This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
I enjoyed that game, mostly because it mostly went the way I had predicted, though I wasn't bold enough, given the extent to which the Buccaneers defense dominated. The better defense tends to outperform in Super Bowls, and I will go back to that well whenever applicable for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, I won only $150 on this game after losing $1200 on last year's, a game in which the top defense was up 20-10 in the fourth quarter with 10 minutes left and had the ball after picking off Patrick Mahomes. It's not only about being right – it's also about right-sizing your bets and not being a nutless monkey after getting burned once in half a quarter of play. Live and learn.
I watched the first half of this game live, including the last half hour of the endless, redundant and preachy pre-game, and all the commercials. Maybe I don't remember because I don't watch commercials these days, but were they always so full of virtue-signaling and indoctrination?
Accordingly, because it was late in Portugal – and I shuddered to think of the messaging around the halftime show, a spectacle I've long detested even in the best of times – I went to sleep with the Bucs up 21-6 in the first half and watched the edited version of the second half this morning.
- Tom Brady (more on him below) played well and didn't make any mistakes, though the Bucs were bailed out on a couple first-half drives by ticky-tack fouls. The Tampa defense, holding the Chiefs to nine points was the bigger story, though.
- It turns out not even the great Patrick Mahomes, who made some incredible escapes and was let down a few times by his receivers (Demarcus Robinson, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all dropped would-be big plays), can function in the face of an all-out assault. The Bucs had only three sacks, but were in Mahomes' face all day:
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) February 8, 2021
In other words, the Bucs got more pressure on Mahomes than the 1985 Bears got on Steve Grogan.
- Leonard Fournette (16-89-1, 4-4-46) had a great playoffs. He has officially diverged from the Trent Richardson career path to the Marshawn Lynch one.
- Rob Gronkowski (7-6-67-2) is the greatest tight end of all time. Some think Travis Kelce will catch him in a few years, but Kelce is only five months younger! And Gronkowski is a better blocker.
- Brady threw three TD passes, all of which were to players (Gronk, Antonio Brown) who sat out the 2019 season.
- Brady has now played 19 seasons as a starter (I'm excluding 2008 when he tore his ACL in Week 1.) He's made the playoffs 18 times, the Championship Game 15 times the Super Bowl 10 and won it seven. Brady has 12,248 passing yards in the playoffs, Ben Roethlisberger is second with 5,757. Brady has 80 postseason passing TDs, Aaron Rodgers is second with 45 and Drew Brees third with 37. Brady is first in regular-season passing TDs and second in yards, but should eclipse Brees early next year. Despite being second all-time among QBs in regular season games played (one game behind Brett Favre), Brady is 33rd all-time in interceptions. He's Mariano Rivera, Wayne Gretzky and Jerry Rice – without peer in his position's career accomplishments, and his position is the most important in professional sports.
- That said, the story of this particular game was the Buccaneers defense. The importance of quarterback play is paramount, but quarterback play is often as much determined by what he's up against as the player himself.