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Kansas City Chiefs outclassed in coaching, execution in Super Bowl defeat


The Kansas City Chiefs saw their historic 2020 season come to a screeching, painful, stunning halt in Super Bowl 55, losing in a blowout to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9.

Kansas City got out on top first, taking a 3-0 advantage with a field goal with 5:04 to go in the first quarter. But that drive would encapsulate one of the major problems for the Chiefs throughout the game, which was failing to capitalize and sustain drives on offense.

The Chiefs would string together just two more scoring drives, with three others that ended either on downs or because of a turnover.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, took off like a rocket after its opening two drives. Following consecutive punts to start the game, the Buccaneers scored on five of their next six drives with four touchdowns, and the only non-scoring drive stalled out on the one-yard line.

“They were the better team today, they beat us pretty good,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “Worse than I’ve been beaten in a long time.”

Debating which side was worse for the Chiefs, the offensive continuity and pass protection or their sieve of a defense, is likely a futile effort. In the end, every element factored into the devastation.

The Chiefs came into the game with most of the roster healthy, but the offensive line was down in a bad way, worse than it had been all season. That group had been impacted negatively throughout the year, starting with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif nobly opting out of the season so he could work on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic in his native Canada.

Then, in Week 4, his replacement, Kelechi Osemele, suffered a pair of catastrophic knee injuries that ended his season. Mitchell Schwartz’s season came to an abrupt and unexpected end when he left in the first half against Buffalo in Week 6. Eric Fisher was the last and arguably most impactful loss after he tore his Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game.

With that high-profile group out, the backup Chiefs linemen were pressed into service in the Super Bowl, facing a fearsome Buccaneers front seven. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was pressured 16 times by a four-man rush, a 34% pressure rate.

Mahomes did what he could, but it wasn’t enough while under pressure constantly. He finished the game 26-of-49 passing for 270 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns, good for just a 52.3 rating, the lowest mark of his career. However, his receivers also dropped several passes, with throws going through the hands or off the hands of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Darrel Williams and others over the course of the night.

Super Bowl 55 was just the fifth time in Mahomes’s career in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. It was also just the sixth time in Super Bowl history that a team didn’t score an offensive touchdown.

Despite the offense’s struggles throughout the night, Mahomes said after the game that he never felt as though the game was over until the very end.

“Obviously I didn’t play the way I wanted to play, what else can you say?” Mahomes said. “All you can do it leave everything you have on the field, and I feel like the guys did that.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs’ performance was a painful flashback to the 2018 AFC Championship Game, when now-Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady tore up the Kansas City defense as a member of the New England Patriots en route to a Super Bowl 53 berth.

Brady was named Super Bowl MVP, throwing for 201 yards on 21-of-29 passing, along with three touchdowns. His 125.8 passer rating on Sunday night is the fifth-best of his career in the postseason.

More than anything, though, defensive penalties were a bugaboo for Kansas City. There was an unnecessary roughness penalty on Chris Jones, a defensive holding penalty on Charvarius Ward that wiped out an interception and a pair of calls that set up a late first-half touchdown, just to name a few. Fans were vocal on social media, and certainly in living rooms around the Chiefs Kingdom, that the officiating was unfairly biased in favor of the Buccaneers.

That anger and frustration didn’t change the results.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones was blunt about what Brady and the Buccaneers offense did to take advantage of the Chiefs defense.

“Brady just got it off fast, and a lot of penalties,” Jones said.

In the end, the Chiefs missed their chance to make history. They could have become the first team since the Patriots in Super Bowls 38 and 39. Mahomes could have won a second ring by 25 years old, which, rightly or not, is how elite quarterbacks are judged these days.

But, instead of possibly launching a dynasty, the Chiefs now live in infamy on the opposite side of the ledger in several regards. Nine points is tied for the fourth fewest in a Super Bowl in the past 45 years, and 22 points also the most lopsided defeat a team has ever had against one of Brady’s teams in the Super Bowl.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid is now 1-2 in three Super Bowl appearances, and he tried to remain positive in defeat after the game.

“That’s a tough thing even to get back to this game, it’s tough, but that’s what this is all about,” Reid said. “That just shows you the heart of these guys and what they’ve done to put ourselves in a position to at least have an opportunity to do this.”

It has now been 16 years since there have been repeat Super Bowl champions, and it will be at least two more years until it happens again. Still, this was a memorable season for Kansas City. The Chiefs won a franchise-record 14 games. Mahomes was an MVP candidate with borderline incomprehensible stats again. And there have only been four instances of a team going to the Super Bowl in consecutive years since the turn of the century.

You can’t eliminate or destroy the positives from this Chiefs season. However, when you spend a year trying to run it back, with dynasty talk beginning mere moments after winning the first one, it’s impossible not to feel disappointed to lose in this fashion the second time around.

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