The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl LV champions after completing a victory that exceeded expectations and made all kinds of history on Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. In dominating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9, the Bucs won its second Super Bowl and became the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Quarterback Tom Brady secured his seventh Lombardi Trophy, two more than any player in NFL history and one more than any entire NFL franchise has achieved.
Brady's performance at age 43 was nearly flawless, and the suffocating pressure of Todd Bowles' defense was a perfect compliment to the offense's effort. The future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to his long-time favorite target in tight end Rob Gronkowski and another to wide receiver Antonio Brown. He calmly distributed the ball to his cadre of pass catchers and was especially successful over the middle. Brady and Gronk now have 14 postseason scoring connections in their legendary careers.
The Bucs forced the Chiefs into their worst offensive performance of the Patrick Mahomes era as Tampa Bay's defensive front completely controlled the line of scrimmage through all four quarters. Mahomes was under siege all night, alternately firing the ball into the ground and having to tuck and scamper away from the relentless pressure. Mahomes took three sacks and threw two interceptions on tipped passes. Even those figures undersell the degree to which the Bucs made his life miserable. He ended the night with 270 yards passing, much of which game in garbage time, while being held without a touchdown for just the second time in 56 games since taking over KC's starting job in 2018. It was also the first double-digit loss of Mahomes' career.
Tampa's defensive backs and linebackers deserve their plaudits as well after rebounding from a disastrous Week 12 performance against this same Kansas City. After torching the Bucs for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the first matchup, Chiefs explosive WR Tyreek Hill recorded only seven grabs for 73 yards, making a relatively muted impact. Travis Kelce was a bit more productive, but it didn't much matter. Hill and the rest of the wideouts were completely removed from the game.
The frustrations were notable on both side of the ball for KC, which committed 10 penalties for 100 yards in the game with many miscues coming in key situations that cost the Chiefs on the scoreboard.
Brady, meanwhile, had the good fortune of being well protected throughout the game, a testament to the offensive line the Buccaneers built in front of him. That group also cleared the way for Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to combine for 150 yards rushing on 28 carries, including Fournette's 27-yard touchdown run that broke the game open for good in the third quarter.
In the end, the Bucs made good on the idea of what they could become with Brady at the helm. Both sides fancied the living legend as a catalyst that would lead Tampa Bay to a championship, and they turned out to be right. In the strangest NFL season of all time, the league's greatest player found a way to win it all yet again.
Why the Buccaneers won
While Brady took home the Super Bowl MVP for the fifth time in his career, Tampa Bay's coordinators were masterful.
Byron Leftwich's offensive game plan was masterful, and he had some particularly fun designs on screens and red zone plays. The Bucs picked on Kansas City's linebackers in coverage and the run game, repeatedly getting Fournette to the second level where he could work against overmatched, undersized defenders. Gronk, Fournette, and Cameron Brate, meanwhile, combined for 13 receptions for 139 yards -- nearly two-thirds of Brady's total.
If an MVP can be awarded to an entire unit, Tampa Bay's defensive front deserves it. Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh and Steve McClendon put on a thunderous performance, and they would have to share it with Bowles, who consistently put them in a position to succeed. That group kept Mahomes boxed into the pocket and off-kilter for most of the night. The Chiefs had to resort to a multitude of screens and short passes designed to keep the pass rush from pinning their ears back. Even those plays did not work all that well, though, and Mahomes kept getting getting hit and having to run for his life throughout the game.
Why the Chiefs lost
Penalties, drops and the offensive line. The Chiefs racked up an incredible 95 penalty yards on eight miscues during the first half -- a Super Bowl record. Hill dropped a would-be touchdown. Kelce dropped a surefire first down. Darrel Williams dropped a fourth-down conversion. Mecole Hardman had at least two passes sail right over his head because he wasn't looking for them.
Really, though, the story was that Mahomes just did not have his usual time to either target his receivers downfield or improvise without having to panic at the sight of the rush. With tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz out due to injuries, Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie were overworked and overwhelmed on the perimeter where they simply could not handle JPP and Barrett. With Wylie kicked outside, Stefen Wisniewski stepped into the starting lineup alongside Nick Allegretti and Austin Reiter up the middle, and that trio struggled with Vea and Suh for much of the night as well.
Just as the Packers' offensive line was dominated by the Bucs' front in the NFC Championship Game, so too was the Chiefs' offensive line in the Super Bowl.
Play of the game
It's got to be the game's first touchdown -- a record-breaker that also happened to be perfectly designed by Leftwich and Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians. Brady's 8-yard touchdown pass to Gronk near the end of the first quarter was a thing of beauty.
This was the 13th touchdown Brady and Gronk have connected for in the playoffs, making them the most prolific postseason passing duo in NFL history. (They added a 14th touchdown later in the first half.) It was also somehow the first first-quarter touchdown pass of Brady's Super Bowl career, which is unbelievable.
The design on this play was flawless. It actually looked like something right out of the Chiefs' playbook. Tampa Bay showed an RPO slant to Mike Evans, which got Bashaud Breeland to bite to the inside. But the play wasn't designed to go to Evans. Gronk leaked out of the formation, right where Evans came from. Evans' slant route worked as a pick, stopping Daniel Sorenson from getting to Gronk on the outside. All Brady had to do was flip it to Gronk, and the big tight end walked into the end zone for an easy score and yet another spike.
Where the game turned
Toward the tail end of the first half, it seemed like the Chiefs might be working their way back into the game. Trailing 14-3, they matriculated the ball downfield, traveling 61 yards on 10 plays before stalling inside the red zone. While the field goal was a disappointing result, it did cut the deficit to 14-6, and with the Chiefs getting the ball in the second half, they seemed to be in a good position.
But then Brady and the Bucs went to work. Crucially, the Chiefs called a timeout with the Bucs facing third-and-2 with 44 seconds left in the first half only to see Tampa Bay convert on the next play. Then, Kansas City's defensive backs committed two pass interference penalties on throws to Mike Evans (the second was a controversial call), setting the Bucs up with first-and-Goal from the 1-yard line. That's when Brady found Brown working against Tyrann Mathieu, and the pair connected for Brady's third touchdown toss of the game. All of a sudden the lead was 21-6, and the Bucs never looked back.