Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Kansas City Chiefs 9
It’s an unusually lopsided final score to a Super Bowl, and I’ll admit I did not see it coming. A lot of people were blaming the referees for calling so many penalties on the Chiefs in the first half, others are lamenting that Kansas City had a patchwork offensive line, some blame the Chiefs’ receivers for dropping so many catchable balls.
To me, this game was just a beatdown. No amount of excuses can erase that the Bucs came out and dropped the hammer on a Kansas City team that I felt was unbreakable.
The game’s turning point happened with less than a minute left in the first half. The Bucs were leading, 14-6, and ran the ball into the line on 1st down — seemingly to run out the clock and take an 8-point lead into halftime. Inexplicably, Andy Reid called timeout in hopes of stopping Tampa Bay and getting another score. Instead, the Bucs converted a 3rd and short, were gifted two pass interference calls, and with like 10 seconds left Tom Brady threw a touchdown to Antonio Brown making it 21-6.
It was a bizarre decision, one that I questioned aloud to both of my brothers while it was happening, but particularly so given how utterly dominant the Bucs beat the Chiefs up to that point in the game. After all, Kansas City was due to receive the ball to start the 3rd quarter, and maybe it’s just me but I saw nothing wrong with licking some wounds and regrouping at the half while it was only a one possession game.
At 21-6, the game already felt like it was slipping away. When I wrote my game preview — where I predicted a 37-29 Chiefs victory — I cautioned that this was the rare game where Kansas City could not afford to play from deeply behind:
If, however, the Bucs are able to jump out to a two-score lead of their own, then it ought to be panic time for the Chiefs. I know that sounds dumb, since they have made their living in the playoffs the last two years by erasing double-digit leads, but Tom Brady is a different animal. He has the experience to manage a game from ahead, and the Bucs running and play action game will be the death of the Chiefs if they spot the Bucs 10 or 14 points.
I guess in retrospect it didn’t matter either way. 10 points, 14 points, 15 points… Tom Brady and the Bucs offense was able to do whatever it wanted, and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were held powerless for most of the night. Even when the game was within reach, it was apparent that Kansas City’s offensive line could not control — let alone slow down — Tampa Bay’s defensive front. And on the other end, the Bucs offensive line was able to negate the Chiefs pass rush, and spent the other time gaining 4 or 5 or 8 yards running the ball.
Patrick Mahomes makes you forget about a lot of the Chiefs’ deficiencies, because he acts as a band-aid to cover up every conceivable problem his team is dealing with. No offensive line? No problem. No running game? No problem. Receivers are dropping balls? Whatever. Mahomes will do whatever it takes to make the play when it matters. When all the chips are down, he’s that dude you want slinging the fucking pigskin.
In this game, football was simple. The game was won just how football has always been won: in the trenches. At the line of scrimmage. The Bucs owned both sides of the line, and no amount of gadget plays or remarkable and overwhelming talent on the Chiefs offense had a single prayer. All the things I mentioned in the first paragraph — from the penalties to the O-line to the dropped balls — clearly didn’t help. But football is not a sport for making excuses. The Bucs did their thing, and the Chiefs didn’t. That’s all it was.
Where we go from here is what’s now most important. I really thought, er believed, it was destiny that the Chiefs were going to win back-to-back Super Bowls. It just seemed like the NFL was ready for a new big kid on the block, a new dynasty. And who better than Patrick Mahomes and the favorite of the 2020’s decade (Kansas City is favored to win next year’s Super Bowl) to be that team?
There is going to be a strong urge from outside of KC for the Chiefs to bolster their offensive line next year. I assume that’s a given, especially considering that our best lineman — Mitchell Schwartz — is probably going to retire, and our second-best lineman — Eric Fisher — tore his achilles and probably won’t play next year. There’s a strong likelihood that the Chiefs invest at least two draft picks into creating some depth on the O-line.
But in an era of points, and being better at scoring them than the opposition, it wouldn’t surprise me if Kansas City went into straight up video game mode and just loaded up on wide receiver, running back, and tight end. Let’s go get a legitimate #2 receiver, a power running back to complement Clyde Edwards-Elaire, and a second tight end opposite Travis Kelce. Having Patrick Mahomes at QB makes everything dummy-proof. So why not use this Super Bowl loss as motivation to average like 40 points a game in 2021?
I’m really fucking bummed that the Chiefs season had to end like that, and that the football season in general had to end at all, but after some sober reflection (notwithstanding the hangover I’ve been dealing with all day) I’m still a huge believer in Kansas City’s future. Last night’s loss is a good reminder that there are no guarantees, that you have to appreciate every time you make it to the Super Bowl, and that, yes, even Patrick Mahomes is capable of losing big games. I forgot that was even a possibility.
I’ve spent most of my life cheering for a football team that never won anything important. I struggled through the early 2000’s, the late 2000’s, and virtually all of the 2010’s before Pat Mahomes came along and turned everything around. And in his three years as the team’s starting quarterback he has registered one MVP award, three AFC Championship Game appearances, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory. I can’t complain about losing yesterday’s game because I shouldn’t be complaining about anything. This is the Chiefs team I have waited for my whole life.
And so it is.