Complete Team Effort Leads Tampa to the Promised Land

Zach Schiller, Sports Editor

“If we build it, he will come”, said Tampa Bay Buccaneers director of player personnel John Spytek at the beginning of this past offseason. The “he” of course was in reference to Tom Brady, the now seven-time Super Bowl champion and unquestioned GOAT of professional football. But before we heap praise on the 2021 Super Bowl MVP, it is worth reflecting on the first part of Spytek’s quote. While Brady undoubtedly played an integral role in the Bucs toppling the seemingly invincible Kansas City Chiefs to capture the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 2002, this victory was all about the complete roster depth of the Buccaneers, which made them such an attractive destination to Brady in the first place. 

Starting on the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs did what no defense has been able to do over the last three years: they completely neutralized Patrick Mahomes and the vaunted Chiefs offense. While the absence of starting left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz certainly played a large role in this, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his game plan Sunday night. Normally known to throw in a handful of blitz packages throughout a game, Bowles called only five blitzes during the Super Bowl, the lowest number he’s called in a game all season. This was because the Bucs front four of Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barret, Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh was able to put an immense amount of pressure on Mahomes all night, who was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks, the most in Super Bowl history. Because of the pressure generated by the front four, the Bucs were able to drop seven in coverage and played with two high safeties on 82% of their snaps, the highest percentage of any team all season. This took away the Chiefs dreaded deep play ability. Combined with the speed and excellent tackling of emerging star linebacker Devin White and Lavonte David, the Buccaneers were able to cover virtually the entire field. With almost no time to throw and receivers constantly covered downfield, the Chiefs simply had no answers for the Bucs, despite Mahomes’ herculean effort

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs put together one of their most balanced, efficient performances of the season at the perfect moment. Aided by a slew of Chiefs penalties, including a holding penalty that nullified a Tyrann Mathieu interception, the Bucs showed just how talented their offense was. Despite a combined three catches for 40 yards from star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the offense didn’t miss a beat. This was due in large part to the new additions of running back Leonard Fournette, who had 135 scrimmage yards and a rushing touchdown, and receiver Antonio Brown’s five catches and a touchdown. But leading the way for the Bucs was none other than Brady’s old New England running mate Rob Gronkowski, who was lured out of retirement prior to this season. The greatest tight end of all time saved his best game of the season for when it mattered most, leading the team with six catches for 67 yards and the Bucs first two touchdowns that helped set the tone for what kind of game this would be. In addition to the Bucs plethora of talented skill position players, the offensive line was a huge reason for the Bucs success this season and they certainly imposed their will in the Super Bowl. The line’s dominant play allowed the Bucs to rush for 145 yards and kept Brady upright for most of the night, allowing only two quarterback hits and no sacks. They frustrated the Chiefs so much that center Ryan Jensen at one point goaded Chief’s star nose tackle Chris Jones into taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Despite the talented team surrounding him, Tom Brady deserves a tremendous amount of credit for once again defying both the odds and father time. With limited offseason preparation to adapt to his new surroundings, Brady and the Bucs offense often looked disjointed through most of the season, and the team sat at a 7-5 through the first 12 weeks of the season. However, after their week 13 bye, they never looked back, finishing out the regular season undefeated as they proceeded to win three road playoff games en route to the Super Bowl. In typical Tom fashion, he saved perhaps his best game of the season for the Super Bowl. While the 201 passing yards won’t jump off the page, Brady was efficient in completing over 72% of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns. He looked in complete command of an offense that other great quarterbacks, such as Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, have struggled to master in their first year’s in head coach Bruce Arians’ system. In addition to his play, Brady’s legendary work ethic and leadership cannot be understated in helping to bring a winning culture to one of the NFL’s losingest franchises.

With one of the most talented rosters in all of football, the Bucs finally put together the complete performance that many had been waiting to see from them all year. The Bucs built a team that Tom Brady would want to be a part of and peaked at the right time. As a result, they are Super Bowl champions.