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Super Bowl LV grades


The Buccaneers stopped the Chiefs from becoming the second 21st-century franchise to repeat as champion, stampeding to their second Super Bowl title instead. Here are the grades and fallout from Super Bowl LV.

 

1 of 15

O-line issues catch up to Chiefs at worst time

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes could not overcome a backup-laden offensive line or his team’s unreliable run game. Without their top three O-linemen from their Super Bowl-winning season, the Chiefs (16-3) unraveled against the Buccaneers’ elite D-line. The Bucs preyed on the Chiefs’ missing tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, pressuring Mahomes a Super Bowl-record 29 times. Tampa Bay (15-5) erased Tyreek Hill, who smoked the Bucs for 269 yards in Week 12, and Mahomes could not find auxiliary receivers enough (not for lack of trying). Next Gen Stats measured Mahomes at 497 yards spent scrambling — most of any QB in the past five seasons — but he could not evade his first blowout loss.

CHIEFS OFFENSE GRADE: F

 

2 of 15

Bucs newcomers deliver in home Super Bowl

Bucs newcomers deliver in home Super Bowl

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The offense with the best Q rating in Super Bowl history saw its new cogs come through. Using play-action on a season-high 43% of his throws, Tom Brady was efficient in a game that did not require much from the legend in the second half. Brady come-with guy Rob Gronkowski’s two-TD day upped his season total against the Chiefs this season to 12 catches and 173 yards, and Leonard Fournette punctuated his steady playoffs with 135 scrimmage yards. Even Antonio Brown scored a crucial TD, leaving Jameis Winston’s go-to guys Mike Evans and Chris Godwin three catches combined. Tampa Bay’s four TDs doubled as a coronation for once-embattled GM Jason Licht.

BUCCANEERS OFFENSE GRADE: A-minus

 

3 of 15

Chiefs lose both trench battles in rout

Chiefs lose both trench battles in rout

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City stopping Ronald Jones to complete a second-quarter goal-line stand proved an aberration. The team that has not featured a top-20 run defense since 2015 could not stop Fournette from breaking the game open after halftime and could not pressure Brady consistently. The only team with two D-linemen making $20 million per year, the Chiefs pressured Brady four times — the fewest in the quarterback’s 10-Super Bowl career. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense left Gronk open for both his TDs, saw a second-quarter penalty binge negate a key INT, and later allowed the Bucs to drain the clock and prevent a comeback.

CHIEFS DEFENSE GRADE: D 

 

4 of 15

Shaq Barrett leads defensive outing for the ages

Shaq Barrett leads defensive outing for the ages

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A backup in Super Bowl 50 — a game that saw Von Miller torch Mike Remmers — Barrett performed a strong Miller impression Sunday. The former UDFA generated a season-best eight pressures; he and Jason Pierre-Paul dominated backup Chiefs tackles, Remmers and Andrew Wylie. Barrett hit Mahomes four times and added his fourth sack of the playoffs. Ndamukong Suh registered 1.5 sacks and led a punishing last-ditch drive for Mahomes. The Bucs’ 29 pressures broke a 29-year-old Super Bowl record, helping their secondary neutralize this era’s premier aerial attack and atone for its November debacle. The Chiefs became the third team in Super Bowl history not to score a touchdown.

BUCCANEERS DEFENSE GRADE: A-plus

 

5 of 15

Chiefs’ comeback mojo elusive in Super Bowl encore

Chiefs' comeback mojo elusive in Super Bowl encore

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With their offensive line outmatched and defensive front facing a solid Bucs O-line, the Chiefs needed to hope their passing attack could overcome those issues. The first half ended with 69 Mahomes passing yards, six weeks after he shredded Tampa Bay for 354 in the prior game’s first half. Andy Reid was unable to shield his superstar from an onslaught, with the Chiefs using five-man protections on 92% of their dropbacks. Kansas City’s blend of pre-snap creativity and quick-passing precision ended up being irrelevant, like its run game — which would have been helpful against Tampa Bay’s two-high safety looks — and Chiefs halftime adjustments accomplished little.

CHIEFS COACHING GRADE: D-plus

 

6 of 15

Todd Bowles unveils all-time game plan

Todd Bowles unveils all-time game plan

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets ended Bowles’ four-season run as their head coach two years ago; the Bucs defensive coordinator should have another shot soon. Usually blitz-reliant, Bowles blitzed at a 9.6% rate — his lowest in the past five seasons, per Next Gen Stats — and mixed up coverages to stall Mahomes. After Hill incinerated the Bucs deep in November, Tampa Bay used a two-high safety look on 87% of its Super Bowl snaps. Mahomes’ 52.3 passer rating was the worst of his stellar career. While the Packers nearly erased a three-score lead two weeks ago, the NFL’s premier passing attack did not come close. Like Bill Belichick two years ago, Bowles delivered an all-time Super Bowl coaching effort.

BUCCANEERS COACHING GRADE: A-plus

 

7 of 15

Game turns on historic penalty barrage

Game turns on historic penalty barrage

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs erased two-score deficits five times over the past three playoffs. But a seven-penalty, 90-yard second quarter led to the Bucs turning a four-point lead into a 15-point edge by halftime. Officials gave a thumbs-down on physical Chiefs coverage; a few of the calls were questionable. A defensive hold on Charvarius Ward negated a Tyrann Mathieu INT; a neutral zone call and two pass interference penalties — the last one, on Mathieu, coming on an uncatchable end zone toss — further changed the game. No team had committed 90 yards in penalties in a quarter since September 2018. No single-quarter penalty yardage eclipsed this in 54 prior Super Bowls.

 

8 of 15

Bucs continue No. 1 offenses’ Super Bowl misfortune

Bucs continue No. 1 offenses' Super Bowl misfortune

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the 21st century, No. 1-ranked offenses have endured a futile existence on the NFL’s global stage. The Bucs’ rout of the Chiefs marks the seventh time since 2000 a No. 1 scoring or total offense has lost a Super Bowl. Those units are 1-7 in Super Bowls this century, with only the 2009 Saints prevailing. The Chiefs came in with the No. 1 scoring attack. They went 16-1 with Mahomes and scored 20-plus points in all but one of those games. The 2002 Bucs are part of this Super Bowl club, shutting down the Raiders’ No. 1 total offense. But that squad was tops in defense. This one ranked sixth, further highlighting Sunday’s performance.

 

9 of 15

Chiefs’ tear ends in front of worldwide audience

Chiefs' tear ends in front of worldwide audience

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Since taking over for Alex Smith in 2018, Mahomes has started 53 games. In the previous 53, the Chiefs were 43-10 and had not lost by more than eight points. Kansas City’s previous two-digit loss came against Dallas in November 2017. Mahomes’ most recent occurred in November 2016 — a 66-10 Texas Tech defeat against Iowa State. The Chiefs ended the 2018 season with an overtime loss, when Dee Ford’s offside infraction gave the Patriots new life and completed the best regular season in franchise history this year. Despite being the most dominant team over the past three years, the Chiefs will end this stretch with one title.

 

10 of 15

Brady rises onto unassailable perch

Brady rises onto unassailable perch

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brady now has three more Super Bowl wins than any other quarterback. #QBWinz is comically overused, but there is no denying the Bucs QB is a Mt. Rushmore NFLer. Otto Graham won seven titles; Browns and Lions center Frank Gatski won eight. But four of those Cleveland crowns came in the All-American Football Conference. The Bucs and 2018 Patriots defenses only allowing 12 combined points in Super Bowls LV and LIII made Brady’s road to rings 6 and 7 easier, but the five-time Super Bowl MVP was the undeniable variable that catalyzed Tampa Bay’s second Super Bowl march. Being able to serve as such at 43, without Belichick, represents one of Brady’s signature achievements.

 

11 of 15

Arians soars into history, too

Arians soars into history, too

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The oldest head coach ever hired, at age 66, became the oldest Super Bowl-winning HC two years later. Unretired in 2019, Bruce Arians coached during a 2020 season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic despite being a three-time cancer survivor. The former offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger did not land a top job until age 60 and was 2-for-6 in playoff berths prior to this season. Arians hired three minority coordinators in Tampa and gave Byron Leftwich play-calling duties after the young coach’s rough debut in Arizona. After once vowing he would re-retire if the Bucs won a Super Bowl, Arians will be back.

 

12 of 15

Chiefs fall just shy of lofty expectations

Chiefs fall just shy of lofty expectations

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs returned 20 starters from their Super Bowl LIV champion, generating immense expectations. Despite the AFC producing eight 10-win teams, the favorite left no doubt. The Chiefs delivered the first 14-2 season in their history but finished with just a plus-111 point differential — 14th-best in franchise annals — and went from Week 8 through the divisional playoff round without a two-score win. The sum of the Chiefs’ parts seemed greater than the final product, and they ended as the sixth team to lose a Super Bowl after winning it the previous year. Only one of those teams, the 2018 Patriots, made it back the following season.

 

13 of 15

Bucs complete remarkable transformation

Bucs complete remarkable transformation

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019, Jameis Winston completed his 30-30 season for a 7-9 team. Licht was 0-for-6 in playoff berths and 34-62 in his GM tenure. But Tampa Bay’s ’19 defense ranked fifth in DVOA, presenting a foundation. Licht and Bruce Arians (with help from Evans and Godwin) recruited Brady, beating out the Chargers, and the team drafted impact starters Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr. Arians and Brady’s rocky start morphed into eight straight wins. A Bucs franchise that has never had a true franchise QB completed an offseason for the ages, with Arians and Brady recruiting All-Pros to Tampa and leading one of the great get-rich-quick efforts in NFL history.

 

14 of 15

AFC still goes through Kansas City

AFC still goes through Kansas City

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

GM Brett Veach extending Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones last summer created a rare opportunity for a long-term title window. Recent Super Bowl champions have declined once their quarterback signed a monster extension. The Ravens slunk out of the picture under Joe Flacco; the Seahawks slipped from great to good; the Eagles are on a rebuild precipice. But the Chiefs’ Reid-Mahomes pairing is unmatched and has the team positioned as the Super Bowl LVI favorite. However, the impending cap decline will place an even greater premium on Kansas City drafting starters. High-priced free agents may be out of the question.

 

15 of 15

Champs have big decisions to make

Champs have big decisions to make

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay’s hired-gun trio — Gronkowski, Fournette, and Brown — is a month from free agency. So are Barrett, Godwin, Suh, and longtime linebacker Lavonte David. This presents a puzzle for Licht, even with a top-10 cap-space figure. The Bucs have indicated they want to keep Godwin — the top tag candidate — and Brown, with Gronk still on a Brady-or-nobody QB policy. Barrett cannot be allowed to leave. This glut of expiring contracts aside, the Bucs can expect to attract more ring-chasing veterans. Next year’s NFC derby figures to still feature the Packers and Rams. Barring a substantial Brady decline, the Bucs will be a central figure as well.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.





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