Three takeaways from Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV:
1. Tampa Bay’s defense can fly
From every spot on the field.
Whether it was coming off the edge or from the back end, the Buccaneers’ defense was far too fast for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Mahomes spent much of his second Super Bowl on the move, being chased from all ends.
Tampa Bay brought serious pressure from its front four all evening, allowing its secondary to more than hold up against Kansas City wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman.
Think about it: Kansas City was just 3-of-13 on third down. Mahomes was sacked twice and the Buccaneers hurried him eight more times.
Mahomes had never lost an NFL game by double digits until Sunday.
Devin White led the Buccaneers with eight tackles (two for loss) and an interception.
2. Penalties killed Chiefs
Yellow flags essentially took Kansas City out of things early.
The Chiefs committed eight first-half penalties for 95 yards, a Super Bowl record for infractions over the first 30 minutes. Some were of the crucial variety. A pass interference penalty extended Tampa Bay’s final scoring drive of the half, while a holding flag negated an interception by Tyrann Mathieu.
As great as Kansas City was yet again this season, it still ranked as the fifth-most penalized team in the league with an average of 6.4 per game.
The number of flags thrown in Kansas City’s direction even caught the attention of CBS analysts Boomer Esiason and Nate Burleson during the halftime show.
“I kind of feel like the referees are way too involved here,” Esiason said. “They are throwing too many flags that are leading to points for Tampa Bay.”
Added Burleson: “I agree with you when it comes to these flags. It’s heavily imbalanced. You have to go out there and let these guys play a little bit. If I’m the referees, I treat this like the ‘90s in the NBA playoffs. Let them be a little physical, stop throwing the laundry out on the field.”
3. Bill Belichick quit watching
It might be that the Patriots coach didn’t even turn the television on Sunday.
Two players he knows a little something about — Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski — conjured up memories of Super Bowls past when playing under Belichick in New England.
Brady hit Gronkowksi for two first-half touchdowns. An 8-yard strike in the first quarter set a playoff record for most passing touchdowns by a quarterback-pass catcher duo in NFL history.
It was the 13th such connection, breaking the mark previously held by 49ers greats Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Brady then connected with Gronkowski from 17 yards out in the second quarter. It meant the tight end joined Rice as the only players with multiple touchdown catches in multiple Super Bowls.
Gronkowski would finish with six catches for 67 yards and the two scorers on seven targets.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.