Super Bowl LV takeaways: Brady is the undisputed G.O.A.T.

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February 8th, 2021

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrated a storybook ending on Super Bowl Sunday, as 43-year-old Tom Brady led his new team to the Promised Land.

On their home field at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs embarrassed last year's Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, and handed 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes the most lopsided loss of his career.

Ahead of Sunday’s matchup, bettors seemed certain the Chiefs were on their way to a second straight title, but Tampa Bay had other ideas.

The Bucs played their most complete game of the year on the NFL’s biggest stage, after a modified offseason seemed to hinder the team's chemistry during the first half of the regular season.    

Now that the confetti has settled and head coach Bruce Arians has dried off from his blue Gatorade bath, let’s look back on the final game of the 2020-2021 season and break down the three biggest takeaways from Super Bowl LV.

Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T., and the debate should end now

Some Brady detractors still refuse to label the seven-time Super Bowl winner the greatest of all time, but at this point, who else could it be?

"Tom Terrific" now has one more Super Bowl title than any one NFL franchise, and he collected his latest ring as the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history.

While he turned in a few subpar performances this season, anyone who has followed Brady's career knows the former New England Patriots QB comes on strongest in the postseason — particularly under the Super Bowl spotlight.

On Sunday night, Brady completed 21 of his 29 passes for 201 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

That production earned him his record fifth Super Bowl MVP Award.

Shaq Barrett deserved co-Super Bowl MVP

Harvey Martin and Randy White are the only players to share Super Bowl MVP in NFL history. That happened way back in Super Bowl XII, but it should have occurred in Super Bowl LV, too.

While it was no surprise to see a quarterback named MVP — considering the position has received the honor in more than half of all Super Bowls — Tampa Bay’s defense was the difference-maker Sunday.

Linebacker Shaquil Barrett was a bright spot, as he recorded a sack, four quarterback hits, and eight pressures on Mahomes. That pressure was critical to dismantle the high-powered Chiefs attack, which joined the Dolphins (Super Bowl VI) and Rams (Super Bowl LIII) as the only offenses to fail to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.

Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles called a perfect game against Andy Reid’s dynamic bunch. With Mahomes hobbled by a foot injury and playing behind a makeshift offensive line, the Bucs pressured the Chiefs QB on more than 50% of his dropbacks. Those 29 pressures broke the record (25) set in Super Bowl XXVI and forced Mahomes to scramble 497 total yards before he threw the ball or took a sack.

In addition to Barrett’s excellence Sunday, linebacker Devin White turned in another dominant showing, with a game-high 12 tackles and a game-sealing interception with less than two minutes left in regulation.  

On the other side of the ball, tight end Rob Gronkowski looked like a Super Bowl MVP candidate, as he hauled in two touchdown passes, along with a team-high 67 receiving yards.

His first score of the night broke Brady and Gronk’s tie with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for most postseason touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo. Gronkowski and Rice are the only players with multiple receiving touchdowns in multiple Super Bowls.

Chiefs penalties questionable, but not uncharacteristic

For those still looking for a reason to deny the brilliance of Brady and the Bucs, the officials are there to blame, but that culpability only goes so far.

During the first half, the Chiefs were called for eight penalties — the most in the first half of a game this season and the most in a first half in Super Bowl history.

Six of those penalties resulted in Buccaneers first downs and played a large role in Tampa Bay building a 21-6 lead at the half.

While many fans were quick to condemn the officials for the inordinate number of yellow flags against the Chiefs, Kansas City has been an undisciplined team all season.

During the 2020 season, the Chiefs ranked fourth among NFL teams in penalties (105). Since 2018, only the Jaguars have averaged more penalties per game, including in the playoffs.

To say the officials were one-sided is short-sighted, and doesn’t tell the whole story.

As Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones lamented after the game, “Penalties affect the game 1,000%.”

But so too do dropped passes, conservative play calling, and facing a ferocious Bucs defense, complemented on the other end by the greatest quarterback of all time.