that didn’t result in points was stuffed on the 1-yard line.
The Bucs toyed with the Chiefs defense with a power run game and heavy use of play-action passing. Brady finished 21 of 29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns, with most of his damage coming in the first half. He became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to complete 80 percent of his passes and throw three TDs in a single half.
The 22 points were the largest margin of victory for Brady in all 10 of his Super Bowls (previous high: 10 against the Rams). This game also marked the first time that Brady led a touchdown drive in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, capping it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. Once Brady finished off that touchdown, you had the feeling that the Chiefs would be in for a long night.
▪ Boy, did the Chiefs give the game away, particularly in the first half. They committed eight penalties for 95 yards before halftime, six of which gave the Bucs a first down. One penalty was an inexcusable 34-yard pass interference penalty in the final seconds that set the Bucs up for a touchdown. The Chiefs also lined up in the neutral zone on a field goal attempt, giving the Bucs a free first down, which resulted in a Brady touchdown pass to Gronkowski on the very next play to make it 14-3. You can’t give Brady extra plays like that and expect to win.
The Chiefs shanked a punt for 29 yards in the first half, and Andy Reid called a questionable timeout inside the final minute, giving Brady enough time to march down the field for a last-second touchdown.
“It was a bad day to have a bad day,” Reid said.
Reid is now 1-2 in Super Bowls, and had one of his worst coaching performances on Sunday. It was a reminder that Reid’s teams often come up small in the most important games.
▪ But not Gronk, who always shows up in the biggest moments. He had just two catches for 43 yards in three playoff games entering Sunday night. But he was Brady’s favorite weapon in the Super Bowl, catching six passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Gronk almost had a third touchdown on a 25-yard catch-and-run, and he had a terrific block on Leonard Fournette’s 27-yard touchdown run. In his last four Super Bowl appearances, Gronk now has 27 catches for 338 yards and five touchdowns.
A year away from football served Gronkowski well. He came back refreshed, and played 20 games this season, the most he ever played in his career. He was one of the last players celebrating on the field Sunday night, soaking up his fourth championship and reveling in his decision to come out of retirement. This fourth title — and first with a different team — cements Gronk as an all-time legend and perhaps the greatest tight end to ever play the game.
▪ While much of the focus was on Brady and the offense, the Bucs defense has unbelievable speed and completely shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ high-flying offense. It was a great game plan by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who played two deep safeties all night and practically begged Mahomes to hand the ball off. The Bucs gave up a few catches over the middle, but flew to the ball and bottled up the Chiefs’ playmakers, holding them to one completion for more than 25 yards.
The Bucs sacked Mahomes three times and picked him off twice in the second half, yet only blitzed five times all night. Most impressively, the Chiefs didn’t score a touchdown for the first time in 55 games with Mahomes under center.
Bowles authored one of the great game plans in NFL history. The Bucs are lucky that he didn’t get a head coaching job this offseason, because he is a fantastic coach.
▪ What a disappointing performance by Mahomes, who was running like a wild chicken for much of the night. Mahomes finished just 26 of 49 for 270 yards and two interceptions, looked flustered by the pass rush, and couldn’t figure out the Bucs’ coverage schemes.
Mahomes is a tremendous young talent, but he laid a major egg. That is a performance he’s going to want to erase from his memory.
- Shaughnessy: Tom Brady completes revenge tour for the ages with No. 7
- Tom Brady earns seventh Super Bowl ring, leads Buccaneers to dominant 31-9 win over Chiefs
- Tom Brady named Super Bowl MVP
- Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski set record for most postseason TDs by any duo in Super Bowl LV
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.