If you've been to the movies lately (or brought the movies to you), you've probably noticed that every other release is a sequel, a remake or a franchise installment. And hey, not all sequels are bad. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to be working on one of their own in 2021 after winning Super Bowl LV to conclude their 2020 story.
In the same spirit, we're dusting an old franchise for this Fourth of July week. It's called "Give Me Five," and it's a list…with a twist. Here's the gimmick: Throughout this week, Staff Writer Carmen Vitali and I are going to take turns devising a top five list on a specific topic, only the list-maker does not get to choose that topic. Rather, I provide the topic and Carmen makes the list, and then vice versa the next day. Then, at the end, the topic provider will add some brief comments about the other person's list.
Got it? Yeah, it's just like last year.
I'll go first. Carmen, I hope you have fun with this one.
Today's Topic: What were your five favorite individual plays from the 2020 Super Bowl season?
Pretty straightforward, right? The only thing I would ask is that you make an effort not to take all of your picks out of the playoffs. Let's get some regular season representation in there. To me, the hardest part of this is only getting to pick five plays out of 20 very exciting games. But that's your problem, Carmen! Have at it.
Carmen: ONLY five? How am I supposed to pick ONLY five? I know, I know, that's the deal here so I will tell you five of my favorite plays. However, just so we're clear, my real list is not limited to just the following plays because I've rewatched the game as a whole more times than I can count and I don't think I'll ever tire of it. I'm also going to do my best to rank them, which is going to be even harder. No one is allowed to come after me for my choices because they are wholly subjective, as you'll well find out.
5. Leonard Fournette's 27-yard touchdown run.
This is just as much for Fournette as it is for his blockers, led by left guard Ali Marpet, who bounced all the way to the outside and provided a crucial lane while extra lineman Joe Haeg helped hold off the interior along with tight end Rob Gronkowski. Fournette then turned on the jets and went 27 yards into the end zone to put the Bucs up 28-9 with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
4. Shaq Barrett's sack on Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter.
This was the first sack of the game on Mahomes and it was validation that the way the Bucs were attacking the Chiefs' offense and its quarterback was working. The Bucs' defense had decided not to blitz Mahomes very often, with the Kansas City quarterback owning one of the best quarterback ratings against the blitz in the league during the 2020 season. Instead, they created pressure with four up front and it paid off as Barrett absolutely muscled his way past the left tackle as Mahomes' pocket collapsed on second-and-seven at the Chiefs' own 28-yard line. If Barrett hadn't gotten to Mahomes' legs, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was right there for the assist. The Chiefs' center completely gets lost in the mix, though Suh could have handled him and the right guard but it didn't end up being necessary thanks to the strength of Barrett.
Not only did the sack back the Chiefs up to a third-and-13, but safety Antoine Winfield Jr. would then pick Mahomes off for his first interception of the game, thanks in part to the third-and-long situation, on the very next play. The interception was another one of my favorite plays that didn't end up making this list, but it was a fantastic effort thanks to a tip from safety Mike Edwards, into the waiting arms of Winfield, who was in the right place at the right time. Winfield will show up later in this list, don't worry.
3. Rob Gronkowski's second touchdown.
I'd like to kind of rope both of Gronkowski's touchdowns into one but I chose this one of the two because of the throw. The first one Gronk scored was kind of an easy short pass where the Chiefs' defense bit on play action and by the time they recovered, Gronk was already in the end zone.
This second one in the second quarter required a bit more finesse on Brady's part and a bit more effort by his offensive line. See, Gronkowski wasn't Brady's first read. The Kansas City secondary had done their job taking away a few of Brady's options, despite the play fake to Fournette. Tight end Cam Brate was even lined up in the backfield in a fullback alignment with the Bucs in 12 personnel and Gronkowski attached to the line on the right side. Fournette sells the play fake the whole time, not adding any extra protection for Brady. Brate comes out of his three-point stance to then run a route, too. So, it's just the offensive line and no one bought the play action. They Chiefs only bring four and the line holds up, allowing Brady time to get through his progressions where he lands on Gronkowski in the end zone for the 17-yard score. Gronk also did a great job cutting inside and getting open in the end zone. If you had told me it was 2016 Brady and Gronk, I would have wholeheartedly believed you but what a treat to see it with them in Bucs uniforms.
2. Devin White's "one last indignity" of an interception.
The phrase "one last indignity" came from Jim Nantz, who was calling the game and referred to what would have been the 'dagger' if the Bucs hadn't already been up by so many points in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had managed to drive down the field and it looked like they were finally going to get a touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the game.
Devin White said, "Nah."
White was watching Mahomes' eyes as he looked toward the goal line, trying to find tight end Travis Kelce. Instead White was right there and wrestled it away from the Pro Bowler, crushing the Chiefs' hopes for anything positive to take away from Mahomes' most lopsided loss of his career.
1. Antoine Winfield Jr. throwing up the deuces.
With a defensive performance like that one that never allowed the potent Kansas City offense to score a single touchdown, you knew my favorite play had to be a defensive one. Unlike the others on this list, it won't catch your eye on the stat sheet. It wasn't a score, it wasn't an interception, it wasn't a sack.
But it was by far and away the play of the game and you can go debate a wall if you disagree.
What people don't really remember from this play is that defensive tackle Steve McLendon had chased Mahomes all over the backfield at the Bucs' 40-yard line, quickly forcing the Chiefs' signal caller to make a decision as he was about to be ran out of bounds. Mahomes being Mahomes and still trying to play super hero with four minutes left and a 22-point deficit to overcome, launches the ball toward the end zone where, to his credit, wide receiver Tyreek Hill had come back and was waiting.
The problem was, so was Winfield Jr.
In fact, AWJ almost had an interception, getting to the ball at the same time as Hill, but instead got the pass breakup. What he did next had me breaking the no-cheering-in-the-press-box rule as I looked on. Back in Week 12, Hill had caught a touchdown in front of Winfield in the lopsided first quarter that shall not be named. He proceeded to give Winfield the peace sign as he trotted into the end zone. Well, Winfield didn't forget. So when he denied Hill the touchdown this time, he then put up the peace sign in Hill's face.
I know it was a penalty but the place absolutely erupted. I looked at my coworker sitting next to me like, "Did he just do what I think he did?" It was all anyone talked about in the days that followed, with everyone agreeing that if Hill never got a penalty for his shenanigans, Winfield didn't deserve one, either.
Plus, Winfield turned it into a positive when he matched the fine amount he incurred and then donated it to the Bucs Youth Leadership Program to help give Young Middle Magnet School a new school store where students can hang out and be rewarded for academic achievements. After all that, how could it not be my favorite play?
Scott's Thoughts: Well, I think we got a bit of crossed signals here but I don't mind because it worked out for the best. In fact, in retrospect it probably would have been too difficult to pick just five plays from an entire 20-game season, given that it was righteously hard to narrow it down to five for just the Super Bowl. So you, the reader, might have been scratching your head a bit as you went down the list, but all's well that ends well.
I think the best part of the second Gronkowski touchdown, which is well described here, was the aforementioned cut back to the inside and how quickly Brady realized where he needed to put the ball. Gronkowski had quickly reversed direction on his defender but still only had 1.0 yards of separation from him when the ball was thrown, according to Next Gen Stats. By the time the ball arrived, Gronkowski had 3.8 yards of separation on the defender, making for an easy catch. Brady could see how open his tight end was about to be as soon as he cut back.
Overall it's a great list for anybody who felt like reliving Super Bowl LV for a few minutes. Well done.
For the record, when I thought this was going to be a list of five plays from the whole season, I was waiting to see if two of my favorites would make Carmen's list. One was Jamel Dean's pick-six against Green Bay in Week Six, which instantly turned what looked like it was going to be a long day for the Buccaneers into a very long day for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The other wasn't nearly as decisive in terms of the game's outcome, but I just can't get over how perfect the placement was on Brady's 33-yard back-corner touchdown pass to Scotty Miller in Las Vegas. He basically dropped it into a two-by-two square that gave Miller, and nobody else, just enough room to haul it in and stay inbounds.