Super Bowl LV was a little more lopsided than expected, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really did look like the home team at Raymond James Stadium en route to a 31-9 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs, denying the reigning champions a shot at back-to-back titles.
Often when there’s a game between two phenomenal teams and quarterbacks like Bucs legend Tom Brady and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, there can be winners and losers on both sides. When it came to Super Bowl LV, though, that wasn’t really the case.
Check out Sportsnaut’s biggest Super Bowl LV winners and losers below.
Biggest winners from Super Bowl LV
Tom Brady, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A seventh Super Bowl victory. At age 43. In his first year with a new team. Does anything more need to be said about Tom Brady? This section could just end here, along with his stat line of 21-of-29 passing, 201 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 125.8 passer rating.
But this latest landmark achievement felt like something much grander.
Brady broke away from the New England Patriots after two decades in the same offense and forming a dynasty with head coach Bill Belichick. Despite the obvious talent on Tampa Bay’s roster, the team did go 7-9 the previous season, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the offseason program was much more limited than it otherwise would’ve been.
This prevented TB12 from getting to know the coaching staff and his new teammates better. It didn’t matter. Like he always has, Brady defied the odds, guided the Bucs through adversity all year long, had them peaking after a late Week 13 bye, and they wound up rattling off eight straight victories, including the Big One.
Beyond the obvious prowess Brady has as a passer and the longevity of his career and resultant accomplishments, he may be the best leader of all-time in major North American team sports. That’s the kind of gaudy stature Brady is taking up these days. His legacy is transcending GOAT status in the NFL at this point.
The scary thing? Brady is winning even harder when you think about how he’ll be even more comfortable with the Bucs next season. In other words, they could be even better. This man isn’t going to stop any time soon, and it’ll help keep his veteran coach Bruce Arians feeling young.
Rob Gronkowski, tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What would Super Bowl Sunday be without a patented Gronk Spike — or two?
For the first time in his career, Brady orchestrated a first-quarter touchdown drive in the Big Game when he found Gronkowski on a craftily designed crossing route concept for an eight-yard scoring toss.
Gronkowski smiles through any haters who try to slow him down. Some had the nerve to say he was washed up at the beginning of this season as he worked his way back into football shape. What he Super Bowl LV touchdown really proves is Gronk has plenty left in the tank — he’s just taken on more of a blocking role since the Bucs are so loaded at the skill positions.
But just when no one really expected it, Gronkowski leaked free into the flat and found the end zone for the 13th time in the playoffs from Brady, which is the most for any tandem of QB and pass-catcher in NFL history, per ESPN’s Field Yates.
Oh, Gronk wasn’t done, though. He found pay dirt again in the second quarter as Brady was well-protected in the pocket and eventually found his ever-reliable big target in Gronkowski breaking free downfield:
Seems a little gratuitous, doesn’t it?
Well, at least to New England Patriots fans who are probably weeping in either joy, sadness or both while watching Brady and Gronkowski ham it up in the end zone at the Super Bowl.
Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Might as well group the Bucs’ offensive and defensive coordinators here under one section, because they stuck to their guns under the most pressure imaginable, against a supreme adversary, and played a huge role in the Bucs coming out on top.
While Arians’ winning storyline is more sentimental — and, well, somewhat on theme with Brady in terms of the longevity narrative — what Leftwich and Bowles did is nothing short of spectacular.
Let’s start with Bowles. Written off as a head coach due to his coming up short during his tenure with the New York Jets, Bowles is proving he deserves another crack as a leading man. To baffle the likes of Mahomes, Andy Reid and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy is no small task.
Whether it was simulated pressure, or just playing to his players’ strengths, there was no situation or down and distance Bowles wasn’t prepared for. He helped mitigate the impact of superstar playmakers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, which is pretty much unheard of.
Now, for Leftwich. Arians deservedly gets a lot of credit for the “no risk it, no biscuit” football philosophy. It’s Leftwich who’s ultimately at the controls of the Buccaneers’ call sheet.
Whether it was the creative ways of getting the tight ends the ball in their hands in the short passing game, or executing in critical spots, Leftwich balanced a pragmatic approach with plenty of deep shots that kept the pressure on the Chiefs’ secondary and forced a ton of penalties that led to points.
Leftwich didn’t relent, nor stray too far from what the Bucs did well. He added enough wrinkles to keep Kansas City off-balance. It was a masterfully called game by another minority coach who should garner head coaching consideration soon enough.
And in that vein, Bowles and Leftwich aren’t in the same section to diminish each man’s individual contribution to Sunday’s outcome. They’re in tandem to represent the united, complementary championship effort they put forth in Super Bowl LV, which underscored how the Bucs have two worthy black assistants who can thrive as head coaches in the NFL.
Give it up for Leftwich and Bowles. Recognize their greatness and big part in all this.
Leonard Fournette, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cast off from the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, who own the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft, Fournette’s NFL future was very much up in the air before Brady lured him to Tampa Bay.
“Playoff Lenny” came to play, that’s for sure. Often maligned for his inability to catch the ball out of the backfield, the bruising ball-carrier showed his full arsenal of skills in Super Bowl LV, racking up 89 yards on 16 carries and 46 more yards on four receptions. His highlight play came on a breakaway TD run to put the Bucs up 28-9 after the extra point.
Fournette has revitalized his career with the Bucs to say the least, and not only proved he could still be an effective playmaker, but could even carry the load for a championship team.
As much as Tampa Bay’s receivers get a lot of shine, it was actually Fournette and Ronald Jones who made it really difficult on the Chiefs’ suspect run defense and ultimately kept the Bucs balanced enough to prevent Mahomes and KC’s offense from getting into a flow.
Biggest losers from Super Bowl LV
Andy Reid, head coach, Kansas City Chiefs
For as good as Reid usually is off a bye, his Chiefs came out completely flat, and that’s on him.
Reid has been notorious throughout his career for mismanaging the clock and getting outcoached in the biggest spots. That was actually kind of the case in last year’s Super Bowl before Mahomes spurred an epic comeback against the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, this isn’t to take away from all that Reid has achieved. It was just plainly obvious which team on Sunday night was more prepared and ready to roll in Super Bowl LV. It wasn’t the Chiefs. They had the chance to make history, and came out flat. The offense was out of sync, the defense got pushed around, and penalty flags were flying all over the place.
It was an undisciplined, disorganized and ill-prepared Kansas City team that took the field against the Buccaneers. Uncharacteristic though it was from the seemingly unstoppable Chiefs, all that is a reflection of Reid failing to come up with a viable game plan to defeat an opponent K.C. had jumped all over for 17 unanswered points to begin its 27-24 Week 12 win over Tampa Bay.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Super Bowl LV officiating crew
On a tipped ball in the second quarter that was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Charvarius Ward was whistled for a defensive holding penalty that wiped out a possible game-changing big play for the Chiefs defense.
That play could’ve kept the Bucs off the board, as they benefited from strong starting field position thanks to a shanked punt by Tommy Townsend. A boneheaded offsides penalty on a Tampa Bay field goal attempt extended the drive thereafter, and that led to Gronkowski’s aforementioned second score.
By halftime, the Chiefs had racked up a whopping eight penalties for 95 yards. Most of those came on sloppy efforts from the secondary, who weren’t locked in and got too grabby against the Bucs when they unleashed their vertical passing attack.
Some of the call that went against Kansas City were a little dubious, yet most of the errors were of the easily avoidable mental variety, or simply instances of star players like Mathieu and Chris Jones letting their emotions get the best of them and drawing personal foul, 15-yard flags.
All the laundry the Chiefs generated at Super Bowl LV cost them a chance to build much of a rhythm in the early going, and forced them to play from behind. It was too much to overcome this time around.
Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs
That leads us into this section. Mahomes had time to heal up his turf toe injury and showed no ill effects from the head injury that forced him out of the Divisional Round against Cleveland.
With all the extra time to prepare and get at least a little healthier, it just seemed like Mahomes and the offense weren’t on the same page from the jump. He finished with two interceptions and completed just 26 of 49 passes for 270 yards.
We’ve seen Mahomes put on his Superman cape and rally Kansas City from behind before. He led his team back from double-digit point deficits in every single playoff game last year en route to a Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl MVP honors.
It’s difficult to figure out who to blame, but for a player of Mahomes’ caliber, there’s no excuse for how awfully he played. With weapons like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at his disposal, he should’ve been able to find a way to make more plays than he did.
On the other hand, maybe the Bucs just had a sounder game plan to get it done. It sure looked like Mahomes was more unsure of himself than usual throughout the evening, which should offer fanbases in the AFC at least some hope that they can challenge Kansas City next year.
Tyreek Hill, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
What happened to the man who absolutely destroyed the Buccaneers for 269 yards receiving in Week 12 and gave Tampa Bay defenders the peace sign on one end zone jaunt and even put up the peace sign as he broke the plane on another occasion?
Pro Football Focus highlighted just how stark the contrast was between what Hill did before versus what happened in Super Bowl LV:
Hill was a shell of a player we saw the last time he torched the Bucs. Again, so much credit goes to Bowles’ game plan and the youthful, hungry Tampa Bay secondary that fed off the atmosphere on the Super Bowl stage and didn’t played scared of Hill’s world-class speed.
The final stat line was uninspiring and somewhat misleading: seven catches on 10 targets for 73 yards, and that total included several inconsequential, longer gains later on when the outcome was already very much decided.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Chiefs adjust from here. Obviously, no one has been able to take Hill away on a consistent basis, much less just about shut him down when it really mattered.