By: Dan Wetzel.
Super Bowl championship confetti – this time in Tampa Bay pewter and red – falling on the shoulders of Tom Brady?
Well, how the heck else did you think it was going to end?
Brady led the Buccaneers to their second (and his record seventh) Super Bowl championship on Sunday, handily defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9.
After winning six titles during a two-decade run in New England, the 43-year-old Brady joined a losing Tampa team this season and promptly led the Bucs to glory. Not that he needed much resume padding, but his case as the greatest quarterback of all time was further cemented while going 21-for-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
He was named the game’s MVP.
Not that Brady was the sole hero for the Bucs.
This was a total team effort, most notably on defense where Tampa Bay harassed Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes all night. A ferocious pass rush led by Shaq Barrett kept Mahomes off balance while the defensive game plan focused on eliminating dangerous receiver Tyreek Hill.
Mahomes, noticeably hobbled by a turf toe injury, finished 26-for-49 with 270 yards and two interceptions. It took until just before the third quarter for him to amass over 100 yards passing. He spent much of the night scrambling around in the backfield avoiding sacks, only to chuck wild but accurate passes to receivers who then didn’t catch them.
For Kansas City, the reigning Super Bowl champions who went 14-2 this season, the night was a complete meltdown. Bad scheme. Bad performances. Dumb penalties. The Bucs outmuscled and outhustled the Chiefs.
Meanwhile Tampa Bay, the first team to ever play the Super Bowl in its home stadium, was a picture of execution.
After two early punts, the Bucs’ offense began rattling off touchdowns while the Chiefs either punted or settled for field goals.
Brady went 16-of-20 in the first half, while Leonard Fournette (89 yards rushing) and Ronald Jones (61) ground through the Chiefs.
In the first half, Brady twice hit his old friend from New England, Rob Gronkowski, for touchdown passes. Another went to Antonio Brown, another old Patriot (at least briefly) to end the half.
Both players became Bucs this season after Brady served as a middleman – both lobbying the team to sign them and recruiting them for another run in the sun to a potential title. Gronk even had to unretire just to play with his old QB. He finished with 67 yards receiving in a throwback performance.
Kansas City rose up for a goal-line stand on one first-half Tampa drive, but the Bucs’ ability to chew up clock kept Mahomes on the sideline and kept the Chiefs from getting into any rhythm.
Defensively, coordinator Todd Bowles’ game plan will go down in Super Bowl lore. The Chiefs are one of the most dynamic offenses in league history and the 25-year-old Mahomes is an already legendary playmaker.
K.C. racked up 456 yards in a 27-24 victory over Tampa earlier in the season. That included 269 yards and three touchdowns from Hill. This time the Chiefs got nothing easy, scored zero touchdowns and saw Hill be a virtual non-factor. By the end, Bucs defensive backs, who had been worked by Hill during the regular season, were taunting his inefficiency.
The Chiefs extends an NFL record run without a repeat champion. No team has won consecutive Super Bowls since the 2003-04 New England Patriots.
The quarterback of that team: Tom Brady. Of course.