It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; the renaissance of the legendary veteran over the stunning collapse of the young superstar. On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs made the trip to Tampa Bay to compete against the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, facing the first home team to play in the big game. Anticipation appeared at an absolute peak with the superstar quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady at the helms of their respective teams. The two have faced one another a handful of times before and have always provided a spectacle to behold, including the unforgettable 2019 AFC championship game that preceded Brady’s last ring. Unfortunately, the powers that be did not have another nail-biter written in the stars for this installment of the rivalry.
The game started tight, with neither team proving themselves capable of scoring on their first drive. Kansas City caught a little momentum with a sack on the Buccaneers’ second drive, turning around and taking first blood with a field goal on the following drive. This would prove the only time they would taste a Super Bowl lead the rest of the night. A Tampa Bay offense operating on all cylinders would promptly respond with a touchdown, and that was all she wrote. The Chiefs would stop the Bucs one more time before allowing three touchdown drives in a row and a field goal as the cherry on top after that, offering nothing but a pair of field goals in response. The score at the half sat at 21-6. After the culmination of the reign of terror, Brady had etched the final score in stone, 31-9. No one scored in the final quarter.
In defense of the half-billion dollar man, Patrick Mahomes, the story never seemed one of failure out of the pocket. Tampa Bay’s defense wreaked havoc on every facet of the Chiefs’ offense. Mahomes, often feeling pressure and having to scramble or throw on the run, offered a slew of impressive targets off his heels — once even throwing an end zone attempt while floating parallel to the ground. This impressive throw, in tune with a handful of other disappointing incompletions throughout the night, hit the face mask of the intended receiver before falling uncaught to the ground. In many ways, the Missouri superstar looked his usual self, aside from a slight limp, a casualty from the Divisional matchup versus the Cleveland Browns, which limited the efficiency of the scramble.
In a reality few likely predicted, the true story of the night has more to do with penalties. The final stat sheet had the teams looking mostly equal, with Kansas City leading 350-340 in total yards and behind just 26-22 in first downs. In fact, the penalties column became the only stark differentiator between the two teams. Tampa Bay found themselves on the wrong end of four flags throughout the game, allowing 39 yards to such errors. On the other side, Kansas City made 11 of such costly errors, ultimately handing over a whopping 120 yards to their opponent. The inability to avoid the attention of the referees never looked so frustrating as it did toward the end of the first half, when an offsides penalty called on a Bucs’ field goal attempt granted a vital first down and changed a three-point drive into a seven-point one. In the next drive of the Bucs, the last of the half, a risky strategy from Andy Reid (calling timeouts after the two-minute warning in hopes of getting the ball back) gave Brady the time to move the ball up the field, and a huge pass interference call put them in place to score a touchdown just at the end of the half.
For the positive appraisals of the game, Brady once again looked his prime, setting the record for the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl at 43 years of age. This of course beats the last record of 41 years, when Tom Brady beat the Rams, which beat the record before that of Tom Brady beating the Falcons at 39. Accusations can fly, but the future Hall-of-Famer has certainly had a career of longevity. Super Bowl LV also saw the first female referee to officiate the big game, with Sarah Thomas operating as down judge just five years after being named the first female permanent NFL referee. Lastly, Bruce Arians set the record for oldest coach to win a Super Bowl at 68 years of age, the game already established as the oldest in combined coaching as he competed against the Chiefs’ 62 year-old Andy Reid. Arians’ mother Catherine attended the game in person at 95 years-old to see her son win his first Super Bowl as a head coach, presumably the oldest fan in the arena filled almost exclusively with vaccinated first health care workers.
After a year prepared for an array of torches passed, with many legendary quarterbacks looking destined for retirement, the only one apparently certain of his return for the next season just won his seventh ring. Mahomes and the Chiefs will get a chance to return next season and prove themselves still formidable, but the wall of Brady has yet to crumble. Both strongly retentive teams have the potential to look just as terrifying next year, so feel no surprise if Los Angeles hosts a rematch next year — this time taking Brady far from his home field.