Super Bowl LV was expected to be a quarterback showdown. Arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time — Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady in his first season with a new team — against arguably the greatest quarterback of the younger generation — Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes trying to win back-to-back titles.
Only one quarterback was impressive Sunday night, and it was the 43-year-old Brady.
With three touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing (72.4 percent), 201 yards, no interceptions and a 125.8 passer rating (his best ever in a Super Bowl), Brady was awarded his fifth Super Bowl MVP after Tampa defeated K.C., 31-9. He was already the only player with more than three Super Bowl MVPs.
On the other side, Mahomes struggled to a 52.3 passer rating, the worst game of his four-year career. It was the result of zero touchdown passes, two interceptions, three sacks, 270 yards and 26-of-49 passing (53.1 percent). It’s the first time since Sept. 29, 2019, that he was held without a touchdown pass, and only the fourth time in his career.
If an entire unit could win MVP, the Buccaneers defense would deserve it. The Tampa D pressured the QB all night.
The unit sacked Mahomes three times, hit him eight times, and pressured him countless other times. The Bucs finished the regular season ranked first in fewest rushing yards allowed (80.6), fifth in sacks (48.0), sixth in overall yards allowed (327.1), and eighth in points allowed (22.2). Then in the playoffs, the D stopped future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, and then Mahomes, whose 316.0 passing yards per game topped the league.
“When you’re playing a good defense like that, you gotta be on the same page as an offense, and we weren’t today,” Mahomes said during his media session after the game. “That’s why we played so bad.”
Leading that stout defense Sunday night was second-year middle linebacker Devin White. The team captain and second-team All-Pro led all players with 12 tackles, and his fourth-quarter interception in the end zone sealed the game for Tampa Bay. Even with a 22-point lead, White said they wanted to keep the foot on the gas.
“We didn’t want them to score. That was our biggest thing — we did not want them to score,” White said about his “unselfish” defense during his media session after the game. “Everybody said they’re the best offense in the world; they were going to score 30, 40. They didn’t score a single touchdown.”
When asked how he felt to be a Super Bowl champion, White said, “I’m so blessed. I’m so thankful … And I was just so thankful to be able to take the stage tonight. God was on our side and we put in a lot of work. I’m just so thankful.”
That he ended up in Tampa — which selected him fifth overall out of LSU in the 2019 NFL Draft — White says is a gift from God.
“As I look back on it,” White told ESPN in 2019 about the draft process, “I feel like it was Heaven-sent that they [were] just telling me, ‘You’re home. You’re home, get used to this place.’ That’s why I say God makes no mistakes.”
Another big factor for the Bucs’ defense Sunday night was outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. He recorded one sack, tallied half of the team’s eight QB hits, and was largely responsible for the pressure Mahomes felt all night.
Barrett, a sixth-year outside linebacker, said he was excited to be able to celebrate with his family — his wife and three kids, as well as some extended family — on the field after the game. He also gave glory, something he did following his three-sack performance in the NFC championship game as well.
“To even win a Super Bowl game is all glory to God,” Barrett said during his media session Sunday night. “His plan is just amazing for me.”
Undrafted out of Colorado State in 2014, Barrett began his career with the Denver Broncos by spending his first season on the practice squad. He collected 5.5 sacks as a rotational player in 2015, and helped that team win Super Bowl 50, which was Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning’s final game.
Barrett started occasionally over the next three seasons, but then signed with Tampa as a free agent in 2019. His 19.5 sacks led the NFL that season, and Barrett played on the franchise tag in 2020. So he’ll be a free agent again this offseason, but he sounded confident Sunday night that he’d work out a deal to stay with the Bucs.
Earlier this week during Barrett’s media availability, Sports Spectrum asked him about how his faith in God guides him. He said he really put in more time with God this past offseason.
“It just grounded me and made me realize what was important, and where I get the power from, where I get the strength to do all my daily activities, and then just the blessings that He keeps bestowing upon me and my family,” Barrett said. “It’s just amazing. I just want Him to know that. I want to give Him all the praise, honor and glory. That’s the reason why I’m able to do everything that I’m able to do on the field, off the field — it’s all because of Him.”
Sunday’s victory goes down as Tampa’s second Super Bowl championship. And in addition to being Brady’s seventh, Super Bowl LV will be remembered for the dominant Bucs defense that thwarted the high-powered Chiefs offense.