By Aiden Wacksman
On Feb.7, two of the National Football League’s (NFL) best quarterbacks will square off in Super Bowl LV.
In Tampa, Fla., Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second time this season. The rising star and the seasoned veteran are looking to add to their Super Bowl ring collections, with Brady looking for his seventh and Mahomes seeking his second. This is the fifth matchup between these two quarterbacks, and they have a 2-2 record against each other.
In their previous matchup on Nov. 29, the Chiefs won 27-24 and prevented the Bucs from making a comeback in the fourth quarter. Both teams, however, improved significantly after this game.
Since the loss to Kansas City, Tampa Bay has gone on a seven-game winning streak. Along with a Brady-led offense, an efficient defensive unit has played a key role in sending the Bucs to its second Super Bowl in franchise history. No offense has scored more than 30 points against this unit in 10 straight games. Tampa Bay’s defense have also held opposing offenses to 327 yards per game (YPG) and have forced 30 turnovers. Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and the Buccaneer defense will look to stop a fiery Kansas City offense on Sunday.
Brady and the offense are also looking to continue their postseason success. The 43-year-old veteran has thrown for 860 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in three postseason games. In the regular season, wide receiver Mike Evans served as Brady’s main target, leading the team with 70 catches for 1,006 yards, and accounted for 13 of Brady’s 40 passing touchdowns. In the postseason, however, Brady’s attention has shifted toward wideout Chris Godwin, who has 14 receptions for 223 yards and one touchdown.
“[Kansas City] has a lot of great players on their defense,” Brady said in an interview with NFL United Kingdom. Chiefs’ Defensive Coordinator (DC) Steve Spagnuolo faced a Brady-led New England Patriots offense in Super Bowl XLII while serving as the DC for the New York Giants. He was responsible for holding a strong New England offensive unit that contained all-time great wide receiver Randy Moss to a mere 14 points in a 17-14 Giants win. “I think [Spagnuolo] runs a great scheme that caters to the strength of his players,” Brady explained. He is excited to once again face Spagnuolo in the Super Bowl.
The Bucs five regular season losses had one thing in common: a lacking rushing attack. Tampa Bay rushed for more than 100 yards in only one of these losses. In its week nine loss to the New Orleans Saints, Buccaneer running back Ronald Jones III accumulated a mere nine rushing yards. This postseason, however, it seems that head coach Bruce Arians and company have made some adjustments, as their newly found run game has provided a balanced offensive attack. Jones III and Running Back Leonard Fournette have led this postseason rushing attack, which has averaged 115 YPG. The orchestrator of the Buccaneers offensive success throughout the season, however, is the offensive line. So far, the line has only given up 1.4 sacks per game (3rd best in the NFL) and are responsible for the strengthened running attack. It is crucial that Tampa Bay’s offensive line continues this success in the Super Bowl.
“It’s all about controlling emotions [before/during the game],” Tampa Bay starting Center Ryan Jensen said in an interview with 9News Denver. He looks forward to the game and hopes to continue providing Brady with the protection he needs.
Meanwhile, Kansas City has looked unstoppable throughout the season. The team has the best record in the NFL at 14-2 and are only the 19th team in NFL history to win 14 or more games in the regular season. Mahomes continues to lead the Chiefs’ offense to success, with the second highest quarterback rating in the NFL and 38 regular season touchdown passes. Head Coach Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy are two brilliant play-callers, who have the ability to cause trouble for defenses. Mahomes also has some of the best receivers in the NFL at his fingertips, including Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce. In his two postseason games this year, Mahomes has thrown for 580 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His decision-making abilities will play a key role in determining the winner of Super Bowl 55.
“I want to make sure I take advantage of the opportunity to be in these Super Bowls and try to win these rings, because they’re hard to come by,” Mahomes said in an interview with ESPN. He has continued taking precautions to prevent exposure to COVID-19. “You have to do whatever you can to be available for your team,” he stated.
The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, has been relatively average this season. The defense was a somewhat efficient unit during the regular season, but there is nothing outstanding about it. In the regular season, the defense totaled 22 takeaways, and turnovers will be an “X Factor” in this game. The Chiefs have embraced more of a “bend, but don’t break” style of defense, and so far, this has paid off, especially in the postseason. This unit gave up 24 points to the second-best offense in the NFL in the Buffalo Bills. Kansas City’s defense also managed to sack Bills Quarterback Josh Allen four times in the American Football Conference (AFC) championship. If they can do this at Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers are going to have a rough night.
Overall, Super Bowl LV should be a great matchup between not only two elite quarterbacks, but two well-balanced teams.