Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady led his team to its first Super Bowl victory since the 2002-2003 NFL Season, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV, and earned his seventh Super Bowl ring.
As one of the many people who thought the Chiefs would come out victorious over the Bucs, this result came as a shock to me. This unexpected victory was attributed to Brady’s leadership, with the Bucs’ sharper defense and immensely improved running game.
In their previous meeting with the Chiefs on November 29, 2020 during the regular season, when the Chiefs won 27-24, the Bucs defense did not pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and they couldn’t cope with Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Going into the November game against the Chiefs, the Bucs had lost two out of their last three games and their morale was low. But heading into the Super Bowl, the tides had changed: the Bucs impressively beat quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, as well as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. In both of those games the Bucs played well and proved they deserved a spot in the Super Bowl, providing much momentum heading into the game.
Led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Bucs’ defense held the Chiefs to just nine points—the lowest the Chiefs scored all season. After allowing Mahomes to throw for 462 yards and three touchdowns as well as conceding 269 yards to Hill in November, the two teams’ second meeting reflected a 180-degree turn for the Bucs’ defense. This proves the saying, “defense wins championships” to be accurate. The Bucs stepped it up in the defensive category which not only frustrated the Chiefs, but it gave energy to their offensive unit to continue the positive trend that the defense was setting.
In Super Bowl LV, the Bucs kept Mahomes to 270 passing yards and caused two deflected interceptions. The team double covered Hill and held him to 73 yards receiving yards on seven receptions with no touchdowns, forcing the Chiefs to rely on others to provide an offensive spark. With their third best receiving option Sammy Watkins entering the game coming off a calf injury, he was not a full strength and caught only one pass for 13 yards, while running back Le’Veon Bell did not touch the football the entire night. With the Chiefs down and struggling for offense, this would have been the perfect time for head coach Andy Reid to give Bell the chance he had been looking for all-season. Bell would have been the perfect option that the Chiefs could have used to provide some change in the game, compared to quickly falling out of it. While Chiefs tight-end Travis Kelce caught ten passes for 133 yards, his team was only able to score three field goals. The lack of offensive options that the Chiefs had was one of the main issues they ran into during this game.
Most impressive of all, the Bucs’ defense was able to nullify the threat of the one-time Most Valuable Player (MVP), one-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl MVP quarterback by applying pressure all night long. The team sacked Mahomes three times, but the more incredible statistic was how they were able to consistently force him out of the pocket when he attempted to throw the ball. Over the course of the game, Mahomes ran 497 yards before either releasing the ball or being sacked. This is the most by any quarterback since the statistic began to be tracked in 2016. The consistent pressure applied to Mahomes forced him to throw many risky passses which led to him throwing two interceptions. Turnovers are always key in football games, and with the Bucs winning the turnover battle, this may have been the boost they needed to push them beyond the Chiefs. The Bucs defense was able to disrupt Mahomes and not give him enough time to look for a long throw to the speedy Hill which led to what Mahomes said was the, “Worst I think I’ve been beaten in a long time.”
With the defense playing its part, it was Tom Brady and the rest of the Bucs’ offense’s job to provide scoring drives. Throughout the night, the Chiefs defense was never able to contain the Bucs’ offensive threats. Ranked 28th in rushing yards per game in the NFL, averaging only 94.9 yards per game during the regular season, the Bucs ran for an impressive 145 yards, propelled by Bucs running back Leonard Fournettte. Not only did he rack up 46 receiving yards, but he also ran for 89 yards on 16 carries and busted out a 27-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give the Bucs a 28-9 lead and practically end the game. In a very rocky season where he juggled a three-week ankle injury and fought for playing time, this was a breakout game for him, and his performance under pressure makes him one to watch in the 2021-2022 season.
As the game went on and the Bucs established a lead, Brady was able to look for receivers as the Chiefs looked to apply more pressure at the line of scrimmage. For a 43-year-old on the largest football stage in the world, Brady’s performance was impressive.
Throwing for 201 yards and completing 21 out of his 29 pass attempts, as well as firing three successful passes into the endzone—two to ex-Patriot teammate Rob Gronkowski—Brady put on a memorable performance, earning his fifth Super Bowl MVP award. On the field Brady makes people play to the best of their ability. The greatest football players are not only great individuals, but they make others around them better. Whether it’s making the intelligent play, finding the open man, or calling an audible—a change in play call at the line of scrimmage—these are the things that the greatest players do under pressure. We see this most from Brady in the most important games when he thrives and helps his team defy expectations.
We saw this again in Super Bowl LV when the Bucs were the clear underdogs heading into the game—the Chiefs opened the game as -3.5 betting favorites—yet somehow Brady pulled off another miracle. Brady has rebounded from a disappointing 2019 season with the Patriots in which many said would be the end of his success in football, but he has proved the doubters wrong once again. After receiving the Most Valuable Player award Brady said, “I’m coming back.” At age 43, Brady is supposedly going to play in his 21st NFL season next year, hoping to defend the title of NFL Champions.