On September 10, 2020, the first pandemic NFL season was underway. 267 games later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became champions, beating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians captured his first title as a head coach, while quarterback Tom Brady secured his seventh ring, giving him more than any single franchise in NFL history. Brady would earn his fifth Super Bowl MVP as well.
The game’s location at Raymond James Stadium was a point of interest, as it would in effect be a home game for the Buccaneers. It was the first Super Bowl played where the host city had made it to the game. That, coupled with multiple Chiefs players injured or in COVID-19 protocols after a potential exposure to the team barber, may have had an effect on the complexion of the game.
What was supposed to be a high-scoring matchup of two top offenses started off fairly slowly as both teams punted at least once before any scoring. Tech graduate Harrison Butker hit a 49-yard field goal with around five minutes left in the first quarter to begin the scoring, but the Buccaneers responded with a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski near the end of the quarter.
Following a Kansas City punt that only went 27 yards, Tampa drove down the field to set up a goal-to-go situation. After short runs on first and third down plus an incomplete pass to a lineman on second down, the Buccaneers faced a fourth and goal from the one-yard line.
Ronald Jones II took the handoff from Brady and looked for a hole, but was met by Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu at the goal line and kept out of the endzone, preserving a 7-3 score.
Another short Kansas City punt followed, and this time Tampa Bay capitalized. After an offsides penalty gave the Buccaneers a new set of downs inside the 20-yard line, Brady and Gronkowski connected on a wide open pass for their second touchdown of the game, increasing their lead to 14-3.
The Chiefs responded with another Butker field goal, cutting the deficit to eight. A third Brady touchdown pass, this time to wide receiver Antonio Brown, pushed the margin to 15 as Tampa took a 21-6 lead into halftime.
After The Weeknd’s halftime performance, Kansas City started the second half with the ball. They mustered a field goal after the drive stalled at Tampa’s 34-yard line, but the 52-yarder off Butker’s foot would be their last score of the game.
The Buccaneers responded with a touchdown drive capped off by a 27-yard run by running back Leonard Fournette. A 52-yard Ryan Succop field goal following an interception thrown by Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes set the final margin of the game at 31-9. The remainder of the game saw the Chiefs futilely trying to score as they turned the ball over on downs in the red zone twice and Mahomes threw a second interception in the endzone on Kansas City’s final drive. Tampa kneeled out the clock and captured the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory, the first ever won in front of home fans.
The game was defined by defense, specifically Tampa Bay’s. It seemed like every time Mahomes dropped back he was bothered by the pass rush, and his numbers reflected that. He went 26-49 for 270 yards and two picks, and most of those yards came in the fourth quarter with the game falling out of reach.
Tampa recorded ten quarterback hits and three sacks in a dominant day against one of the league’s best quarterbacks. A depleted Chiefs offensive line contributed to the pressure, but Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquill Barrett and other Tampa defenders routinely got in the backfield.
The secondary held up when Mahomes could even get a pass off, defending nine passes and securing interceptions by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and linebacker Devin White.
Mahomes failed to break 100 yards until nearly the end of the third quarter and had to make several throws on the run trying to bail out his receivers.
Tampa had little trouble with Kansas City’s defense for most of the game. Brady was only sacked once and had three touchdown passes to only four incompletions at the half. He finished 20-29 for 201 yards and three scores, posting efficient albeit not eye-popping numbers.
Tampa ran for 145 total yards as Fournette and Jones each averaged over five yards per carry. Fournette’s third quarter touchdown run gave the Buccaneers a three-score lead that would hold, and both backs got touches while Tampa ran out the clock in the fourth quarter.
Penalties were a large contributor to multiple Buccaneers scoring drives. The Chiefs finished with a whopping 11 penalties for 120 yards, stalling drives and giving the Buccaneers unearned chances in critical moments.
The last two Tampa touchdowns before halftime were both set up by defensive penalties, and the lack of flags thrown on the Buccaneers, only four for 39 yards, prevented the Chiefs from capitalizing on mistakes.
Nearly 25,000 fans were present at the game, including a few thousand vaccinated healthcare workers being thanked for their contributions.
Referee Sarah Thomas became the first woman to officiate in the Super Bowl.
Brady announced postgame that he would return for another year, and both teams are projected to be early favorites for a title next season.