Super Bowl LV was meant to be a high-scoring shootout, featuring at its centre the face of the past decade and more and the face of the now and future in quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes respectively. Instead the highly anticipated showdown turned into a laugher as Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers dismantled Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to win their second Championship in franchise history, and title number seven for Brady. Prior to the game, Betway had Patrick Mahomes to be named Super Bowl MVP at 5/6
So, how did Tampa Bay do it and why were they so dominant? Here’s five reasons why.
Eric Fisher – it seems tough to name someone who didn’t even play, but Fisher’s absence due to a torn left Achilles suffered in the AFC title game against Buffalo proved decisive. The first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Fisher is the Chiefs’ left tackle whose job is to both anchor the offensive line and protect his quarterbacks blind side (think of the Sandra Bullock movie), but with him out the Chiefs were forced to move veteran Mike Remmers from right tackle and insert backup Andrew Wylie, and the results weren’t pretty. Both were beaten early and often by the Bucs’ pash rush, leading to the complete collapse of their ability to protect Mahomes in the pocket and the star QB spending much of the game looking like he was running for his life.
Hands – Despite that pressure, Mahomes was still – unbelievably in some cases – able to get the ball away and make accurate throws. What cost the Chiefs, particularly early on but throughout the encounter, was the inability of their usually good receivers to catch those passes. Tyreek Hill had one go through his hands that would have been a touchdown if he’d snagged it, and others dropped passes they’d normally grab.
Penalties – Where the game really got away from the Chiefs was in the second quarter when their defence copped a run of penalties, with the rot starting when an interception by Tyrann Mathieu was overturned by a questionable holding call and enabling Tampa Bay to keep the ball. That was followed by another – for offsides on a field goal attempt – that gave Tampa a first down instead, with Brady finding his old mate Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown from the very next play. And then came the two pass interference calls that led to the third Tampa touchdown on halftime; there’s no argument on the one against Bashaud Breeland after he took down Mike Evans, but the second – against Mathieu in the end zone – seemed harsh since the pass is meant to be catchable by the intended receiver for the penalty to be called.
Halftime – Leading into the break the Bucs seemed content to let the clock run out. That is until Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid – who’s game management at the end of halves has long been questionable – started calling timeouts in the hope of getting the ball back. Given the time to scheme Tampa showed no mercy, reprising their plan from the NFC title game against Green Bay and throwing deep, drawing those two pass interference penalties and ending with a touchdown to Antonio Brown. And then coming out of the half Tampa held the Chiefs to just a field goal before marching quickly downfield and a touchdown to Leonard Fournette, and at 28-9 the game was as good as done.
Execution – Going into the game, much of the talk was around the Chiefs outstanding offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy and him being passed over for each of the seven head coach jobs that had become vacant since the end of the regular season. However it was his counterparts on the Buccaneers, DC Todd Bowles and OC Byron Leftwich (who like Bienemy are both black), that delivered. Bowles – a former head coach with the Jets – masterminded the Bucs’ outstanding defence by exploiting the weakened Chiefs offensive line and emphasised tight man-coverage on their receivers while Leftwich, a former quarterback who was drafted three years after Brady, put together a game plan that was as efficient as it was effective.
The attention of the NFL universe now moves onto free agency and the Draft, where 31 other teams will attempt again to put the pieces in place to supplant the champions. And those champions will once again be headed by the most successful man in the history of the game.
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