Experience, discipline and old ties pay off for Super Bowl Regular
How much of a legacy is determined by a single win? Plenty of watercooler-talk will be focused on the two generational QBs featured in the matchup and their legacy going forward.
But, taking a few steps back, we see the importance of momentum, veteran leadership, and injuries.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers triumphed over the battered Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 Sunday night. It wasn't close. The fearsome Chiefs offense was a shell of its former self and was shellacked by a convincingly more hungry (and healthy) Tampa Bay defense. Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes was hurried on 52% of his snaps and had little opportunity to play his game. However, clearly not 100%, he extended plays and made some UNBELIEVABLE throws to give his team a chance.
But hobbled by turf toe (which will allegedly have to be operated on), he looked uncomfortable the entire game. And a swiss cheese and largely replacement-filled offensive line failed to protect and enable him to make the plays they needed to win. He finished 26-49 with 243 yards, 2 picks, and a QBR of 49.9.
The second worst rating of his career. And arguably, given the stage, the worst game of his career.
It's a solid reminder this is a team game. And even generational talent can't win alone. QBR doesn't account for an offensive line missing 3 out of 5 starters and only one of them playing the position they started the season at.
From the jump, the Chiefs seemed sloppy, undisciplined, and scattered. Their Super Bowl record-breaking 95 penalty yards in the first half surpassed the Cowboys of Super Bowl V in 1971. Elite Company. It's also the greatest total of penalty yards surrendered under Andy Reid's tenure at Kansas City. They also set the record for first downs surrendered by penalty with 6. The previous record was 4 and they still had a half of football to play. Even if healthy and full strength, this was a major shot in the foot.
And while fans and analysts were critical of the defensive holding and defensive pass interference calls that seemed to bail the Buccaneers out of tough spots, there is no excuse for brain meltdowns like lining up offsides on a field goal. Or unnecessary personal fouls. Or two terrible punts. These all eventually led to points or at least a great shot at 4th and goal.
Where did a sharp KC team go wrong? This was reminiscent of the Dee Ford offsides that showed them an exit in the AFC Championship two years ago. It's worth noting that Linebackers Coach Britt Reid, Andy Reid's son, was involved in a DUI-driven multivehicle crash that resulted in the injuries of two young children, leaving a 5 year-old in critical condition. And while these are professionals, its hard to discount the effect this had on the Chiefs defense and its head coach. The Kansas City game plan on either side of the ball was hard to identify and never had an opportunity to use its wings during the beatdown.
Todd Bowles and Tampa Bay correctly anticipated that the Chiefs would not be able to handle their front four. The star-studded front line kept enough pressure on the Chiefs QB and their secondary keyed on speedster Tyreek Hill, preventing the bombs that had lit them up for 203 yards and two touchdowns in a single quarter in their matchup earlier this season. The Bucs allowed their stellar linebacker corps to handle star TE Travis Kelce and much of his yardage was given up in garbage time. Tampa dared the Chiefs to beat them on the ground and mustered only 64 yards from Edwards and probably the toughest 33 yards ever gained from Mahomes. There wasn't enough juice to match the surging Buccaneers defense.
The Tampa Bay offense was good enough before the Chiefs D decided to spot them great field position.
Making the most of free first downs and yardage, they made the Chiefs pay. While the talent in Tampa was reason enough to move with Evans and Godwin, the difference makers on offense were transplants that followed Brady. He and former WWE Star Rob Gronkowski connected for two touchdowns, giving them the record for the most touchdown connections in Super Bowl history. Antonio Brown also contributed a touchdown after being reluctantly accepted to the squad by head coach Bruce Arians at the recommendation of Tom. Lastly, Leonard Fournette scampered to a 27-yard TD run and contributed 89 to the balanced 145 yard ground attack after cut by the Jags earlier this season.
Brady finished 21/29 with 195 yards and 3 touchdowns with a QBR of 125.8. His highest ever in a Super Bowl. Using QBR, that's the ninth greatest game a quarterback has ever played in the Super Bowl.
All at the age of 43.
I won't elaborate farther on the significance of his playoff and Super Bowl records. Those speak for themselves. 3 years in to the Mahomes experience during the age of the 24 hour sports news cycle, the GOAT talk has been overwhelming.
Considering just how long it takes to build a true legacy, the comparisons between Mahomes and Brady need put on the back burner.
They needed to be before this game.
If he had won Mahomes would have been on the path to match Brady's Super Bowl totals per this stage in his career. Now consider how many stages exist in a two-decade spanning football career. Tom won 3 from 2001-2004. Then he went ten years from 04-14 without winning one. Then came back and won 4 in 6 years since 2014. He was 37 in 2014. It's stranger than fiction.
The greatest of all time title doesn't come easily. Mahomes has signed a ten year, half billion dollar deal with the Chiefs. Generational talent cannot win alone in the NFL. Injuries, coaching and personnel changes, cap space, and draft success all play a part in the success of an organization. Will the Chiefs continue to make the right front office decisions to enable him to win? How long will Reid, age 62, continue to coach? What if he wants out a la Watson in Houston if the team falters? He has a long career ahead of him. He is unbelievably skilled. But intangibles we couldn't even imagine now will play a part in the years ahead. It's best we sit back and enjoy the ride and save the comparisons for ten years from now.
In the moment, we can either choose to hate or celebrate the establishment of an untouchable legacy two decades in the making. Brady has done it without his former organization. But the legacy wouldn't be what it was without his tenure in New England with Belichick and the organization around him. They don't exist without one another.
However, with a new team and a familiar result it's harder to define the relationship. Was the Patriot Way actually Brady Boulevard?
We will have decades to debate.
Great Phrases for Super Bowl Talk to Impress Friends
"The Kansas City Offense just couldn't get Tyreek Hill involved."
"Kansas City didn't have an answer for JPP and Shaq Barrett"
"The cardboard fans were off-putting a scary way"
"Did you see the Lombardi hologram try to bust up the NFLPA?"
"Where do the pirates on the Tampa Bay Pirate Ship go after the season?"
"What setting do you wash your Jason Alexander hoodie on?
"Do people really believe that The Weeknd's halftime show was better than Creed's?"
"Since we didn't see him die, will Bud Knight come back in Super Bowl LVI?"
Jake Smith is an engineer, son, athlete, scholar, corn chip connoisseur, lover, and "a stand up cat". You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org