Those of us who grew up in the 80s might have been having ugly flashbacks last night. We've been lucky over the last two decades, with mostly close Super Bowls. For two decades before that, most were one-sided laughers. That's what we got last night, in a game I was pretty wrong about.
With only one game to write about, I'll break it up into chapters and storylines, starting with the game itself.
Tampa Bay 31, Kansas City 9. Guess that guy who placed his $2.5 million bet on the Bucs knew what he was doing. The game was in doubt for about a quarter. Hoping for a close, competitive game, I clung to the fact that Kansas City trailed for most of last year's Super Bowl to the 49ers before turning it on late. When it was 21-6, I still felt that Kansas City could string a couple of drives together and turn it into the fun shootout most were expecting. It didn't happen.
Searching for an explanation, we can point to a lot of different things. Kansas City's damaged offensive line that couldn't slow down the Bucs pass rush. A Bucs defense that blanketed Tyreek Hill all game. A Kansas City offense that simply looked out of sync, from sidelines to quarterback to receivers. A Tampa Bay offense that was basically unstoppable drive after drive. Whatever you want to give most of the credit to, this was one team beating the other one up and down the field on both sides of the ball. It wasn't close, and since we haven't had many such games lately -- and haven't seen it happen to Patrick Mahomes basically ever -- it was shocking.
There were a few more flags than expected early on, including a key one that gave the Bucs a first down that was maybe a ticky-tack interference call. But most of them were earned. The officials didn't help Kansas City, but they didn't cause them to jump offsides on a field goal, either.
Possible intangibles: the game being played at Tampa Bay's home stadium. Andy Reid's son being involved in a car crash that put two kids in the hospital a day earlier. Kansas City believing too strongly in their ability win as they'd done all year, while Tampa Bay just went out and believed in their 6-time Super Bowl champ quarterback, and he delivered. Lots of possibilities. But whatever you want to credit, it was a case where one team was on top of its game and the other wasn't. And the result was 31-9.
Tom Brady, Super Bowl MVP. Seldom has a vote been easier, I imagine. Tampa Bay's first two drives ended in punts. It was all Brady and company after that. The guy was very sharp on his throws, his decisions and his execution. We've seen it in the past, and we saw it again yesterday. Did he make a bad throw? I don't recall one. Will I bet against him coming back on top of his game next year? Nope. Some are no doubt recalling my saying he was lucky last week. I explained what I meant more than once and won't do it again. I don't hate the guy, and I won't take anything from away from this win. He earned No. 7.
Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes looked kind of stunned throughout most of the game. Certainly not having Eric Fisher at left tackle was a factor, but maybe the Bucs pass rush would have been all over him even if Kansas City's line was at full strength. Time after time I saw him dropping back, not finding anyone open, and dropping back some more. He ran some, which perhaps disputes any idea that his turf toe injury was bothering him, but I think it might have been; he definitely didn't look comfortable. There were also a lot of plays where he scrambled around, twisted, and threw up remarkable passes that would probably have been completed if his receivers didn't drop them. In any case, not a good game for Mahomes, and neither his line, his receivers, nor his coaching staff helped him too much. A little slice of humble pie for a guy who's dominated the league for most of his three years as a starter.
Bucs running backs. As expected, Leonard Fournette led this backfield. To me he looked as good as he's looked all season, both as a runner, spinning off tacklers and picking up extra yards, and as a receiver. Ronald Jones was the No. 2, and Jones didn't seem to play as much after a first-half sequence where he got stuffed twice inside the 2-yard line. Debatable whether he actually got in on the second of those carries; some officials might have thrown their hands up for him. Particularly painful for me in a playoff league where I had Jones and missed out on the top money by 3 points. Right from his zero in Tampa Bay's first playoff game this year (and all the way back to my selecting him in a rookie draft years ago), I have a really poor history when it comes to Ronald Jones. Anyway, impressive game by Fournette, who made himself some money this year.
Kansas City running backs. Fully healthy at last, Clyde Edwards-Helaire led this backfield by a wide margin. A lot more carries and a lot more effective than Darrel Williams. I know there are some who believe that Damien Williams will return atop the depth chart a year from now. I'm not one of them. If I were drafting a Kansas City runner in any format next year, it would be CEH.
Tampa Bay wideouts. In my prop bets column (I went 4-3 with a push and then one I don't know how it turned out since I didn't hear whether the announcers said COVID first or not) I guessed the under for Mike Evans receptions (it was 4.5) but wasn't confident about it. He caught 1 pass. Chris Godwin caught 2. The idea that Tampa Bay could win in a blowout and those guys could combined for 3 catches is pretty shocking. Antonio Brown caught 5 including a touchdown. You wonder if the Bucs will brink Godwin back in free agency or maybe just go with Brown. In any case, only the controversial ex-Steeler/Raider/Patriot was productive.
Kansas City wideouts. The team seems to have a lot to do in this area during the offseason. There's Tyreek Hill, and? Sammy Watkins is seldom healthy and his big games seem to come along once or twice in a blue moon when he is. Talented guy, but Kansas City has got to be tired of him and can't seriously be considering committing big money to him going forward. Demarcus Robinson, I don't really understand why Kansas City keeps him around. Considering the offense he's in and the quarterback he's working with, his performance and production are simply terrible. Mecole Hardman flashes every once in a while, usually if Hill isn't available for whatever reason. Hardman, recall, was drafted when Hill's Kansas City future and career where in doubt due to a domestic situation. With Hill in the lineup, they don't seem to have a good idea of how to utilize Hardman. He'll be back, but I don't see how anyone can be optimistic about his future. This is a shaky wide receiver corps, and it sure looked it yesterday.
Tight ends. All playoffs I flirted with the idea that the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection would re-emerge. Didn't happen the first three games, but with Cameron Brate hurting, it did in a big way yesterday. Used Gronk in a couple of daily contests and it paid off. Great to be Gronk: win a few Super Bowls, take a year off to party, come back and win a Super Bowl. Travis Kelce was his usual dominant self, the only Kansas City player who it can be said had a great game.
Commercials. Nothing really stood out for me. Maybe it was the lack of the camaraderie of a large party in this pandemic year, maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. Somebody somewhere liked them, I've seen a few articles, but nothing really grabbed me. Let me know if I missed a great one and I'll go looking for it.
Halftime show. Having kids of a certain age, I'm pretty familiar with most of the Weeknd's hits. I thought it was a pretty good show. I hear Blinding Lights and I think of a TikTok dance from early on in this pandemic we're living in. Probably just me. Kind of weird seeing live music, amiright?
Conclusion. So Tampa Bay is the Super Bowl champs. It's a reminder once again that all too often, the better pass rush can be a difference maker in the final game of the season -- we saw it happen against Brady a couple of times in the past, and we saw it happen for him last night. Kansas City looked so good a little while back. Now they look like they need a lot of work on defense, in the receiving corps, and maybe even on the sidelines.
The 2020 NFL season is complete. There were weeks we weren't sure we'd get here. Be safe, and enjoy the offseason.