By: Jack Sendek
Who knew back in September that Super Bowl LV would exist, given all the worries and concerns associated with Covid-19? Nevertheless, Super Sunday has come and left, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ousting the Kansas City Chiefs from their title throne. Tom Brady (aka the G.O.A.T) has cemented his relentless presence in the Super Bowl with his 7th ring. With that in mind, let’s take a look back on this unique postseason, the road to victory for the Buccaneers.
Despite Covid-19 outbreaks and game postponements, the NFL playoffs began with the Wild Card Round on January 9. Going into the week, many fans wondered how the 7-9 Washington Football team would fare against the top squads. Washington clinched a playoff berth because the NFC East, which also includes the NY Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles, was horrific this year. Unsurprisingly, Washington was one-and-done, falling to the Buccaneers 31-23. As expected, the Bills, Saints, and Ravens prevailed over the Colts, Bears and Titans, respectively. The real upsets of this round were the Seahawks’ loss to the Rams and the Steelers’ loss to the Browns. The 12-4 Seahawks suffered two turnovers that led to touchdown drives for the Rams, losing their first home playoff game under long-time coach Pete Carroll in the process. With regards to the Steelers and Browns, many argue that the result of the game wasn’t an upset at all. After starting the season with an undefeated record through 11 games, the Steelers, 1-4 in their final five games, lost all momentum heading into the playoffs. In contrast, the Browns were on fire, winning six of their eight final games of the season and clinching their first playoff berth in 18 years against the Steelers in Week 17.
Moving on to the divisional round, the Chiefs and Packers showed they were worthy of the two first round byes (previous NFL seasons featured four byes between the two conferences). After strong performances in the Wild Card Round, the Browns and Rams were sent home. The Ravens, fresh off the first playoff victory of Lamar Jackson’s career, were held to just three points by the shutdown Bills defense. When the Bucs faced the Saints, fans learned that to win a game, a team must win the turnover battle. Drew Brees, who is expected to retire after this season, threw three costly interceptions, allowing Tom Brady and the Bucs to score 17 unanswered points en route to a 30-20 victory.
In the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs’ star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, returned to play despite a scary concussion during the divisional round. In a 38-24 win over the Bills, Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to superstar tight end Travis Kelce. With a strong run game featuring a touchdown apiece by Darrel Williams and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs booked their ticket to Tampa to defend their Super Bowl title.
The Buccaneers traveled to Green Bay to face the Packers for the NFC title game. Despite throwing three interceptions in the championship game, Tom Brady won his way to his 10th Super Bowl appearance. For reference, no other quarterback has started in more than five. The Buccaneers didn’t make it pretty, but they held off a two touchdown second-half comeback attempt by the Packers to seal the bout at 31-26. An acrobatic 52-yard catch by receiver Chris Godwin, and a historic performance by cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting—becoming the 4th player in NFL history to record an interception in each of his first three playoff games—demonstrated the Bucs’ potential to stop a repeat win by the Chiefs.
Super Bowl Sunday (or The Super Bowl Weeknd if you will) was one for the history books. Referee Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. The Buccaneers made history by becoming the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl hosted at its home stadium. In the 31-9 Bucs victory, Tom Brady won his 7th Super Bowl, more than any other franchise in history (the Steelers and Patriots both have 6 titles). Even with Brady in the limelight, the Tampa Bay defense played an influential role in the Bucs’ 2nd Super Bowl victory. Former NY Jets coach Todd Bowles led the Bucs defense to shutting out Patrick Mahomes from scoring a touchdown. One takeaway from Sunday’s game is that Tom Brady is not going anywhere; he is not passing the torch just yet.