At long last, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers returned to the NFL’s biggest stage on Sunday night, and they made history in doing so. Hosting the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs became the first team in league history to ever play a home Super Bowl. But the team made it clear leading up to gameday that just getting to this point wasn’t enough.
So, who would emerge victorious in Super Bowl LV? Would it be the Bucs, making their first bid for the Lombardi Trophy since the 2002 season? Or would it be the Chiefs, who won it just last year?
Tampa Bay made it home for Sunday’s game by running through three road games, beating the Washington Football Team, the Saints and the Packers. Kansas City, on the other hand, has been at home throughout the playoffs. After a first-round bye, the defending champions beat the Browns and Bills to earn their second consecutive Super Bowl trip.
A lot of the talk leading up to Sunday night centered on the quarterback matchup between the Bucs’ Tom Brady and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes: The 43-year-old G.O.A.T. against the 25-year-old superstar who has been on a ridiculous run over the last few years. But as much talk as there was surrounding the signal-callers, it was also obvious that there would be an absurd amount of talent all over the field—on both sides—in this game.
The Chiefs beat the Bucs, 27-24, back in Week 12. But the stakes for this game were much higher. Heading into this one, Kansas City was a three-point favorite, with ESPN’s FPI giving Mahomes and Co. a 52.1% chance to win.
After the two offenses traded punts early, the Bucs took over and never looked back. The defense suffocated Mahomes all night and the offense helped Tampa Bay jump out to a 21-6 halftime lead before finishing the job in the second half. Any comeback hopes for Kansas City were immediately met with a response by Tampa Bay and by the time it was all over, the Buccaneers’ choice to go “all in” last offseason was rewarded with a 31-9 Super Bowl victory and the franchise’s second-ever Lombardi Trophy.
After some stirring pregame ceremonies, Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David headed out to midfield for the coin toss. The Chiefs won the coin toss and elected to defer, meaning the Buccaneer offense would take the field to get things going.
Jaydon Mickens took the opening kickoff and brought it out just shy of the 25-yard line to the 23, so that’s where Tom Brady and his offense would start their opening drive. Brady hit Chris Godwin for a two-yard gain on first down before Leonard Fournette picked up three yards to bring up an early third down. Brady looked Godwin’s way again on third down but it went off his fingertips, which brought Bradley Pinion out for a punt. Pinion booted a 40-yarder that was downed at the 33, which is where Patrick Mahomes would get his offense started.
Mahomes hit hometown kid Byron Pringle for a three-yard gain on first down before throwing incomplete on second down thanks to heavy pressure from Shaquil Barrett, bringing up a quick third down. On 3rd & 7, though, Mahomes escaped pressure and picked up 11 yards with his legs to move the sticks. Mahomes picked up another two on a scramble on the next play, but two straight passes intended for Mecole Hardman fell incomplete to bring up the Chiefs’ second punt of the postseason. After one drive apiece, things were scoreless.
Going from their own 20-yard line to start their second drive, the Bucs went to Ronald Jones II on first down. He found space on the right side and picked up 13 yards, giving Tampa Bay its first first down of the night. Scotty Miller then got dropped for a loss of three yards on the next play, with Cameron Brate missing a key block in space. Brate came right back and caught a five-yard pass from Brady, though, setting up a 3rd & 8 at the 35-yard line. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay failed on third down for a second time as Kansas City got to Brady on third down. Frank Clark dropped the quarterback to force another Pinion punt. It was an underwhelming one, as it took a bad bounce and ended up being just a 33-yarder, giving the Chiefs good field position at their own 38.
Tyreek Hill got his first touch on the opening play of the Chiefs’ second drive, picking up five yards on an end-around. Clyde Edwards-Helaire got his first carry on the next play and pushed forward for a first down near midfield. Mahomes’ mobility proved to be a factor again on the next snap, as he got 11 more yards to Tampa Bay’s 41. Edwards-Helaire got another six after that, with the Chiefs slowly starting to look more dangerous on their second possession. They got some help thanks to an offsides call on Jason Pierre-Paul, which negated a Sean Murphy-Bunting pass breakup in the end zone.
After the penalty, Tampa Bay’s defense stood tall. An incompletion and a Devin White tackle for loss brought up a 3rd & 11 at the 31, and after Mahomes avoided a Jamel Dean sack, he threw one up to Hill in the end zone. But Antoine Winfield Jr. was there in coverage, so it fell incomplete and led to a 49-yard field goal attempt. Harrison Butker connected, giving Kansas City a 3-0 lead with 5:10 to go in the opening quarter.
A touchback on the ensuing kickoff gave the Bucs a starting position at their own 25 for their third possession, and the offense took the field needing to find some sort of rhythm after the defense’s nice start. Fournette got three yards up the middle on first down before picking up six more on second down to bring up 3rd & 1. Tampa Bay got its first third-down conversion of the night on the next play as Fournette got six more. Brady looked for Mike Evans for the first time on the next play and Evans drew a holding call, giving the Bucs another five yards and a first down. The passing game found a groove after that, with Brady linking up with Antonio Brown for 16 yards and Brate for another 15 to get inside the 25 to the Chiefs’ 24.
Fournette got another 11 yards on the next play before another Brown catch down to the 8. Then, the Bucs took the lead. Brady found Gronk in the flat and the big tight end did the rest, getting in the end zone for a Buccaneer touchdown. With Ryan Succop’s PAT, Tampa Bay had a 7-3 lead with 37 seconds left in the first. The eight-play, 75-yard drive in 4:33 was just what the Bucs needed after a slow start to the game.
Pringle returned the ensuing kickoff to the 37, setting Kansas City up with solid field position late in the first quarter. Pierre-Paul knocked down a Mahomes pass at the line to start the next drive, then Travis Kelce got his first catch of the game to end the game’s first quarter with the Bucs leading 7-3.
Tampa Bay had the screen well-covered to open the second quarter, leading to a third-down miss and another Chiefs punt. The punt was a short one, going 27 yards to the Buccaneer 30. That’s where Brady and Co. took over, looking to build on their previous drive.
A first-down incompletion by Brady was followed by a short dumpoff to Gronkowski and the Bucs got a first down on that play thanks to Ryan Jensen baiting Chris Jones into an unnecessary roughness call. Then, after a couple of chunk runs by Jones, Evans broke free for a big play, catching a 31-yard pass to the Kansas City 6-yard line. After Tampa Bay’s first timeout, Jones picked up four yards to the 2 but that was about as far as the Bucs would go. A second-down incompletion on a pass intended for lineman Joe Haeg and a third-down run stuff forced a 4th & Goal try, and Jones was stood up at the line. The Bucs challenged the call and it stood, costing them a timeout.
The huge goal line stand for the Chiefs defense kept points off the board, but it did back their offense up to start the next possession. The unit gained some space right away, though, with Mahomes finding Hill for a 14-yard gain to the 15. But that was as far as Kansas City went, with the Tampa Bay defense getting yet another stop. A Kelce drop on third down brought Tommy Townsend out for another punt. He booted a nice one and Pringle made a great tackle on the other end of the field, but a holding call backed things up and brought on a re-kick. The next punt was a stinker, as it went just 29 yards. That meant the Bucs would start their next drive at the Kansas City 38 with 9:03 to go in the first half.
An end-around to Brown lost three yards for the Bucs on the opening play of the next possession, then Brady and Gronkowski connected for a nine-yard pickup to bring up 3rd & 4 at the 32. The Bucs then caught a break on the next play, as Fournette tipped a Brady pass to Tyrann Mathieu for an interception, only for it to be negated by a holding penalty elsewhere in the secondary. That gave Tampa Bay a first down to Kansas City’s 27.
Two Fournette runs later, the Bucs missed on 3rd & 5 and brought Succop out for a 40-yard field goal. He drilled it right down the middle, but the Chiefs were offsides, giving Tampa Bay five yards and a huge first down. On the very next play, the Buccaneer offense took advantage. Brady found Gronkowski, who fought through another defensive hold, for a 17-yard touchdown. With Succop’s PAT, the Bucs had a 14-3 lead with 6:05 to go in the first half.
Mahomes hit Kelce for a 13-yard pickup to open the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, a possession that they badly needed to take control of. A four-yard pass to Hardman and another 12-yarder to Kelce got the ball into Tampa Bay territory with just over four minutes left in the first half. Mahomes kept the drive moving on the next play, getting another first down with his legs to set Kansas City up at the Bucs’ 36. A seven-yard run by Edwards-Helaire and an 11-yard pass to Kelce got the Chiefs inside the red zone for the first time on the night. That brought up the two-minute warning, at which Tampa Bay led 14-3.
White got Hill for a loss of one yard after the two-minute warning, then Kelce picked up another five yards to bring up a 3rd & 6 at the 14-yard line. Barrett and a host of Bucs got after Mahomes on third down, forcing him to backpedal and backpedal before throwing incomplete. Butker then came on and hit a 34-yard field goal, getting Kansas City within 14-6 with 1:01 left in the first half.
Mickens returned the Kansas City kickoff to the 29-yard line, setting the Buccaneer offense up there with 55 seconds left and one timeout to work with. Instead of going for points right off the bat, the drive started with a Fournette run up the middle. He got nothing, which led the Chiefs to use their first timeout as they hoped to get it back. Brady found Godwin for eight yards on the next play, getting down to the 37. The Chiefs called another timeout, hoping a third-down stop would get them the ball back with time to work with. But on 3rd & 2, Brady and Gronkowski linked up again for a first down. Tampa Bay then put itself in position for more points as Evans drew pass interference on a deep ball, getting the ball down to the Kansas City 24. Then, Fournette caught a nine-yard pass to the 15. From there, things got interesting.
The Bucs called their final timeout, and Brady wanted to go for a touchdown. He looked Evans’ way, and another pass interference call on Mathieu brought up a first down at the 1. One play later, Brady found Brown for a touchdown that extended Tampa Bay’s lead. After the play, some jawing between Mathieu and Brady led to an unsportsmanlike call on Mathieu, further unraveling things for the defending champions. With Succop drilling the PAT, the Bucs went up 21-6 just before halftime.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Mahomes took a knee to send us into halftime. While The Weeknd took the stage to deliver a memorable performance, the Chiefs were looking for answers and the Bucs were looking to make preparations to manage their lead for another 30 minutes.
After a short return on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Chiefs got things going. Edwards-Helaire broke free for a 26-yard gain to the Kansas City’s 45—the team’s longest play of the night. A pass from Mahomes to Kelce got another eight, then Edwards-Helaire picked up another 10. Darrel Williams picked up a couple of yards on the next play before Hardman was stopped on a catch for no gain to bring up a 3rd & 7. Barrett nearly got to Mahomes on third down, but he got the throw off. David was there to knock the pass away from Kelce, though, forcing a long field goal attempt. Butker drilled the 52-yarder, bringing the Chiefs within 21-9.
Butker makes the 52-yard attempt! pic.twitter.com/PVz4cn5ldT— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) February 8, 2021
Starting their first second-half drive from their 26, the Bucs quickly found themselves facing a 3rd & 4 after a three-yard Fournette run and a three-yard catch by Brown. Tampa Bay converted to keep the drive alive, with Fournette picking up 12 yards to the 44-yard line after a short pass from Brady. Another short Fournette run then set up a 25-yard pass from Brady to Gronkowski that got the Bucs down to Kansas City’s 27. And on the very next play, Playoff Lenny struck again. He worked his way into the end zone from 27 yards out, extending the Tampa Bay lead to 28-9 with 7:45 to go in the third quarter.
On the Chiefs’ next drive, Barrett finally got to Mahomes. On 2nd & 7, he forced his way into the backfield and brought him down, forcing a 3rd & 13. And then more pressure on third down, namely from David, forced a Mahomes heave that was tipped by Mike Edwards and intercepted by rookie Antoine Winfield Jr.
With a short field to work with, the Buccaneer offense started at Kansas City’s 45-yard line. Fournette started the drive with a 15-yard catch and a six-yard run before a couple of short runs by Jones picked up another first down to the 19. But the drive ended there, with a couple of incompletions and then a bad snap on third down pushing Tampa Bay to the edge of field goal range. Succop came out and made sure the Bucs didn’t come up empty handed after the turnover, nailing a 52-yard field goal to make it a 31-9 lead with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
The Chiefs took over with a ton of work to do, going from their 25-yard line. They put together their best drive of the game at the right time, with Edwards-Helaire picking up some nice runs before a 21-yard pass from Mahomes to Hill and a 13-yard pass from Mahomes to Sammy Watkins got the ball down to the Bucs’ 29. But that brought the game to the end of the third quarter, with Tampa Bay 15 minutes away from glory as it held a 31-9 lead.
Mahomes opened the fourth quarter with a 17-yard strike to Kelce, getting inside the red zone. White stood up Edwards-Helaire at the line on the next play, though, then an incomplete pass brought up 3rd & 9 at the 11. Mahomes somehow, some way got a throw off under heavy pressure on the next play, but his pass fell incomplete and forced a do-or-die fourth-down try with 13:43 left in the final quarter. But first, the Chiefs called their first timeout.
After the timeout, the Bucs got a massive stop. William Gholston put heavy pressure on Mahomes, who yet again managed to get a ridiculous throw off. However, the pass hit his receiver in the helmet and fell incomplete, giving the ball back to the Bucs with their 22-point lead intact.
Tampa Bay went to work on the clock, with Jones breaking off runs of four, seven, eight and four to get down to the 35-yard line. As the clock ticked under 11 minutes, it was Fournette’s turn for a carry. He got four yards, then the Bucs picked up another first down with a pass from Brady to Brate. Fournette then got another eight before getting stopped on second down, bringing up 3rd & 1 with just over eight minutes left. A deep shot to Gronkowski fell incomplete, but Tampa Bay did a solid job with that drive in draining some clock. By the time Pinion’s punt was caught at the 8-yard line, there was just over eight minutes left and the Bucs still had a 22-point lead.
Mahomes found Kelce for a 33-yard gain on the first play of the Chiefs’ next possession, but the Bucs halted some momentum on the next play. A host of defenders dropped Mahomes for a sack and a loss of eight, with both Barrett and Ndamukong Suh in on the play. Kansas City eventually got a first down thanks to a roughing the passer call and the offense continued to move from there, but with the clock nearing five minutes with the score still being 31-9, the Bucs were content to give up the short plays. And, just for good measure, at the 5:09 mark, a streaker came running across the field to send us to another commercial break.
After the streaker was removed, Suh and Cam Gill got to Mahomes for a loss of 13. On 3rd & 33, Hill caught a 23-yard pass. But a fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 3:58 left and with that, the celebration was just about on. Winfield squatted down to give Hill a peace sign, drawing an unsportsmanlike flag but making for what will likely be an iconic moment nonetheless.
Antoine Winfield Jr. taunts Tyreek ✌️ pic.twitter.com/KdToMizPjq— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 8, 2021
The rest of the game was simply a formality, as the Bucs went three-and-out and punted back to the Chiefs. It looked like Kansas City was going to find a garbage time touchdown, but a tipped pass was intercepted by Devin White in the end zone to seal the deal.
A few kneel-downs later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were Super Bowl Champions. There’s not much else to say. The dream season was complete. Going “all in” paid off with the sport’s biggest prize. The 2020 Buccaneers are champions forever.
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS! pic.twitter.com/X2slO2g6xW— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 8, 2021
A football fairytale pic.twitter.com/MYEq09WAkL— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) February 8, 2021
Quick Notes & Stats
- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s Super Bowl experience paid dividends in the first half, with the two connecting five times for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
- For the first half as a whole, Brady finished 16-of-20 for 140 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the game 21-of-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns to no turnovers.
- Gronkowski finished with six receptions for 67 yards and those two scores.
- Leonard Fournette, a.k.a. “Playoff Lenny”, came through again for Tampa Bay. He ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while catching four passes for 46 yards.
- Ronald Jones II did his part in the run game as well, rushing for 61 yards on 12 carries.
- Devin White finished as the Bucs’ leading tackler, coming up with 12 tackles (eight solo), with two for loss and an interception.
- Lavonte David finished with six solo tackles and two passes defended.
- Antoine Winfield Jr. shined on the big stage, racking up two passes defended and a huge interception.
- Tampa Bay’s defense was all over Patrick Mahomes. The Bucs totaled three sacks and eight quarterback hits, making life crazy for the young stud.
- In fact, Mahomes was under so much pressure that the Chiefs were held without a touchdown for the first time in his career. And with a final margin of victory for the Bucs being 22 points, the Chiefs suffered thier first loss by double-digits under Mahomes’ direction.
- Tampa Bay’s first half was wildly different than Kansas City’s. The Bucs had the edge in first downs (18-9), total plays (35-30), total yards (194-124), yards per play (5.5-4.1), red zone efficiency (3-of-4 to 0-of-1) and time of possession (16:41-13:19).
- Penalties were a huge story in the first half, with the Kansas City defense struggling to keep up with the Tampa Bay receivers. The Chiefs were flagged eight times for 95 yards in the first 30 minutes, while the Bucs were called for just one offsides penalty.
- According to ESPN Stats & Info, Brady was pressured on 9.5% of dropbacks in the first half, while Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 57% of dropbacks.
- By winning his seventh Super Bowl, Tom Brady now has more than every franchise in the NFL.
- The Buccaneers’ second Lombardi Trophy came much like its first did: dominant defense and an efficient offense that didn’t make mistakes.
- Appearing in his first Super Bowl as a head coach, Bruce Arians earned his first Super Bowl ring as a head coach.
- Tom Brady was named the Super Bowl’s MVP, earning the honor for a fifth time.