Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid missed out on the chance to win back-to-back Lombardi Trophies following his team’s comprehensive defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on February 7. The 31-9 win was surprisingly routine for the Bucs and their iconic quarterback Tom Brady, who secured his seventh Super Bowl victory at the Raymond James Stadium in Florida.
For much of the 2020 NFL campaign, the Chiefs had been the sportsbooks’ favorites for the Super Bowl LV. Their young, dynamic roster looked more than capable of repeating their feat of last year against the San Francisco 49ers. In fact, despite their loss to the Buccaneers this time around, Kansas City remain the firm favorites to win the Super Bowl LVI, with FOX Bet’s Super Bowl LVI futures NFL betting market pricing them at +550, with the Bucs (+800) and the Packers (+900) predicted to be their closest challengers next term.
So, why will the Chiefs be looking for only their second Super Bowl in three years rather than a hat-trick of titles in 2021/22?
The Chiefs’ defense didn’t turn up
At the end of the regular season, the Chiefs’ defense was allowing only 22.6 points per game on average. Although this was only the tenth best defensive record in the league, it was still expected to be enough to underpin the firepower in the Kansas City arsenal. But for some reason, the Bucs were allowed to smash that average by more than eight points. No-one could get near Brady at times, with just two quarterback hits made in the entire game. With Brady on the loose, Tampa were always in control, with the 43-year-old able to use his experience to make a string of clever play-action passes and oversee an effective screen game.
The Bucs’ running game was also too much for the Chiefs to take too. Running back Leonard Fournette should receive the most credit, racking up a touchdown and 135 combined yards. Chiefs’ defensive tackle Frank Clark didn’t sugar coat things post-match, insisting that his team couldn’t expect to win such a big game by “missing tackles” and giving the Bucs’ danger men “an extra yard”.
Mahomes not “on the same page” with offense
At the other end of the field, Kansas City’s box-office quarterback Patrick Mahomes also failed to make an impression. Pre-game, Super Bowl LV was dubbed as the “Master Vs The Apprentice” as Brady and Mahomes locked horns. Unfortunately for Mahomes, experience and know-how triumphed on the day. In truth, the comparisons between the two are night and day. Brady now has seven Super Bowl rings and a glittering five Super Bowl MVP awards. By comparison, Mahomes has just one of each to his name, with his NFL career only just starting to rev its engine.
At times, Mahomes was let down by his wide receivers. During the first half, Mahomes unleashed an outrageous pass to receiver Tyreek Hill despite being off-balance. The pass looked like touchdown material all the way until the ball flew into Hill’s face grill rather than his hands. It was symptomatic of the rest of the contest for Kansas City, who were all too often outfoxed and outmanoeuvred by a well-oiled Bucs defensive line.
Eight first-half penalties gave the Chiefs an uphill task
One could argue that a little bit of ill-discipline crept into the Chiefs’ game too. Whether this was part of their pre-game plan or simply due to in-game nerves is anyone’s guess. However, the Chiefs gave away eight penalties for 98 yards in the opening half – the highest figure in Super Bowl history. Much of the damage was self-inflicted, with the Chiefs making errors during the Bucs’ fifth possession. In latter two quarters, after the Tampa crowd were treated to a half-time spectacle from The Weeknd, They would go on to end the game with 11 penalties to their name for 120 yards – uncharacteristically high for a team renowned for its discipline and shape.
Andy Reid and his Chiefs troops will go away and lick their wounds during the off-season before the fun and games begin again with free agency next month and the 2021 NFL Draft at the end of April.