$.01--The Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved beyond any doubt they are the NFL’s best team. The Bucs cruised to a convincing 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. The game wasn’t really that close, thanks to a masterfully executed game plan from Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians and his coordinators, Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles. A brilliant performance from Tom Brady helped a lot too, as did a relentless pass rush and opportunistic play by the speedy secondary and LB corps.
The Chiefs simply did not match the level of play, the attention to detail or the smart football needed to compete with the Buccaneers in the game. Bowles’ defense smartly attacked the Chiefs injury-ravaged offensive line with a pass rush that forced Patrick Mahomes to scramble wildly before he even got to the top of his drop. Kansas City playing backup offensive tackles against a fast pass rush that had an effective inside component from Ndamukong Suh as well was the single biggest deciding factor in the game.
The officiating was not good, particularly in the second quarter, but it did not decide the game. The Chiefs did not adjust their play well to the way the game was being called either. The officials are calling defensive holding tight? Maybe try not holding so obviously.
The game was a harrowing look at how important play in the trenches can be. Tampa Bay won the battles on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. All of Kansas City’s speed on offense was negated by the inability of the Chiefs line to give them time to make anything happen. The Bucs offensive line kept Brady comfortable and opened some nice running lanes, too.
Super Bowls often wind up being about legacies for great players. No player’s legacy in this game was more impacted than Tom Brady’s, and rightfully so. Brady was fantastic in the win and earned another MVP trophy for his outstanding night.
That he accomplished another Super Bowl win is amazing. That Brady did it away from New England and Bill Belichick is why this game was so critical for his legacy. Throw away all that garbage about Brady being a product of the Patriots system, the claims he couldn’t win without Belichick. His seventh Super Bowl win ends any argument against Brady as the best winner in the history of the NFL.
If there was any question about Rob Gronkowski ever making the Hall of Fame, this game probably put that to bed, too. Gronk caught two TDs and would have won MVP if the game ended at halftime. But he was also dominant as a blocker. One year ago he was retired and efforting a pro wrestling career. He came back and proved the best weapon in the Super Bowl.
Here’s hoping the legacy for Todd Bowles is another shot at a head coaching vacancy in the next firing/hiring cycle. Bowles was in a thankless, largely hopeless situation in his one prior shot with the Jets. He’s done brilliant work as a defensive mastermind in several stops and now has a Super Bowl ring to prove it. He deserves another chance. Byron Leftwich certainly augmented his rising stock, too.
From the Chiefs side, the focus will always be Mahomes. As I told some friends in a chat during the game, my takeaway on Mahomes’ Super Bowl was that his play was exciting but not necessarily good. While the makeshift offensive line was garbage, Mahomes didn’t help himself as well as hoped, either. Check out just how frantic he was in trying to escape pressure, even on plays where there wasn’t a lot of it:
Patrick Mahomes ran a total of 497 yards before his passes/sacks tonight per @NextGenStats.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 8, 2021
That's the most pre-throw/pre-sack yards run by any quarterback in any game this season.
He’s a great player but didn’t play great in this one. It happens. Mahomes has earned enough credit for his accomplishments to survive an off night in adverse circumstances.
Travis Kelce, who set the NFL record for yardage by a tight end this year, had a poor game despite the 10 catches for 133 yards on the ledger. So did Tyrann Mathieu--my pregame bet for MVP--on the Chiefs defense.
Andy Reid’s legacy might take a bit of a hit. The Chiefs coach did not adjust well to the offensive line issues. The controversy surrounding his son, Britt, the team’s LB coach, being involved in a DUI accident that seriously injured a child is also an unfortunate blemish. Right or wrong, Reid will take heat for his son’s reckless behavior. People stick to those Super Bowl distraction storylines forever. Ask Donovan McNabb…
The NFL deserves some credit for the legacy here too. They managed to get through the entire season in a global pandemic without having to cancel a single game. I have major quibbles with how they handled the Ravens, Titans and Browns various COVID-19 scares throughout the season, but the fact is they plowed through. It’s a victory for the NFL in sticking to its mission and proving that it could in fact be done. Let’s hope we don’t have to try it again...
This one was crowdsourced with my family for a more representative sample of consumer reaction. At least three of the four of us (two 40-something adults, 15-year-old boy, 12-year-old girl) had to have the notable reaction, positive or negative, to make the list here.
The Doritos 3D with Matthew McConaughey, who I’ve taken a shine to recently after years of loathing him. Alright alright alright!
M&M’s “sorry” spot was a big winner, though I suspect we’ll see it way too often in the coming weeks.
Rocket Mortgage with Tracy Morgan. Smartly done.
Doordash delivery, and it might actually get us to try using the service at some point.
The wife and I both enjoyed the Wayne’s World ad, but neither kid knew what that was. Parenting fail…
The Cheetos “it wasn’t me” bit with Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis was great.
“Get back to nature” from Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. Made me want to get outside until I remembered the projected high temp here doesn’t top 20 degrees at any point in the next 7 days…
The Alexa ad with Michael B. Jordan and the enamored woman was perhaps the highlight of the fourth quarter of the game. My wife might have liked that one a little too much.
Toyota’s adoption spot with the paralympic swimmer was handily the best of the ads designed to tug at the heartstrings. Bravo.
The Bud Light legends landed with a resounding thud.
For the love of God make the Jason Alexander hoodie go away forever. I’ll buy competing products to Tide just to spite those abominations.
Whatever Klarna is, and I’m not sure from the bizarre ad, I probably won’t buy.
Oatly. Just no, please.
Always a staple of the water cooler discussion, which now happens virtually, the halftime show has come a very long way from the Super Bowls of my childhood. It’s the blend of my two favorite things in life: sports and live music.
I was aware of The Weeknd before Sunday, but he’s not my genre of performer. That needs to be said off the bat. But I’m also starved for entertaining musical performances, so I approached the Pepsi halftime show with a pretty open mind.
The portion where he was singing “I can’t feel my face” spinning around with the camera was nauseating, using that word literally. The internal gyroscope was thrown off while I was sitting in my chair. Stop doing that with the cameras, please. The ensuing dance and singing sequence was probably the best part of the show, however. It helps that he was performing the only song in his repertoire that I was familiar with enough to know the title.
The set itself was smartly done. Socially distanced musicians and dancers set up in a cityscape was an inventive way to present a show that won’t agitate the folks looking to pick every possible maskless nit. It worked for me.
Normally the song choices for halftime shows reflect energy and are generally up-tempo. Maybe that’s just not what The Weeknd is, but there was too much standing and crooning over basic music. One of the hallmarks of the great performances--most notably Prince--is a song choice that makes everyone want to feel like they’re part of the action. Other than the final song, the performance here just didn’t connect or resonate like that.
It wasn’t bad overall. It was better than last year’s assault on the senses, better than The Who or the mismatched genre-jumbling combinations that predominated the earlier part of the last decade. But it’s not one that will go down in the annals of greatness or make anyone outside of ardent fans of The Weeknd see it again.
$.05--The Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class of 2021 was revealed on Saturday night. It’s a class noteworthy for three first-ballot inductees.
Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson all made the cut in their first year of eligibility. It’s a worthy honor for all three, the special designation of being a first-ballot inductee. That’s the inner circle of the best of the best. And rightly so; all were elite talents at their respective positions and in the short conversation for the best to ever play at those spots.
Manning, Megatron and Woodson are joined by Alan Faneca, John Lynch and Drew Pearson as players, as well as coach Tom Flores and contributor Bill Nunn. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s an elite overall class for the Hall of Fame.
I have no real quibble with any of the men selected for induction. I could present a very compelling argument that other finalists this year deserved to get in before Lynch, but the longtime Broncos and Buccaneers safety belongs on his own merit. I think Ronde Barber was a more impactful player than Lynch, and I suspect his time will come soon.
My personal choice for a replacement would be Clay Matthews, an admitted bias for one of my childhood heroes from growing up in greater Cleveland. Matthews would absolutely make the Baseball Hall of Fame, which tends to reward being really good but not elite for a long time--which is exactly what Matthews did in his NFL-record 278 games at linebacker. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is more about the higher peaks in a shorter career, which aptly fits Calvin Johnson in this class.
Here’s hoping they can hold the enshrinement ceremony in person in Canton this year. These all-time greats would be worthy of the giant crowd inside the stadium, and I’d be one of them cheering for the Hall of Fame class of 2021.