Bruce Arians said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed to believe they were good enough to be Super Bowl champions. They did, and now they are.
The Buccaneers captured the second NFL title in franchise history on Sunday with an utterly dominant 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. They were the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, and now they are the first to win one on their own field. The 2020 Buccaneers join the 2002 team as the first two to capture a Lombardi Trophy in the team's 45-season history. Given the strength of the roster that was demonstrated by the lopsided outcome on Sunday, those might not be the end of the Buccaneers' championships.
"Hell no, I ain't going anywhere," said Arians when asked about the possibility of retirement after his first championship as a head coach. "I'm coming back trying to get two, and then we'll see after that. But this football team, I love these guys. We have a great staff, a great team and hopefully [General Manager] Jason [Licht] can get together and keep most of them and try to repeat."
The arrival of quarterback Tom Brady as a free agent in March allowed the Buccaneers to cement the belief that they could compete for a title, and Brady's 47 touchdown passes in 19 games was pivotal to getting the team to a 20th contest in February. He then threw three more touchdowns against no interceptions on Sunday night, completing 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards and a 125.9 passer rating.
"I think everybody believed we could win," said Brady. "I think through the last…really all year we believed in ourselves, our coaches believed in us. We were going up against a great team tonight and were just happy to get the job done."
Brady extended his own all-time NFL record with his seventh Super Bowl championship and became the first quarterback to win two titles after the age of 40. After winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, Brady also joins Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to start Super Bowl victories for two different franchises.
Brady was named MVP for his efforts, the fifth time he's collected that particular trophy. This time, his final kneel-down triggered a hail of red-and-white confetti on the Raymond James Stadium and a long valley of cannon fire from the famous pirate ship in the north end zone. While playing at home and being considered the home team as the NFC representative, the Bucs did not get to include many of their usual in-game flourishes, including cannon fire after touchdowns. But they didn't have to wait long to feel truly at home.
"I think they're all special," said Brady of winning another Super Bowl. "This has been an amazing year, an amazing year. We got off to a good start, then had a little rough stretch where we kind of found our identity and then played a lot better down…December, January. I'm just really proud of all the guys, proud of all the coaches, the effort we put in. We knew were playing a great football team tonight and we got the job done. You want to get this far you've got to get the job done, and we did it."
Brady led the Buccaneers to their second championship in a Super Bowl that was understandably and rightfully billed as a battle between the "greatest of all time" and the young phenom who many believe could one day approach his accomplishments, Kansas City's 25-year-old quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes won NFL MVP honors in his first season as a starter in 2018 and then Super Bowl MVP accolades a year ago when the Chiefs beat San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. However, the expected gunfight never materialized as Tampa Bay's swarming defense pressured Mahomes throughout the night and never let him breach the end zone.
Super Bowl LV marked the first time since Mahomes became a starter that the Chiefs failed to score a touchdown in a game, regular-season and postseason combined. It was the first time Mahomes was held without a touchdown pass since Sept. 29, 2019 against Detroit. Overall, Mahomes completed 26 of 49 passes for 270 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 52.3 passer rating. That's the lowest single-game passer rating in Mahomes' career so far.
"We had a great game plan," said ILB Lavonte David, who broke up two passes and had five tackles. "We didn't even blitz a lot. We just let our D-Line eat, guys underneath took care of the coverage, guys took care of the deep balls and then we took care of everything underneath, me and Devin [White]. We were able to eliminate what they wanted to do and just fly around make plays."
While Brady was masterful on Sunday night and had helped reshape the Buccaneers' team culture for the last 11 months, he was far from the only star on offense in Super Bowl LV. Most notably, running back Fournette continued his "Playoff Lenny" postseason breakout, recording 135 yards from scrimmage and scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. With Ronald Jones adding 61 yards on 12 carries, the Buccaneers ran for 145 yards and 4.4 yards per carry.
"He's been fantastic, running and catching and pass-blocking," said Arians of Fournette. "He's been an all-around back and he's done a great, great job for us."
That success on the ground added bite to the Bucs' play-action game, which they used extensively throughout the night. Tampa Bay ran multiple long series out of jumbo sets with extra lineman Joe Haeg on the field and were able to succeed both on the ground and through the air out of that personnel. The only blip on the radar was a trick-play pass attempt to Haeg in the end zone that was broken up.
On defense, the winning strategy included more help over the top for the Bucs' cornerback and primarily a four-man rush that got the job done throughout the night. Mahomes was sacked three times, hit on eight occasions and hurried on a majority of his throws, especially down the stretch as the Bucs put away their double-digit lead by turning up the heat. Ndamukong Suh accounted for 1.5 of those sacks while Shaquil Barrett had one sack and four quarterback hits.
"Yeah, I thought all three guys had great plans," said Arians of Buccaneer coordinators Byron Leftwich (offense), Todd Bowles (defense) and Keith Armstrong (special teams). "Byron did a great, great job, I thought, of just mixing it up, run and pass, and then pounding them we needed to. And Todd had a great plan – keep them in front of us, let [Mahomes] run for it, get after him and they chased him around all night."
Early in the game, Mahomes responded to the blanket coverage downfield by running for first downs. He would finish with 33 yards on five carries but the Bucs' defense adjusted and completely bottled him up in the second half. Mahomes still extended plays with a string of incredible scrambles, but usually only to get off unlikely throws that ended in incompletions. Two of them ended in interceptions in the second half, one each by rookie S Antoine Winfield, Jr. and White, the second-year linebacker. White's pick came on Mahomes' last pass of the night, as he tipped a ball away from TE Travis Kelce and grabbed the deflection in the end zone. That pass came on a play snapped from the Bucs' 10-yard line; Kansas City did not get inside the Bucs' 10 the entire game and was zero for three in the red zone in terms of touchdowns scored.
"I can't give [Bowles] enough credit," said Arians. "I think he got a little tired of hearing about how unstoppable they were. I thought he came up with a fantastic plan just to keep him in front of us and tackle real well. Patrick wasn't going to beat us running; we'd let him run all day and just keep chasing him around and see if we could make some plays."
Kelce did finish the game with 133 yards on 10 receptions, much of it in the second half as the Bucs tried to make Kansas City burn the clock while moving the ball. However, speed-demon WR Tyreek Hill was held to just 73 yards on seven carries after he burned the Bucs for 269 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 12 Chiefs win at Raymond James Stadium. Most notably, of course, neither Kelce nor Hill found the end zone.
"It was never about Tyreek Hill," said cornerback Carlton Davis. "He's a good player, really talented, but it was always about us. It was never about them. I know the media wanted to make it seem as if to stop Tyreek was the whole game plan but we had to stop the whole offense. We had to stop the Chiefs. He's definitely a big part of that game but there was so much more than Tyreek that we had to do, and we went out there and did it."
The Buccaneers also proved to be the more disciplined team, something they had made a great effort to become as the season progressed. While the Chiefs were flagged 11 times for 120 yards the Buccaneers only drew four penalties for 39 yards. In fact, Tampa Bay's season-long improvement in this category was just one of many ways that the roster grew together and worked towards common goals.
"The whole team is unselfish," said White. "Think about this: We had one Pro Bowler and we were able to win the Super Bowl. How does that sound? It doesn't sound good. How do we have only one Pro Bowler but a team with no Pro Bowlers is able to go on and win the Super Bowl. Something's not right, but that's not what we played for. We played for the bigger picture. One team, one goal, and that's to put rings on our fingers."
View photos of the Buccaneers celebrating their Super Bowl LV Win.
Brady's first two touchdown passes went to his long-time teammate in New England, TE Rob Gronkowski. The first, an eight-yarder in the first quarter, gave the Buccaneers a 7-3 lead and they would never trail again. His second, a 17-yard grab in the second quarter, put the Bucs up 14-3 and the Chiefs would never again get closer than eight points down. Gronkowski led the team with six catches for 67 yards. WR Antonio Brown caught Brady's third scoring toss, a one-yarder right before halftime, as one of five grabs on the evening.
"It was just great to see big-time players making big-time plays," said Brady. "I just loved what they did, what they added to the team. Gronk's an unbelievable player – teammate, talent, work ethic, commitment – and AB, since he got here he's just done everything the right way. I'm so impressed by him, proud of him. It takes a lot of people for us to get to this point."
Notably, Brady, Gronkowski, Brown and Fournette were all new additions to the Buccaneers in 2020.
"You've got to give Jason Licht a ton of credit for this football team," said Arians. "He put a great roster together, picking up those guys and still staying cap-friendly. We've got a very limited time to get into free agency and we'll try to keep our guys, that's for sure."
The first three drives of the game all ended in punts, but Kansas City took the fourth one 26 yards on eight plays to set up Harrison Butker's 49-yard field goal. However, the Buccaneers scored touchdowns on three of their next four drives before halftime, the first two ending in touchdown passes of one and 17 yards to Gronkowski. The second of those two scores came after the Bucs took three points off the board when the Chiefs lined up offside on a 40-yard Ryan Succop field goal. Enjoying excellent protection, Brady found Gronkowski on the very next play after the tight end had time to turn his original out-breaking route back inside.
The Chiefs followed with their longest drive of the first half but were stopped in the red zone and once again settled for a Butker field goal, this one from 34 yards out. The Bucs appeared willing to run out the last minute of the half after that, but the Chiefs burned two timeouts trying to force a punt to give Mahomes one more shot before halftime. Instead, Brady completed second and third-down passes to move the sticks. Now it was Arians' turn to be aggressive and he dialed up a deep shot that drew a long pass-interference penalty. A second pass-interference all, this one on S Tyrann Mathieu, made it first-and-goal at the one with 10 seconds left and Brady used that opportunity to throw a third touchdown pass of the half, this one to WR Antonio Brown. Mathieu was subsequently flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after going after Brady following the score.
The Bucs thus took a 21-6 lead into halftime and a clear edge in the battle between the top two passing attacks in the NFL during the regular season. Brady's precision 16-of-20 passing led to a 135.4 passer rating at halftime while Mahomes was held to a 56.2 rating on nine-of-19 passing.
View photos of Super Bowl LV vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.
Additional game details (scoring plays in bold):
The Buccaneers got the ball first, starting at their own 23 and almost immediately facing a third-and-seven. Brady tried to hit Godwin on an out to the left sticks but the ball was just out of his reach and the Bucs had to punt, with Bradley Pinion's kick rolling to a stop at the Chiefs' 33.
The Chiefs also faced a third-and-seven in their first series as Barrett stormed in and forced Mahomes into a spiked incompletion. However, Kansas City converted, with Mahomes seeing tight coverage downfield but an escape route out to his left as he scrambled for 11 yards. The coverage was strong again on the next snap so Mahomes ran left for another two, but his next two passes were incomplete, including a deep shot to Mecole Hardman on third-and-eight, and the Chiefs had to punt, as well.
After a touchback, the Bucs started again at their own 20. That drive got off to a great start when Jones picked through a gap on the right side and powered for 13 yards. However, a tricky end-around to WR Scotty Miller was completely shut down by Kansas City for a loss of three. A quick five-yard curl to TE Cam Brate made the third down more manageable but Brady suffered the first sack of the game at eh hands of Frank Clark and the Bucs had to punt again.
The Chiefs got a quick first down near midfield on the next possession on a five-yard end-around by Hill and a five-yard run up the middle by Edwards-Helaire. What looked like a designed run to the left by Mahomes got another first down and the ball into Bucs' territory. After an option play between Mahomes and Edwards-Helaire was swarmed over by White to make it third-and-11 from the Bucs' 31 and Winfield broke up a pass at the goal line intended for Hill. The Chiefs brought on Harrison Butker and he nailed a 49-yard field goal for the first points of the game.
The Bucs' next drive started at their own 25 after a kickoff touchback and the Bucs brought out a jumbo unit and ran Fournette up the middle twice for nine yards. Brady gave it to Fournette again on third down and he got the yard need plus five more. Still in their jumbo package, the Bucs used play-action on the next two plays and drew a defensive holding and a 16-yard catch by WR Antonio Brown. Now at the Chiefs' 39, yet another play-action set up a nifty tight end screen to Brate who weaved through the middle of the field for 15 yards. Brady finally handed it off to Fournette on the next down and he bounced off a pile in the middle to dash out right for another 11 yards. Two plays later, Brady looked to his old Super Bowl pal, Gronkowski for an easy eight-yard TD hookup out to the left side.
Byron Pringle grabbed a bit of momentum back for the Chiefs with a return of the ensuing kickoff out to Tampa Bay's 37, but OLB Jason Pierre-Paul leaped to break up Mahomes' first-down pass. The first quarter came to an end on six-yard catch by Kelce, his first reception of the game. To start the second period, OLB Anthony Nelson pressured Mahomes off the right edge and his pass attempt to RB Darrel Williams was off target. The Chiefs' punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 30. Tampa Bay's drive got a boost when DT Chris Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the second play, making it first-and-10 at the 48. Jones got the ball across midfield with a quick bounce around right tackle for eight yards, then tacked on another eight on the next play. Brady then faked a handoff and had plenty of time to find Evans cutting left to right for a 31-yard catch-and-run down to the Chiefs' six. Brady called a timeout after getting to the line on first down, then Jones ran for four yards to the two. However, a trick play just failed when Brady's pass to tackle-eligible Joe Haeg was broken up. The Bucs tried two runs over 350-pound blocker Vita Vea but Jones was stopped short both times. Arians challenged the fourth-down call but there wasn't a replay with enough information to overturn it.
The Chiefs thus inherited the ball just inside their own one-yard line with 11 minutes left in the first half. Hill got the Kansas City offense out of trouble with a short catch over the middle that he turned into a 14-yard gain. However, the Bucs' defense got the stop there to force a punt, and a holding call on the Chiefs' first kick forced another one from the eight. Tommy Townsend shanked his second try and it went out of bounds at the Chiefs' 37.
An underneath pitch to Brown around left end failed, losing three yards, but a crossing route led to a nine-yard catch for Gronkowski on second down. An interception by S Tyrann Mathieu that tipped off two players was erased by a defensive holding call on CB Charvarius Ward, making it first down at the Chiefs' 27. Two plays later, it was third-and-five and a pass over the middle to Evans fell incomplete. Ryan Succop came on to kick a 40-yard field goal and nailed it but the Chiefs committed an offside penalty and the resulting five yards made it first-and-10 at the 17. Brady enjoyed a very long time in the pocket on a play-action pass and eventually found Gronkowski for their second touchdown hookup of the night.
With six minutes left in the first half, the Chiefs started their next drive quickly with a seam pass to Kelce for 13 yards. Two plays later, Mahomes improved a quick pass to Kelce on a scramble and got 12 more to the Bucs' 46. Another Mahomes scramble was good for 10 and a first down and two plays later an instant replay of the previous Mahomes-Kelce improv got the ball to the Bucs' 18, bringing on the two-minute warning. A quick tackle of Hill for a loss of one by White helped put Kansas City into a third-and-six and a swarm of pass-rushers forced an incompletion on the next play. Butker came on again and hit a 34-yard field goal to trim the Bucs' lead to six points with just under a minute left in the first half.
The Chiefs had all three of their timeouts remaining and tried to use them to get the ball back one more time before the break. After Fournette was stopped for no gain on first down, Arians let Brady throw on the next two downs and he moved the sticks with completions of eight yards to Chris Godwin and five to Gronkowski. That's when Arians and Brady struck again as, with just 24 seconds left, the Bucs eschewed a kneel-down and threw deep to Evans down the left sideline. Evans had a step on Breeland, who had to trip up the receiver, drawing a 34-yard pass interference penalty. That made it first down at the Chiefs' 24 with 18 seconds left in the half and Brady threw over the middle to Fournette for 15 yards to the nine, with Arians calling timeout from the sideline with 13 seconds left. With no timeouts to work with, Brady quickly threw over the top of Evans' head on the next play but Mathieu was flagged for another pass-interference penalty, making it first-and-goal at the one. The Bucs had one more crack at it before having to settle for a field goal and Brady made it count with a one-yard touchdown dart to Brown.
Pringle ran the kickoff out to start the second half but only got to the 19. However, a tricky spinning handoff to Edwards-Helaire sprung the rookie back for 26 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Edwards-Helaire evaded Barrett in the backfield and got all the way down to the Bucs' 37. The Bucs' defense held again, this time with David providing blanket coverage on Kelce, forcing a Mahomes scramble and then eventually knocking away a late pass to the Chiefs tight end. Butker stayed perfect on the night with a 52-yarder to make it 21-9 with 11:26 left in the third quarter.
The Bucs faced an early third down on the ensuing drive but Brady converted with a sharp pass over the middle to Fournette, who picked up 12 to the 44. Two plays later, a play-action fake worked perfectly to spring Gronkowski open down the middle and his catch-and-run was good for 25 yards to the Chiefs' 27. Fournette did the rest, following a pulling block by left guard Ali Marpet around right end and running the rest of the way untouched for the score.
The Chiefs went into hurry-up mode on the next drive but it was the Bucs' defense that turned up the heat. Barrett got to Mahomes on second down for Tampa Bay's first sack of the night, and the Chiefs QB was pressured again on third down, heaving one downfield in the direction of Hill. S Mike Edwards came up to knock it away and Winfield caught the deflection for an interception at the Chiefs' 45, the first turnover of the game.
The Bucs brought out their jumbo package again but Brady faked a handoff on the next play and then threw to Fournette, who rumbled for 15 yards to the 30. After Jones converted a third-and-one on a pitch out to the right, Brady tried to float one to TE Tanner Hudson in the end zone but it was just out of his reach. Godwin landed out of bounds on a second-down catch, making it third-and-10, and the drive then ended when a high snap went through Brady's hands. He managed to fall on it back at the 34, giving Succop a chance to hit a 52-yard field goal, which he did for a 31-9 Buc lead.
The Chiefs got a quick first down on a defensive holding call and another one on a run up the middle by Edwards-Helaire but then Hill committed a false start to make it first-and-15 at the Kansas City 37. David then dived to break up a pass to Kelce but Mahomes moved the chains with a strike to Hill crossing right to left for 21 yards. WR Sammy Watkins' first catch of the game, over the middle for 13 yards to the Bucs' 29 and the third quarter came to an end on an incompletion. The first play of the fourth quarter was a slicing Kelce catch across the middle for 17 yards. After a run by Edwards-Helaire for just one yard and a scrambling incompletion, Mahomes went off on a lengthy jaunt around the field but eventually threw incomplete to the back corner of the end zone. The Chiefs went for it on fourth down, though they had to burn a timeout before running the play. The next play was yet another insane scramble, with a diving Will Gholston tripping up Mahomes, who heaved a pass to the end zone as he was falling. White broke it up to turn the ball over on downs.
Obviously content to move the sticks and drain the clock, the Bucs brought in the jumbo group again and Jones ran four straight times for 23 yards and two first downs. A four-yard Fournette run and a six-yard catch-and-run by Brate moved the chains again, and three plays later the Bucs faced a third-and-one at the Chiefs' 46. Brady faked a handoff and tried to go deep to Gronkowski and it was incomplete. The Bucs elected to punt with eight minutes to play and Bradley Pinion's kick was fair caught at the seven.
Mahomes started the next drive with a 33-yard strike to Kelce but he was sacked on the next play by Suh for a loss of eight. Mahomes was nearly sacked and forced into a desperate incompletion on second down but Jason Pierre-Paul was flagged for roughing the passer, taking the ball out to the Chiefs' 48-yard line with seven minutes to play. A sliding catch by Kelce got a first down at the Bucs' 40. A nifty sidearm pass to Hill over the middle converted a third-and-short at the Bucs' 27 but the Chiefs then drew a holding penalty to move it back 10 yards. As the clock neared five minutes left, Mahomes threw down the middle towards Kelce, with Jamel Dean breaking it up and Edwards nearly catching the deflection. On the next play, Suh and rookie OLB Cam Gill met at the quarterback for a 13-yard sack back at the midfield stripe. Mahomes got a lot of it back with a short pass over the middle to Hill against a sagging defense, making it fourth-and-10 back at the 27. Mahomes was once again quickly flushed and had to heave a desperate throw towards the goal line before going out of bounds. Hill was the intended target but Winfield got in front of him to break it up. Winfield also drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for flashing the peace sign at Hill, but the ball was still turned over on downs.
The penalty moved the ball back to the Bucs' 13 with four minutes left to play. Two runs and a deep shot to Brady later, the Bucs punted with 3:41 left but no timeouts for Kansas City. Hill ran out of bounds with at their own 42. An incompletion and a short catch by Hill made it third-and-two at midfield. Edwards-Helaire took a short pass in the left flat upfield for 18 yards but the Chiefs drew a holding call on the next play to push it back to the Bucs' 42. Another Kelce catch down the middle and an incompletion made it third-and-four at the 26, and a short pass to Williams failed to move the sticks. The Chiefs converted the fourth down with a catch by WR Demarcus Robinson at the Bucs' 14 as the two-minute warning arrived.
Two plays later, Mahomes scrambled to his right and tried to zip one into Kelce at the goal line but White got a hand on it to pop it into the air and then came down with the deflection himself, kneeling in the end zone for a touchback. The Bucs' offense then needed just a pair of their own kneel-downs to bring Super Bowl LV to an end.