On a Super Bowl Sunday for which communal bowls of guacamole or cheering crowds would have been a health hazard, Wesleyan students on campus watched the big game in the mandated quarantine period, and students off-campus likely watched while observing social distancing guidelines. In celebration of Super Bowl LV this past weekend, Argus Sports writers and editors shared their reactions to the face-off between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Thad Bashaw, Contributing Writer:
As I lay in my dorm and watched this game unfold, the main thing running through my mind was, is there any stopping Tom Brady? Named Super Bowl MVP for the fifth time last night, in his 10th ever appearance in the big game, Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked unstoppable as they effectively silenced the most explosive offense in football and put up a monstrous 31-9 scoreline against Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Here are some takeaways from Super Bowl LV.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an elite pass rush, whose skill was only amplified by the fact that two Kansas City starting offensive linemen missed the game due to injury. Mahomes was unable to work his magic in the pocket, as on 29 of his 56 dropbacks, he was under pressure from the Bucs defensive line, which is a Super Bowl record. Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndomukong Suh were in Mahomes’ face on every other play, stopping the Chiefs from ever getting into their stride on offense. In fact, this game marks the first time in Mahomes’ NFL career that Kansas City failed to score a touchdown, which after three seasons in the NFL is an outrageous stat.
The Kansas City defense lost this game as much as the Tampa Bay defense won it. Early in the second quarter, when the game was still close, the Chiefs’ defense was able to get a crucial interception on a third down and the momentum looked to be swinging in their favor. However, a holding penalty was called on cornerback Charvarius Ward, negating the interception and giving the Bucs a fresh set of downs. The Chiefs defense doubled down and were able to make a crucial third down stop to force a Ryan Succop field goal attempt. Unfortunately, one of the Kansas City special teams players lined up offsides, giving Tom Brady a first down and a new attempt at the end zone. These two gifted first downs resulted in Brady’s second touchdown connection to Gronkowski, which would set the tone for the rest of the game as the Bucs comfortably secured the win.
Despite all this, there were some positive takeaways from this game for Kansas City, one of which is that Patrick Mahomes is an absolute freak of nature. On plays where he was forced to drop back 20 yards, tangled up as he scrambled to the sideline, or walloped by a linebacker as he released the ball, he was still delivering perfect spiral passes 20 to 30 yards down the field. Unfortunately for Mahomes, however, the Buccaneers secondary was steadfast in their defense and was able to effectively neutralize the offensive threats of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, who finished with seven receptions for 73 yards and 10 receptions for 133 yards respectively. While those may look like impressive stat lines in and of themselves, the inability to convert these yards into touchdowns was ultimately the downfall of the Chiefs, as they were forced to kick field goals on the occasions they managed to get in scoring range.
While this game was certainly not the high scoring shootout that most expected it to be, it without a doubt cemented Tom Brady as the best to ever do it. The questions at the beginning of this season regarding his ability to succeed outside of the Patriots franchise have been effectively silenced, and the only doubt that remains is whether or not he will ever retire. Now 43 years old, he has repeatedly said that he wants to play until 45. Will he bring the same fire he did this year in years to come? Or have we potentially witnessed the last Lombardi trophy that number 12 will ever lift? Either way, we should all be grateful that we witnessed him playing in his prime. While the new generation of quarterbacks may be arriving, old dog Tom Brady is very capable of learning new tricks.
John Vernaglia, Sports Editor:
I sat waiting. Waiting for the Chiefs to mount a comeback, but it never came. Instead, the world was left watching the greatest athlete in team sports history hoisted another Lombardi trophy. While Brady will rightfully be the storyline of the evening, the Buccaneers’ defense embarrassed one of the greatest offenses in NFL history and the future of football, Pat Mahomes.
First the big story: Tom Brady. After leaving the Patriots, where he had more success than any QB in history, Brady went south to Tampa Bay, one of the worst franchises in the NFL, and by the end of the year lifted them atop the NFL mountaintop. Simply put, I didn’t expect this to happen. Nobody did. How could you possibly expect a 43-year-old Tom Brady to torch the league for 40 touchdowns and the championship, and yet he did exactly that. Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, this does not just mark a tough loss, but also cements the impossibility of Mahomes ever equalling the greatness of Tom Brady. Brady was poised throughout the game, converting meaningful third downs and making the smart play—essentially a summary of his entire career. Brady isn’t just untouchable territory in the NFL; he is perhaps in the same tier as Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Wayne Gretski, the stars of the other big four sports, a spot he will remain in for the foreseeable future.
What should hurt Chiefs fans the most is that, on the other side of the ball, Pat Mahomes wasn’t all that bad. While attempting circus throws with pressure seemingly on every play, the young quarterback still absorbed hits and did everything he could to will his team to victory. This loss is no indictment of my feelings towards Mahomes, the best young player in the game, however, it does certainly cut into any chance he had of being considered the greatest of all time. The Chiefs need to take a real look at themselves after committing costly penalties and leaving Pat Mahomes under fire all evening. Andy Reid proved to be as fraudulent as they come as he foolishly gave Brady more time before halftime to drive the field to take a 21–6 lead.
In the end, this will be a long off season in Kansas City, but I do expect the Chiefs to be back and hungrier this season. For now, however, let us all bask in the greatness of Brady. Let’s enjoy that we have gotten to watch him drop surgical passes for 20 seasons.
Drew Kushnir, Sports Editor:
What stood out the most from Super Bowl LV was the dominant performance of the Buccaneers’ defense. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles dialed up a masterful game plan on Sunday night, deploying perfectly-timed blitzes and making creative use of his secondary in the pass rush. Even without exotic packages, however, Tampa Bay’s defense was still able to get to Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes at will. Despite only recording three sacks against a battered Chiefs offensive line, Tampa Bay edge rushers such as Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul were able to routinely crash the pocket and disrupt plays within seconds after the ball was snapped. Combined with solid coverage downfield and superb play in the middle of the field from linebackers such as Devin White, Mahomes simply had nowhere to go with the football.
That’s not to take anything away from Mahomes, however; despite his poor numbers, he actually played fairly well. Even after taking beating after beating after beating, Mahomes continued to sling the ball downfield, making some frankly ridiculous throws as his body was wrenched to the ground. Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, however, Chiefs receivers couldn’t convert any of Mahomes’ heroics into actual points on the board. It became a routine sight throughout the course of the game for Mahomes to fire a 25-yard dart to the end zone in the last moments before a sack, only for the ball to doink off his target’s facemask and bounce to the ground, incomplete.
Even more disheartening was the poor play of Kansas City’s secondary. The entire night, the Chiefs’ cornerbacks and safeties were regularly caught for holding and pass interference, breathing new life into Tampa Bay drives that were on the verge of stalling. Perhaps most egregious was a second-quarter stretch in which two pass interference penalties spotted the Buccaneers 42 total yards, leading to an Antonio Brown touchdown just before time expired in the half. Despite how talented of a duo Mahomes and Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid are, penalties and poor offensive line play are never a recipe for winning football.
So finally, let us mention the obvious. Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time; that, however, was true before the ball was ever snapped in Super Bowl LV. What Brady has cemented here, rather, is a legacy that now transcends any one franchise, city or coach. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice never won a championship outside of San Francisco, and neither did Lawrence Taylor outside of New York, nor Joe Greene outside of Pittsburgh. Even looking outside of professional football, it’s hard to find examples of an athlete in the GOAT (greatest of all time) conversation leaving a dynastic franchise and finding this level of success elsewhere. Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Babe Ruth, for example, only ever won rings with a single organization. Indeed, the only two examples that come to mind are Peyton Manning’s win with the Broncos (who Manning negatively impacted that season) and LeBron James’ wins with three different franchises (in a league where it’s much more common for players to rack up several championships). Brady’s legacy will always be tied to the Patriots’ team success, but he now possesses irrefutable proof that, even separated from New England’s dynasty, he remains the sport’s ultimate winner.
And of course, if only to rub salt in Bill Belichick’s ’75 wounds, Brady’s fellow Patriots expat Rob Gronkowski demonstrated that he has plenty left in the tank with a two-touchdown performance.
Will Slater, Assistant Sports Editor:
The Bucs defense was phenomenal, better than any single offensive player. Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 57% of his drop backs and had two interceptions. If Mahomes didn’t have a gift for slinging 40-yard near completions while falling down, the sack count would have been much worse than three. For their part, the Chiefs couldn’t protect Mahomes or consistently move the ball. Their defense was naïve in key moments, giving up costly penalties and big plays.
All of this decided the game, but make no mistake: Tom Brady is the story. Not just for the performance itself or the numbers he put up, but for the way he did it. We were gifted two Brady to Gronk (former Patriots tight-end Rob Gronkowski) touchdowns. Brady visibly screamed “Let’s go” as he ran onto the field and trash-talked Tyrann Mathieu, unacceptable and bizarre behavior for a forty-three-year-old in any other profession. He had a few favorable and timely refereeing decisions go his way, as so often seems to happen. This is timeless stuff, especially for those of us who haven’t watched football as closely these last few years as we once did. I was three when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. I don’t have memories of a world in which Brady was not the subject of frequent admiration, consternation, and debate. His continued greatness is unmatched, as is his reliable presence at the center of things.
Thank goodness Brady gave us a story, a narrative to put to this game. The rest of the event felt hollow, almost intentionally devoid of meaning. The NFL’s “Inspire Change” ad made a nice enough pledge to donate money towards ending systemic racism, but the video made no mention of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL’s influential activist who has been frozen out of the league for years. CBS honored a few police officers who protected the Capitol during the riots on January 6. These people are surely worthy of thanks, but the broadcast team but no mention of why their bravery was necessary. A medical worker did the coin toss to begin the game…in the middle of a stadium half-full of people, masked pulled down beneath their noses every time the camera panned to them. Maybe I’m being harsh.
But at least Brady was there to give the game at least artificial substance and legacy stakes.
This is why I love him and every other athlete who gets mixed-up in this insane world of GOAT debates and love and scrutiny. He is always around, and he always elicits fierce emotion, at the dinner table and on Twitter, the two great havens of intellectual debate in this country. Brady is a meaning-making distraction, in the least dismissive sense of the word. As George Caulkin fondly wrote for The Athletic a few weeks ago, with so little normality, sports legacies, narratives, and values—and the athletes that embody them—carry extra weight.
“[Athletes] are compelled to be our everything; our joy, the exception, a dumping ground for our disgust, risk-takers,” Caulkin wrote. “Living this ludicrous lie, entertaining the troops, somewhere near the frontline.”
Tom Brady is the best ever. And he’s annoying. He plays the game the right way. He’s a cheater. Love him, hate him, whatever. It’s something to cling to. Now football season is mercifully over. Time for the LeBron debates to return to center stage. Messi and Ronaldo are always around, too.
Caroline Bonnevie, Assistant Sports Editor:
I don’t want to repeat what everyone’s already said, but since it’s worth saying, I will: Tom Brady really is the greatest of all time. The play before halftime speaks for itself (though as John said, the Chiefs calling a timeout may have given the Buccaneers a helping hand). The two instances of pass interference really took their toll, too, allowing the Bucs to surge to a 21-6 lead right before the half. Penalties definitely played a key part in stopping the Chiefs from achieving back-to-back Super Bowl victories.
I started to really pity Mahomes by the end of the game. He was doing the best he could with an injury and two benched receivers and a Bucs defense that would not quit. The interception at the end of the game? I think that’s the best summary of the ruthlessness of the Bucs’ defense that there is. Salt in the wound for sure.
I think this Super Bowl caught a lot of people off-guard (and not just because it was taking place during a national pandemic). I kept track of the bets before the game; right before kickoff, the bets were that the Chiefs would win by 3 points. I think everyone was expecting more of an epic showdown between two legendary quarterbacks, not a double-digit gap in scores, a first for Mahomes.
Apparently, Brady might even go for an eighth championship. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve cut out dairy, gluten, soy, tomatoes, corn, etc, etc, etc from your diet. Makes you just an extra bit hungrier for success.
Caroline Bonnevie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew Kushnir can be reached at email@example.com
John Vernaglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thad Bashaw can be reached at email@example.com
Will Slater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org