I’m going to do my best to exude some excitement. Bear with me. Ahem. Super Bowl LV was a game of football featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who prevailed over the Kansas City Chiefs, and ... God, I can’t do it anymore. That game completely, and utterly sucked.
This has nothing to do with Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl, really it doesn’t. It’s just that objectively we watched a really bad football game. The Chiefs’ offensive line was obviously banged up, missing starters entering the game — and while it was always going to be a factor, I don’t think anyone was prepared for how utterly hopeless the Chiefs looked.
Brady, to his credit, knew exactly what it took to win — and it wasn’t much. All he needed to do was play safe, conservative football and watch the Chiefs implode. To this end he did so brilliantly. Brady knew the Chiefs’ couldn’t handle the Buccaneers’ pass rush, so the only way he could really blow it was by forcing passes and making mistakes. He didn’t, because that’s not in Brady’s nature when he’s playing ahead.
The disappointment in the Super Bowl has nothing to do with the outcome, and everything to do with the fact we had one of the most exciting, tight, memorable playoffs in recent memory — then the reward for it all was a flaccid game that was pretty much over from the first whistle.
Winner: Tom Brady.
I mean, obviously. Brady kind of won the Super Bowl MVP by default because you can’t give the award to everyone on defense, but the man absolutely deserved it. Like I said, all Brady needed to do was pick his spots, and pressure defensive backs who were losing their cool and committing dumb penalties.
It helped that he was money when it counted, finding Rob Gronkowski twice and Antonio Brown once, but it was another game that proved why Brady is so frustrating to a lot of teams in the NFL. If you show a weakness he’s going to pry it open and make it consume your day, and that’s what happened. Sure, you can blame the refs for a couple of questionable calls — but that doesn’t change the complete lack of discipline on the Chiefs’ side that led to this.
This is why the Buccaneers went all-in on Brady this season. They had the confidence to understand that they didn’t need a quarterback who could carry the entire team, they just needed a steady, smart hand who wouldn’t make mistakes and allow everyone else to shine. He did just that in the Super Bowl, and it’s why Tampa Bay won so easily.
Loser: Travis Kelce.
Good players have bad games. Travis Kelce was, at times, disastrous. This is one where the box score is a huge liar. On paper he had a great game, but if you watched you know that numerous times he blew a critical play that would have kept a drive alive, or destroyed a big gain that would have kept the Chiefs in it.
Tampa Bay completely took the Chiefs’ wide receivers out of the game, which means Kelce had single coverage a lot this game. He took advantage when it didn’t matter, then faltered when it did. It was ugly.
Winner: Tampa Bay’s pass rush.
The 2020 Buccaneers solidified themselves as one of the great defenses in NFL history, and specifically the pass rush is what completely turned this game. Patrick Mahomes was under so much pressure he basically became a meme this game, and it was courtesy of an endless, relentless pass rush that was in the backfield on every drop back.
final tally, via @ESPNStatsInfo:— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) February 8, 2021
Mahomes was pressured on 29/56 dropbacks--the most of any QB in Super Bowl history.
Brady was pressured on 4/30--the lowest of his SB career.
Sure, you can attribute this to how banged up Kansas City’s offensive line was, but it’s a little more than that. Mahomes was sacked three times, which doesn’t sound a lot on paper, but this is one of the shiftiest, most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL. Every single drop back Mahomes was running for his life, and never got in a rhythm because of it.
Loser: Eric Bienemy
The Chiefs’ offensive coordinator is still one of the most talented in the league at his position, but it’s unquestionable that he had no idea how to scheme around the banged up offensive line.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to have that many problems in a key part of your game plan — but you also had TWO WEEKS to come up with something. Ultimately it looked like Kansas City was totally unprepared for how to mitigate the Tampa Bay pass rush, and that really killed any chance of momentum in the end.
Well prepared teams are able to deal with adversity, and it didn’t look like Kansas City was prepared for anything except their bog-standard game plan.
Winner: Bruce Arians.
Arians became the oldest coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl, and I’m not going to say it’s because he drank paint as a child — but I’m not ruling it out.
Winner: The Weeknd.
Trying to come up with a good Super Bowl halftime show in the middle of a pandemic is an extremely difficult proposition, but The Weeknd found a way to make it so memorable. The off-the-wall, at times confusing show felt completely appropriate considering the weird year we’ve been through, and I’m going to remember it for a long time.
Loser: The ads.
This was not a good year for Super Bowl ads. Sure, there were a couple of good ones — but in the end nothing really stands out in my memory as being iconic. I know a lot of advertisers opted out in favor of donating to charity, and that’s awesome. I didn’t need to see 50 ads for Paramount+, a service nobody asked for.