Kansas City is looking to become the first team since the 2003-04 Patriots and the ninth team overall to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash.
By Jeremy Gonzalez, Co-Sports Editor with Matt Barrero, Co-Sports Editor
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. CBS. 3:30 p.m. PST.
Raymond James Stadium. Tampa, Fla.
Kansas City Chiefs record: 16-2, AFC’s #1 seed.
A concussion suffered in the Divisional Round didn’t slow down Patrick Mahomes, who passed the protocol ahead of the game and tossed another three TDs to lead KC past Buffalo 38-24 in the AFC title game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers record: 14-5, NFC’s #5 seed.
Despite throwing three interceptions on three consecutive drives, Tom Brady and the Bucs did enough to overcome the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field and defeat the Green Bay Packers 31-26 to capture the NFC title.
The odd, different and unique 2020 NFL season has reached its finale with Super Bowl LV just on the horizon. No host team has ever played in the big game in its home stadium; until this Sunday. Pirates of the Caribbean make port; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team to accomplish this feat when they host the Kansas City Chiefs.
These two teams met back in Week 12 of the regular season where fans were treated to a thrilling 27-24 Chiefs victory. In the game, Mahomes threw for 462 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 124.7 quarterback rating. Brady performed well but came out on the losing end, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns along with two interceptions.
Both franchises are in a much different position since that Week 12 matchup. Tampa Bay has not lost since then and now face the team that gave them their last defeat at home. The Chiefs have proven themselves as the NFL’s best team over the last two seasons and have not lost by more than one possession since Mahomes took the starting job back in 2018.
Kansas City, last year’s Super Bowl winner, is back to defend its title and is looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the New England Patriots did in 2003 and 2004. The Chiefs had the top seed and lone bye week in the AFC, then outlasted the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round with Mahomes sidelined for nearly half the game before routing Buffalo in the AFC Championship.
The Bucs finished second in the NFC South to the Saints, sending them to the wild card route. That meant trips to Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay. And now, they are staying home for the big game.
Both teams had two weeks off after the conference championships, so each side should be well rested. The only edge in this game might be the Chiefs needing to catch a plane and bus ride to get to the stadium while the Bucs can just drive over as if it was a normal game day.
Come Sunday, both teams will be as eager as possible to get back on the field and write their own final chapter to an atypical season. With so many storylines leading up to the big game, let’s break down the epic quarterback battle and other key factors that could decide this year’s Super Bowl champion.
In The Pocket
These two superstar quarterbacks that will captain their teams in the Super Bowl this season will be tied together through this game and many other reasons altogether.
On the home team, the man under center is Tom Brady, already the true king of the NFL, who is attempting to go for a seventh ring. Brady, 43, is in his 10th NFL title game, but this time he’s with a new team, the Buccaneers. If he gets his wish, he would extend his record for a player and join Peyton Manning as the only QBs to win Super Bowls with multiple franchises.
Brady holds Super Bowl records for passing yards (2,838), single-game passing yards (505) and passing touchdowns (18). He is also the playoff leader in completions (1,085), passing yards (12,248), passing touchdowns (80) and wins (33).
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, the apparent heir to the quarterback summit, awaits on the opposite sideline and is seeking a second straight championship with Kansas City – trying to be the ninth team to win consecutive titles since Brady’s Patriots.
It’s no secret that Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL and has taken the league by storm since being handed the keys to the Chiefs kingdom. Mahomes (25) is looking to become the youngest quarterback to win multiple Super Bowl titles. Brady is the only other QB with two in his first four seasons.
Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three TDs without an interception in the AFC title game against Buffalo. He has 17 career postseason TD passes, the most by any QB in his first four seasons. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has a 109.8 passer rating in seven playoff games, the highest mark in NFL history. He needs 322 yards passing to break his own franchise record (901) for a single postseason.
This will be the first Super Bowl to feature the starting quarterbacks that won the previous two: Mahomes with the Chiefs last season and Brady with the Patriots the season before.
Mahomes (.830) and Brady (.757) have the highest and third highest winning percentage among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts since 1950.
The quarterback duel between Mahomes and Brady in the Super Bowl is one of the most highly anticipated matchups in recent memory as it pits the greatest quarterback ever against the one quarterback who has the skill and potential to overtake Brady.
In an interview with Kay Adams, Brady had the opportunity to share his thoughts on what he admires about Mahomes and his bright future.
“He’s got the athletic ability to extend plays, he’s got all the physical tools and he’s got all the mental tools to be great,” Brady said. “He’s going to be in (the Super Bowl) quite a few more times in my opinion.”
If the Week 12 matchup is any indication of what’s to come, NFL fans are in for a fantastic performance (besides The Weeknd’s halftime performance). All eyes will be on the two team captains as kickoff approaches.
Offensive Weapons Galore
Both teams feature star-studded players on offense that can change the game with just one play.
Kansas City has arguably the best non-QB player on either sideline, the unanimous All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who had 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC title game. He only needs 91 receiving yards to break the record for a tight end in a single postseason (317) set by the Colts’ Dallas Clark in 2006.
“You just have to be able to control what you can control, and that’s what we do on the offensive side of the ball,” Kelce said in a press conference with the media this week. “At the end of the day we have to put up points throughout the game to give ourselves a chance in the 4th quarter.”
The Chiefs will also showcase the fastest player on either team in All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who just set the Chiefs record of 172 receiving yards in the AFC title game.
Hill and Kelce are the only teammates in NFL history with at least 100 yards receiving in consecutive playoff games in the same postseason. The duo have combined for 8,770 yards since the start of the 2018 season, passing the Hall of Fame duo of the Vikings’ Cris Carter and Randy Moss for the most by a pair in a three-year span.
And then there’s rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who averaged 4.4 yards per carry for the Chiefs. Kansas City’s offense ranks as the best in the NFL and will serve as a monstrous force in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay’s offense boasts their own weapons that, on their best day, can possibly rival the Chiefs. Running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II combine for a formidable one-two punch to go along with Brady’s expertise. Jones set career highs with 1,143 yards from scrimmage, 978 rushing yards and seven TDs in 2020.
Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans give Brady tall, physical receivers who have massive catch radiuses. Add in Brady’s old security blanket from New England with tight end Rob Gronkowski and there’s a three-headed monster that can shred NFL pass defenses in every which way.
Offensively, the Buccaneers ranked seventh overall. The Chiefs produced the best passing offense this season, led by Mahomes with his 4,740 passing yards and 38 TDs. Tampa Bay had the second best right after them. Despite having to learn a new system with a new coach, Brady threw for 4,633 passing yards and 40 TDs.
The two juggernauts could possibly go toe-to-toe in what is sure to be a high-scoring Super Bowl.
Defense Wins Championships, Right?
It’s easy to forget about both defenses when the focus of the game falls on the quarterback duel and the dynamic offenses.
Tampa has probably the best set of linebackers in the NFL with Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Devin White, studs up front in Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul and an improving secondary to round out the defense.
Barrett had three sacks against the Packers in the NFC title game and was the NFL’s sack leader one year ago. Overall, Tampa Bay had the league’s top run defense this season and overall had the sixth best defense.
The Chiefs have All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, linemen Frank Clark and Chris Jones leading the defense. Although they’re ranked towards the middle of the pack at 14, the bend but don’t break mentality has taken the team to the Super Bowl.
The two defenses will have their hands full when they attempt to stop the high-powered offenses. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, two innovative offensive-minded coaches, will engage in an intense chess match on the field as they try to break down the opposition to give their team the best chance to win. Ultimately, the game may come down to which defense can make a stop or cause a turnover at the most crucial moment.
Opening: Chiefs by 3.5. Total: 57.0
Saturday night: Chiefs by 3. Total: 56.0
Matt Barrero, co-sports editor: In what could be one of the best matchups in Super Bowl history, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will win back-to-back titles for the first time since the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots achieved the feat in ‘03 and ‘04. Brady and the Bucs will grab a 10 point lead late in the third quarter, setting up Mahomes and co., to stage another Super Bowl comeback in consecutive season finales. The passing of the torch will officially be complete, sending Brady into early retirement, (for his own standards). 35-32 Kansas City wins.
Jeremy Gonzalez, co-sports editor: Tom Brady is the best to ever do it and I learned not to bet against him. An opportunistic Bucs defense will bend, but not break as they cause timely turnovers. Brady will utilize every weapon the Bucs have on offense and toss four touchdowns, bringing Tampa Bay their second Super Bowl win while he strengthens his Hall of Fame resume with a record seventh Super Bowl title for himself. 38-31 Tampa Bay wins.