It’s been nearly a week since the smoke has cleared from Super Bowl LV, a game billed as a quarterback duel for the ages that instead turned into the first non-competitive laugher of a championship game of the 10 that Tom Brady has been involved in.
And, naturally, it was Brady who came out on the victorious side for a preposterous 10th (!) time. I mentioned my self-guided “Brady Theories,” which actually pointed me in the wrong direction in the NFC Championship Game before I came to my senses for the Super Bowl. After all, Brady wanted to keep his name away from the top of the “Super Bowl loser” list with four alongside Jim Kelly.
This, of course, was a game that was won by more than just Brady. There was Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown contributing as a trifecta of ex-Patriots steered the passing game. There was Leonard Fournette, who was denied a Super Bowl appearance by the Patriots despite a stellar performance for the Jaguars in 2017. And, oh, yeah, there was a pretty good defense too.
I thought to myself that in the off-chance this game ended up being a blowout, it would be the Bucs doing the blowing out, even if conventional wisdom would seem to suggest the opposite. Anyone who has watched enough Super Bowls — including the other one the Bucs were involved in back in 2002 — knows that often times, the defensive-minded teams end up blowing out the offensive-minded ones, not the other way around. That played out true on Sunday.
Mahomes never looked quite right, perhaps in part because of the toe injury that required surgery just days later. Perhaps missing offensive line studs Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif finally caught up to the juggernaut offensive attack of the Chiefs. Perhaps the Britt Reid situation really was a distraction. And perhaps the Bucs learned just a thing or two after being torched for 543 yards of total offense, including 269 by Tyreek Hill, in the teams’ Week 12 meeting.
What it all added up to was a Buccaneer rout, much like they did to the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII despite being billed as an underdog in that game, too (not to mention, there was a potential distraction in that game, too, with Barrett Robbins disappearing on a bender the night before the big game). And once again, for a seventh time, Brady was hoisting the Lombardi trophy, doing so as the game’s MVP for a fifth time.
We could sit here all day and heap praise on the Bucs, especially a defense that held the Chiefs to an unthinkable nine points. Mahomes had never lost an NFL game by double-digits, so this must have really been a shock to his system. But I would also like to point out another so-called theory of mine, this one about the Chiefs: until proven otherwise, the Chiefs are still just what I like to call a “path de least resistance” team.
Think about it. First, there is Andy Reid. In his Hall of Fame-worthy career, Reid is 0-4 against Brady. He is 0-1 against both the Steelers and Colts, two of the other AFC mainstays in the 21st century. When confronted with facing the blueblood teams you often must slay to reach the top of the mountain, Reid and his teams have always fallen short. The same is true for the Chiefs franchise, as you can add two losses to Peyton Manning’s Colts (in 2003 and 2006) to that futility. It was only last year, with Brady and even the Ravens wiped out of the picture, that the path was clear for the Chiefs to take down the Texans and Titans, two franchises with one combined Super Bowl appearances and in the case of the Texans, nary an AFC championship game appearance.
Okay, beating the 49ers in the Super Bowl was no small feat, but consider this: it took until the 11th hour for Mahomes to overtake Brady’s backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, to pull out the win. Fast forward to this season, and the Chiefs’ two playoff wins were against two franchises that had not won postseason games in a quarter-century entering 2020. Though the compiled some impressive regular-season wins (including the aforementioned game against the Bucs), once again, the Chiefs had never truly lived up to that cliche of “to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
The same logic always applied to the Steelers, who reached Super Bowls in 2005, 2008, and 2010 by avoided the one team they couldn’t beat — Brady’s Patriots — all three times. Though they took the hard road in 2005 as a wild card team, they hardly needed to break a sweat for their 2008 and 2010 AFC titles. In 2008 they beat an 8-8 Chargers team and a rookie QB in Joe Flacco and the Ravens. In 2010 after an inexplicable meltdown by the Ravens, they faced a Jets team that was celebrating their playoff win over the Patriots like a Super Bowl victory and showed up completely flat in Pittsburgh the next week in the AFC title game.
Point being, this is still Brady’s show until someone dethrones him, and outside of Eli Manning and Nick Foles, no other signal-caller has been able to climb that mountain. Not even the great Mahomes. Brady continues to pioneer new records and reach new heights; in 2020 he did something he’d never done, which is win the Super Bowl without a bye. Heck, he’d never even won two road games in a single postseason, let alone three. The Bucs took the hard road, and as we’ve seen in past years (like with the previous four wild card teams), the team with the tougher path has emerged victorious on Super Bowl Sunday.
Brady is now 34-11 in his playoff career. The talk that Mahomes would catch Brady in Super Bowl rings, even with a victory in this one, is absurd. I do not believe in our lifetimes another player will win five rings, let alone six. Even four feels like a stretch. So we can officially put all that talk to rest. Mahomes is 6-2 in his postseason career, and of course both losses have come against Brady. Beating the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, and Garoppolo is one thing, but beating Brady is another.
Once again, Mahomes and the Chiefs were not up to the challenge. And no one should be the least bit surprised.
Regular season: 23-23
Final record: 31-28 (52.5%)