On Sunday night, the Kansas City Chiefs’ #RunItBack tour hit a buzzsaw in Tampa.
In Super Bowl LV, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense totally dominated a Chiefs offense that we’ve never seen dominated. On paper, the Kansas City defense did enough to be respectable, holding Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady to 201 yards, allowing 4.3 yards per carry on the ground and the leading Tampa Bay receiver to just 67 yards. But penalties gave the Buccaneers opportunity after opportunity — and they capitalized on them. Despite a couple of admirable individual performances, the Chiefs’ offense had no such luck.
After a blowout loss in the Super Bowl, you might expect a long list of losers and few winners, but we have found a more balanced list . But unfortunately, the negatives were of far greater magnitude than the positives.
- Travis Kelce: The Chiefs’ star tight end wasn’t perfect on Sunday; he dropped a couple of passes he usually brings in. But with 10 receptions for 133 yards, he was really the only part of the offense that worked.
- Patrick Mahomes: The stats will say he struggled mightily, but those watching the game realize that Mahomes was getting absolutely no help out there. He made some plays with his feet and put some deeper passes right where they needed to be... only to have them dropped. There wasn’t much more you could have asked of Mahomes. He was running for his life and desperately trying to make something happen. It just never did.
- Byron Pringle: In a game like this one, it’s hard to remember the small wins. But Pringle had several — especially on special teams. His 41-yard kick return could have been a momentum changer. He followed that up with a shoestring tackle in punt coverage. Pringle still looks like a guy who can contribute in the future.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire: I think we’ll look back at this season and wonder why the team didn’t figure out how to use this kid more. Early in the second half, he looked electric, running through an overly aggressive defense at a clip of 7.1 yards per carry. He also caught two of his three targets — and outside of Hill and Kelce, had the two longest plays of the night. It sure seemed like he could have helped this offense on screens, draws and other plays designed to slow down a pass rush... right?
- Damien Wilson: He had a tackle for a loss and led the team with 10 total tackles. Had the offense been able to capitalize, Wilson’s goal-line stop in the first half was an incredible individual effort that could have been a turning point in the game.
- Frank Clark: His two-play sequence in the first half was among the few real highlights of the game. First, he held the edge and tackled the “fastest player in the league” for a loss. Then Clark took down Tom Brady in what would be the Chiefs’ only sack of the night. There certainly wasn’t enough pressure for the rest of the game — and this time, we didn’t get to see Frank “the Closer” because the game was never really within reach. So while it wasn’t Clark’s best night, for one brief moment he gave us something to cheer.
- The entire offensive line: We thought they could cobble together a group to overcome the injuries. For most of the season, they did. But Eric Fisher’s injury was the straw that broke... everything. The front five was totally overmatched, seemingly getting beat instantly against the Tampa Bay defensive front. I’m sure there will be a lot more analysis of what happened on a snap-by-snap basis, but it’s hard to imagine any conclusion that doesn’t include seriously upgrading this unit in 2021.
- Andy Reid: Big Red is still one of the best there is — and there’s no question that he’s done a tremendous job getting the Chiefs to this point. But on this particular Sunday, he was outcoached. The preparation appeared to be insufficient, the game plan questionable — and some in-game decisions (like the time out near the end of the half) were poor. But there also seemed to be a real inability to respond and adapt, too. Everyone knew the Buccaneers’ defense would punch; we just thought the Chiefs could counter-punch. When the pass rush was getting through the Chiefs’ line early in the game, you would think Kansas City would have been able to adjust protection or play-calls to make them pay. They never did — not even in the final drive after all was decided. We all love Reid’s ability to put players in position to succeed. But that didn’t happen — and the result was a blowout loss.
- Tommy Townsend: Two punts off the side of his foot and a bobbled snap really cost the Chiefs in terms of field position. Of his three punts, one was a touchback. The other two were shanked. Since he has also been part of the team’s placekicking problems, we should also note that at least that problem didn’t show up in the Super Bowl. But if he’s going to be the guy for the Chiefs, the kid has some work to do.
- Mecole Hardman: In a game where the Chiefs struggled from beginning to end, there were some plays that simply had to be made. Hardman had chances to make some game- changers, but seemed totally out of sync with Mahomes. Not getting to the spot where he was supposed to be, slowing up at the end of his routes — whatever it was — it was frustrating to see Hardman being unable to help his team. He ended up with two catches and four yards on six targets. Not good.
- Darrel Williams: Coming into this game, Williams could have been considered the “hot hand”, having performed admirably in Edwards-Helaire’s absence. But Williams was a complete non-factor in the Super Bowl. There are things he seems to be able to do — and other things where it seems he’s just not the right guy for the job. He only had two carries on the ground, but seven targets in the passing game. Why? Those targets resulted in two catches for ten yards — and one highlight-reel touchdown that bounced off his face mask.
- All of us for having to watch that game: ELEVEN penalties for 120 yards, a number of key drops, an interception overturned... all of that was rough. Everyone agrees the officials should have been less involved in the game. But the Chiefs also struggled to protect Mahomes, settled for three field goals and just couldn’t get anything going against the Buccaneers’ defense. Even if you aren’t a Chiefs fan, this wasn’t the Super Bowl product you hoped to see on the field. For those of us who are Chiefs fans, it was just a nightmare.