Brady and Buccaneers Defense Take Tampa to Super Bowl Dreamland
Led by an imperious defense that gave Patrick Mahomes a torrid time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to ride Tom Brady’s big game temperament to win an astonishing Super Bowl at home, 31-9. In every facet of the game, the best team won. At the line of scrimmage, in the running game, in the secondary, at quarterback. The play calling, especially from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, was superb. He will surely get another chance as a head coach. The Bucs front defensive four destroyed the Kansas City offensive line and manhandled Patrick Mahomes. It seemed implausible after coming together during a COVID-19 plagued off-season that Brady and the Buccaneers could pull this off. The team, which had promised so much and also endured a dour November, put a championship winning performance together on both sides of the ball. What transpired on the field was complimented by a perfectly coached game. It caps a sensational playoff run, winning on the road three times, culminating in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at home.
Dominant Bucs Performance Tampa Bay got into a balanced rhythm on offense, play action and the running game, which began to soften up the Chiefs defense. Kansas City got wiped out with nine pass interference and holding calls in the first half. The refereeing was a distinct departure from the NFC Championship Game in which any form of defensive grabbing and holding was permitted. Brady’s efficiency and decision making has made the game easy for Tampa. It was no different in the Super Bowl. The Bucs touchdowns were scored by Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette, all players who came to Tampa because of Tom Brady. Fournette was a journeyman, despised by his former team - the Jacksonville Jaguars - for being lazy. In the playoffs, he has played like a man possessed.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was clearly displaying signs of his turf toe injury. With his offensive line missing two players, he was on the back foot for most of the game. Andy Reid’s offense had no answers to the Bucs dominant front. If Kansas City had won, the joke might have gone that the only thing that could stop them was their team barber, who was withdrawn from cutting the player's hair last Monday due to a positive COVID test. The most potent offense in the NFL was shut out by the Buccaneers defense: it is inconceivable to think they didn’t score a solitary touchdown. Even the fan who ran onto the field managed to make it into the end zone. Combined with making a splash bringing Brady and several free agents in, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht has built a top class offensive line to protect Brady, and invested in speed at the linebacker position. Linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White were all over the place, covering and breaking up Kansas City plays.
The game was billed as Brady v Mahomes. What we witnessed instead was one of the most dominant team performances in the Super Bowl era, with defense to the fore. The defining sight for me will be watching Mahomes running backwards, away from a scary pass rush, before being dragged to the turf. It said it all. This Sporting Pursuit Chris Wesseling was a football writing and podcast icon who died of cancer a few days ago. He leaves behind a young family. It is a devastating loss. He was generous and kind when other writers reached out to him. Chris spread insight into America’s game overseas, especially in Ireland and the U.K. where the Around the NFL Podcast enjoys a giant following. He once posed the question: “If I was to hire a sports writer, the first question I would ask is: How do you reconcile the essential meaning of sports? Watching young men bang into each other and try and advance an inflated pigskin in marked territory. How do you reconcile the importance of that? It is like Shakespeare’s poems and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. At its best, sports is - look at what humans can do.”
At the Super Bowl victory ceremony, Tom Brady was magnanimous in victory. He deflected all the attention on his team. His name will always attract the headlines, it's true. The belief he has given everyone in the Bucs organization since coming aboard is unreal. His teammates were able to elevate their game when it mattered most. His defense most of all. It was a fitting way to bring the curtain down on the 2020 NFL season. Football has had to compete with a pandemic and learn to live with the virus. Things felt strange, but the game endured, and maybe even sharpened its appeal with the masses. When we were in dire need of a lift, sports have continued to demonstrate their value. You need other people for sports, you need other people for life. Sports are part of our soul-deep need for contact with others.
Just as Chris Wesseling told us all along.