As I sat down to enjoy the good eats my wife had prepared for me to enjoy this year’s penultimate game, I was extremely optimistic of what was to come as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.
Yup, that’s right hosted, as the Buccaneers were the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. As a fan, I’m happy for Bruce Arians who wins his first NFL title as a head coach. He also has three African-American coordinators running his units in Byron Leftwich, Todd Bowles and Keith Armstrong.
They all had their units ready to play and play at a high level. Their offense found a groove early, their defense harassed Mahomes all night and their special teams were solid in the return and kicking game.
Now to the game itself.
As a fan and coach, I never felt there was much flow in the first half and that was due, in large part, to the very one-sided officiating we all saw. First and foremost, I’ve never been one to ever blame the officials but as a coach, I know how hard it is to summon the energy and wherewithal to stop a team and then have a phantom flag give them a first down.
Now you’ve gotta do it all over again. In a game of this magnitude, you can’t make some of those bogus calls that completely change the trajectory of the game. The refs as a whole were pretty bad and their calls in the first half led to two Buccaneers touchdowns and negated a huge Chiefs interception that would’ve stymied momentum.
Momentum is huge in all sports but especially in football and those unfortunate and very questionable calls were too much to overcome before halftime.
The Chiefs went into the half down 21-6 and it was in part to their own play and the zebras. The second half wasn’t much different as the officials did decrease their role in the game but the damage had already been done. The Buccaneers completely dominated and deserved to win and I’ll never take that away from them, but as a fan I wanna see less official interaction and more of the players deciding the game. All year the Chiefs have feasted on big plays and chunk yardage gains and when that didn’t happen, they became impatient.
The pressure the Bucs created without having to bring extra bodies was huge and it played a role in limiting the big plays by the Chiefs that we’ve become accustomed to.
Mahomes, Reid and Bieniemy, the brain trust of that offensive juggernaut, were not willing to take the underneath stuff they were given and try to go on ten to twelve play drives to score.
Mahomes went into this game knowing he’d be without his two starting tackles and then head coach Andy Reid’s son an assistant with the team was involved in an alcohol-related incident on Thursday which injured two young children, with one having life-threatening injuries.
Couple that with the team deciding to not arrive in Tampa until yesterday, which I believe was a mistake, for this reason — you need to get a feel for the stadium and its surroundings and yes you played there during the season but that was two months ago. Chiefs receivers were slipping all over the place.
This game was won by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and his very normally blitz-happy defense, which played much more coverage while getting pressure from its down four defensive linemen. His team pressured Mahomes a Super Bowl record (29) times while only having to blitz him (6) times with (3) sacks. Mahomes did look bothered by the turf toe that he’s had the last few weeks.
I’ve never seen the Chiefs offense look so befuddled and out of sorts for an entire game. They’ve had stretches where they start slow and then just go on a scoring barrage, like last postseason when they trailed by double figures in every game (24-0), (17-0) and (20-10) before storming back to win all three with the final comeback being in the Super Bowl.
Tonight that wasn’t happening with the protection compromised from the jump, a semi hobbled quarterback, and a Bucs defense that was embarrassed about two months ago, smelling blood in the water.
So now it’s on to next season for both as we expect Brady to return at age 44 , which he’ll turn by the beginning of next season. Their young defense should be intact for the most part and they’ll have to make some vital decisions like what to do with wide receiver Chris Godwin and his impending free agency. Will Gronk return after he and Brady became the all-time duo for postseason touchdowns with (14) surpassing Montana and Rice (12)?
As for the Chiefs, they’ll get last year’s postseason star Damian Williams back at running back. They’ll also get All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz back as well as he was sorely missed late in the season. Will former #1 overall pick and left tackle Eric Fisher be able to return and protect the blindside of their superstar quarterback?
I personally think they’ll need to draft a young up and coming blindside blocker to keep Mahomes upright. And to avoid being the Colts of the Peyton Manning era, they’ll need to draft some defensive talent so this team is a little more balanced for the long haul with a generational talent like Mahomes. Both teams will be in a position to make another run next season, but I like the Chiefs to once again be the SB favorites heading into 2021.