Football’s long layoff makes Chiefs’ loss tough to swallow
Sunday night, in a lot of ways, is still a blur to me.
After two weeks of anticipation, the Kansas City Chiefs fell flat on their face against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.
It didn’t become clear to me until the blowout had reached the fourth quarter that this was the last football game we would watch until August – if we’re lucky.
It was the last time I’d see Patrick Mahomes throw a football for about half a year.
That performance was the last thing I wanted to remember as the NFL’s long offseason began when the clock hit zero in Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl triumph.
I could take up this entire page with how infuriating it was to watch the best quarterback in the league run for his life on nearly half of his pass attempts. How Brady was given all of the time in the world to throw to his lethal weapons when two of the Chiefs’ highest-paid players specialize in pressuring the quarterback.
Penalties played a part in the momentum early in the game – with one Bucs’ drive going from a Tyrann Mathieu interception to a field goal before becoming a touchdown due to two key fouls. Regardless of if the calls were justified or not, the Chiefs have spent the entire Andy Reid era in the top half of penalized teams and it was a detriment this time.
The situation along the Chiefs’ offensive line turned out to be catastrophic and as much as I hate to say it, I think I was too optimistic despite the losses of Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz and Kelechi Osmele to injuries. Toss in Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff and 2020 third-round draft pick Lucas Niang, who opted out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s crazy to think that this team protected Mahomes so well up until Sunday.
For much of the season, the Chiefs were able to cover for subpar pass blocking in the screen game but it looked like that section of the playbook was never opened Sunday. That was likely because the Bucs have a plethora of speed in their linebacker group – something the Chiefs desperately lack – as well as powerful edge rushers who weren’t fooled by the Chiefs pre-play motion early in the game.
Mahomes rarely got the opportunity to drop back and make his reads from the pocket, having to constantly bail just two seconds after receiving the snap. This clearly affected the communication with his receivers as they had to continuously work to get free before Mahomes was chased down.
It was truly a recipe for disaster.
Going back to the second quarter, when penalties turned a Mathieu interception into a touchdown drive for the Bucs, there was another drive that should have resulted in zero points. Toward the end of the half, the Bucs took over with 55 seconds left and showed little interest in attempting to put points on the board with just one timeout left.
After gaining eight yards on the first two downs, the Chiefs stopped the clock with 44 seconds on third and 2 on the Tampa Bay 37-yard line. Brady made Andy Reid pay for the timeout by quickly securing the first down and then taking a deep shot to Mike Evans to draw pass interference on Bashaud Breeland. The sequence gave the Bucs the ball deep in Kansas City territory and the Chiefs’ defense, already on its heels, gave up a touchdown to go into halftime down 21-6.
Had it not been for both of those touchdown drives, the Chiefs could have entered the half down 7-6. They could have turned that Mathieu pick – had it stood – into points.
The momentum was heavily affected by those drives but that doesn’t remove the fact that Tampa Bay’s defense had a plan to stop Mahomes and it worked. The 25-year-old made some absolutely insane throws that almost certainly should have been caught. It’s crazy to think that the Chiefs got beat so bad Sunday but Mahomes still nearly made the necessary plays to keep them in the game.
That’s the main reason why I know this isn’t over.
Mahomes never gave up Sunday and, barring a catastrophe, he will be the quarterback in Kansas City for at least the next decade.
I am disappointed that the Chiefs didn’t complete the run it back tour this season but I am confident they will take back the top spot in the NFL and host a fourth consecutive AFC championship en route to Super Bowl LVI in 2022.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at email@example.com