Football doesn’t have to be complicated.
Sometimes we get caught in the storylines so often that we can’t see the chess pieces assembled, and they're staring us right in the face. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the Kansas City Chiefs in position for checkmate — Lord in heaven, please let that be the correct jargon that I borrowed from Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” — before the opening kickoff.
But most of us failed to see it. I’ll speak for myself. Going into the Super Bowl, I harped on Kansas City’s makeshift offensive line trying to block elite pass rushers like Shaq Barrett so much that I felt like a broken record. I even wanted to place a wager on Barrett to be the game’s MVP, but there was that little voice inside that kept saying, “Patrick Mahomes has too many weapons.”
Mahomes is just too dynamic. The Chiefs will be able to score regardless of the offensive line issues. Give credit to Mahomes that he's so unbelievable at times that you can spend your entire life watching football and still believe that. Or at least want to believe it.
Silly me. That voice even talked me into a Clyde Edwards-Helaire possible Super Bowl MVP because the pressure would likely be combated with some check-downs in the flat to Edwards-Helaire, and we saw with LSU’s 2019 national championship season what Edwards-Helaire can do in those situations.
Despite Mahomes being a once-in-a-generation talent to go along with that incredible assortment of offensive weapons, Kansas City had no answers up front and a somewhat hobbled Mahomes had to run for his life for a full 60-minute game.
Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 drop-backs, according to ESPN stats and info, which is the most in Super Bowl history. Because the Bucs were able to generate pressure with four rushers (defensive coordinator Todd Bowles uncharacteristically blitzed just five times in this game), Tampa Bay got to play a two-deep to negate the Chiefs’ verticals while Mahomes scrambled for his life on every other pass.
So despite some fans being upset with some first-half penalties that gave Tampa Bay second- and third-chance opportunities on a late scoring drive, you have to tip your hat to the Tampa Bay coaching staff for keeping it simple.
Because that's what the Bucs won this game. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid. It works every time, especially when you have the advantages the Bucs had entering the game.
What did the Bucs do offensively? Well, they attacked the weakness of that Kansas City defense, which is the run defense. Tampa Bay smartly ran the ball, used screens and hit the Chiefs with perfectly timed play-action passes to counter the Chiefs’ aggressive defensive nature. It was a master class in coaching a game to your strengths and not letting the moment be too big for you. Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur could really take some notes from this one…
And yes, I’m nearly 500 words in and haven't mentioned Tom Brady yet.
That's because you already know about his greatness. What more needs to be said? Greatest winner in football history, and quite possibly the greatest winner in sports. He has my vote. Brady is playing chess. The rest of the NFL? Well, you know the drill…
In what was billed to be the greatest quarterback matchup of all time, we failed to see the game for what it truly was. Kansas City, not just Mahomes, limped into this game with irreplaceable players missing along the offensive line.
All Tampa Bay had to do was pin those ears back and get after a hindered Mahomes.
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, and for many of us, Super Bowl LV was difficult to break down because of those glamorous storylines.
The right team won Sunday. I’m just disappointed I didn’t see it coming a mile away.