American Football Expert & Columnist
Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds has the final word on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, picking out his five major takeaways and what is on his radar heading into the 2021 offseason…
Last Updated: 09/02/21 12:26pm
We were ready to celebrate an on-time finish to the most remarkable and challenging 2020 season with a Super Bowl for the ages… That didn’t quite happen as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers romped all over the Kansas City Chiefs, recording a stunning 31-9 victory.
While we didn’t see a classic, we did witness history being made as Tom Brady lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for a record seventh time…
Five major takeaways from Super Bowl LV
1) Brady the history maker
It took a total team effort for the Bucs to win four playoff games – three of them on the road – en route to being crowned champions of the NFL, but I simply have to start this column with the most remarkable player we will ever see in our lifetime… Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
Brady has never looked more comfortable and at home on the Super Bowl stage, from the moment he sauntered into Raymond James Stadium dressed like a model, Brady looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. And when the game kicked off, he had the answers to every test as he hit on 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards, three touchdowns, no picks, and a quarterback rating of 125.8.
It doesn’t matter to Brady that he has won seven Super Bowls. That’s what makes him so great. On Monday, he refused to compare this Super Bowl victory to his other six. He likes to treat them as totally separate entities. And he is ready to go again.
He talked in the final days leading up to this Super Bowl saying he would play past the age of 45 if possible and that he couldn’t wait to start his offseason work, hinting he and the Bucs could be even better in 2021.
2) Just a little bit more on Brady
Further evidence of the brilliance of Brady can be reflected in the impact he has made on Tampa Bay. During Super Bowl week, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians told me that he allowed himself to dream of an NFL championship as soon as Brady was signed in March, hailing his quarterback as “the missing piece.”
The impact Brady has made is now crystal clear. A second Vince Lombardi Trophy is now in the cabinet for a team that had suffered nine losing seasons in the previous 11 campaigns. The Bucs had won just 17 games in the previous three years and had not made the playoffs since 2007.
Then Brady rocks up, invites a few friends along for the party, and wins the Super Bowl at the first attempt! This is why so many teams are desperate to find that all-important answer at the quarterback position.
With a 68-year-old head coach and a 43-year-old quarterback, it felt like the Bucs were operating on a limited time frame when it came to chasing a championship. They didn’t hang around and three key additions tempted to Tampa by Brady scored in the Super Bowl – receiver Antonio Brown, running back Leonard Fournette, and his BFF tight end, Rob Gronkowski.
This time last year, Gronk was flying off the top rope and getting hit over the head with chairs as a wrestling champion. He seemed perfectly content in retirement after battering his body over a period of years in New England.
But Gronk rolled back the years on Super Sunday, catching six passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He and Brady have now connected for five passing touchdowns in the Super Bowl and 14 in the playoffs – both are new records, surpassing the connection between the San Francisco 49ers pairing of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Like Brady, Gronk has indicated he will be back for more in 2021.
4) Tampa’s dominant defense
The Buccaneers inflicted a beating on Patrick Mahomes and held down the NFL’s No 1 attack, becoming just the seventh defense to hold an opponent without a touchdown in the Super Bowl. I think it was the most dominant defensive display in a Super Bowl since the Seattle Seahawks – led by our studio guest on Sunday, Cliff Avril – beat the Denver Broncos 43-8 in New York seven years ago.
I’ll have more on the plan rolled out by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles below, but the Bucs stood up across the field and they flew to the football. The Chiefs simply never got on track and it was not just about the pressure on Mahomes – there were well-made tackles and lots of knocked-down passes.
One of the real stars was Devin White, who shone on the same field where another young inside linebacker – Ray Lewis, of the Baltimore Ravens – turned in an MVP performance in the Super Bowl 20 years earlier. White recorded 12 tackles and an interception, taking his three-game playoff total (he missed the Wild Card round with Covid-19) to 38 tackles, two picks, and two fumble recoveries.
5) Record runs for Mahomes
Social media can have its pitfalls, but it can also be beneficial at times. And I stumbled across this little gem on Monday morning… Mahomes ran around to the tune of 497 yards before throwing the ball or being sacked in Super Bowl LV. That is the most any quarterback has been forced to run around all season long.
The Chiefs were playing with a reshuffled offensive line that failed to protect their star man. This is hindsight but when left tackle Eric Fisher went down, maybe KC should just have subbed in a replacement left tackle. By moving Mike Remmers from right tackle to left and Andrew Wylie from right guard to right tackle, Kansas City may have got their top three options on the field but they affected three positions rather than one.
And the Chiefs did little to help out that line. They used five-man protection on 48 of 52 dropbacks (92 per cent) and it failed miserably. Mahomes was sacked three times and pressured on 52 per cent of his drops – the most of any quarterback in Super Bowl history.
He flashed brilliance with an incredible diving pass in the fourth quarter that was dropped (that just about summed up KC’s day) but ended with a passer rating of 52.3. That was the lowest of his career and was hardly a surprise given the form of his blockers on Sunday.
Player of the Week: Tom Brady
Emptying the achievements notebook on Brady… He now has seven Super Bowl wins – more than any other team, let alone the most of any player in the league’s history. Brady has five Super Bowl MVP awards and has become the first NFL player to win a title in three different decades – the 2000s, 2010s, and the 2020s.
Oh, and if you’re struggling to do P.E. with Joe Wicks during this latest lockdown, fear not – there is hope for your aching bones. Brady is the first player to win two Super Bowls after the age of 40 (2018 and 2020).
Play of the Week
I’ll give a nod to the most amazing incomplete pass I have ever seen as Mahomes delivered a diving 30-yard pass about an inch from the ground that was dropped in the endzone.
But I’m handing this particular award to Brady’s first first-quarter touchdown in 10 Super Bowls. His eight-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski looked fairly unspectacular at first glance but it was a well-designed beauty.
The Bucs had just begun to establish the run in the game and made this play look like a run all the way. Brady faked the handoff and Gronk sneaked out of the backfield into the left flat for the easiest of scores. That got the Bucs rolling and they never looked back.
Coach of the Week: Todd Bowles, Buccaneers DC
When Tampa Bay lost to the Chiefs in Week 12, Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns and Tyreek Hill took the top of the Bucs’ defense time and again, catching 13 passes for 269 yards and three scores!
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles responded and set up his defense beautifully on Sunday night. He provided his cornerbacks with greater help from the safeties, effectively taking away the big passes downfield.
Hill was a non-factor with most of his receiving yardage coming when the game was already decided. Of course, that approach would force Mahomes into a lot more shorter passes, placing pressure on the linebackers and safeties to come up and tackle. And they did just that to great effect. Bowles has some intriguing young players on his defense and this group can be a force in 2021.
On my Radar
Brady going to Tampa and winning a Super Bowl immediately is going to remind every other NFL team of the importance of the quarterback position. And we’re going to see an aggressive scramble for passers in this offseason.
Deshaun Watson is on the move from Houston, the same is likely for Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, and the carousel is set to spin. One team even asked Seattle about a potential trade for Russell Wilson in the lead up to the Super Bowl.
It’s about to get crazy because teams are not prepared to hang around with a middling quarterback. If you find THE one, you can win the Super Bowl immediately. That is how important this position has become in the NFL. Things could be about to get wild!