Tom Brady steered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a comfortable 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs to extend his record for Super Bowl wins to seven.
In his first season after a glittering 20-year stint with the New England Patriots, the evergreen quarterback helped Tampa Bay become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.
And despite playing Kansas City and their dynamic young quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who came in as favourites, Brady threw three touchdown passes to prevent the Chiefs becoming the first back-to-back NFL champions since Brady and the Patriots in the 2004 season.
At 43 years and 188 days, Brady became the oldest player to play in the biggest game in US sport, extending his record for Super Bowl appearances to 10 and joining Peyton Manning as the only quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams.
Already widely considered the greatest NFL player of all time, Brady decided to leave New England in the off-season for a new challenge and was lured to Tampa Bay, whose only previous Super Bowl win came in the 2002 season.
He reportedly told the Bucs he wanted them to bring in former Patriots team-mates Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, as well as Leonard Fournette, and the trio shared Tampa Bay’s four touchdowns as they eased home after leading 21-6 at half-time.
While the Chiefs came into the post-season as the top seed in the AFC Conference, Tampa Bay were the NFC’s sixth seed and became the first wildcard team to win a Super Bowl since the Green Bay Packers 10 years ago after a remarkable play-off run.
After losing to the Chiefs in week 12, the Bucs finished the regular season with four wins before beating three division winners – on the road – to reach the title decider for just the second time.
Brady proves a point
While at New England, Brady formed the NFL’s most successful quarterback-coach partnership with Bill Belichick, and when he left, some felt that Belichick deserved more of the credit, that Brady would get ‘found out’ without him.
But the Patriots endured their first losing season since 2000 – the year before Brady became their starting QB – while Brady has won another Super Bowl, with a team he joined during a pandemic, after a heavily disrupted off-season with no pre-season games.
It was also a team that, before this season, had not won a play-off game since winning Super Bowl 37. They had not reached the post-season at all since 2007.
But Brady recognised they were gradually building a competitive roster. They had a solid defence that would protect him in the pocket and two of the NFL’s best receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
During Super Bowl week, coach Bruce Arians said Brady was “the missing piece”. For good measure, they lured Gronkowski out of retirement, gave Brown another chance and picked up free agent Fournette.
All have come to the fore as the Bucs ramped up for an unlikely run at the Super Bowl and after Kansas City opened the scoring with a field goal, Brady found Brown twice on the next drive before sending tight end Gronkowski over with a screen pass.
The pair combined to devastating effect at New England before Gronkowski retired after winning Super Bowl 53 with Brady and the Patriots. The 31-year-old had a brief stint in WWE and television during his time out. But after easing back into the rigours of the NFL with seven touchdowns during the regular season, he caught a 17-yard strike by Brady for his second of Super Bowl 55.
The Chiefs finally got some offence going to reply with a field goal but left 64 seconds for Tampa Bay to score before the half, and Brady completed a 71-yard drive by finding Brown in the end zone.
Kansas City rallied at the start of the second half and cut the deficit with another field goal, but the Bucs continued to dominate on both sides of the ball, stifling the NFL’s best offence.
And Brady found Gronkowski for another big play before Fournette burst through for a 27-yard touchdown to seal a victory which many dreamed of in Tampa when Brady came aboard, but few would have thought was possible.
Chiefs overawed in Tampa
After leading Kansas City to their first Super Bowl win in 50 years, Mahomes was rewarded with a 10-year contract last July, making him the “first half-billion dollar player in sports history”.
He had become the youngest player to win the Super Bowl and the NFL MVP award, and the 25-year-old is the most exciting talent of a new era of athletic quarterbacks.
After steering the Chiefs back to the big game, ‘the Kid’ now had a chance to take on ‘the GOAT’ in the NFL showpiece. It was the first to feature the quarterbacks who had won the previous two Super Bowls, and two starting QBs who have both won an NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
But Kansas City erred in all three phases of the game – slicing punts on special teams, dropping catches on offence and giving penalties away on defence. In the first half alone, they were penalised eight times for 95 yards.
After Gronkowski put the Bucs in front, the Chiefs pulled off what seemed a huge goal-line stop to prevent the hosts extending their lead. Then Tyrann Mathieu claimed an interception on Tampa Bay’s next drive, only to see it cancelled out by a defensive holding call.
After forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal, an offside put the ball back in Brady’s hands and on the very next play he was given all the time he needed to pick out Gronkowski for his second touchdown.
Despite cutting the score to 14-6 deficit right before the break, two pass interference calls allowed Tampa Bay to march right back downfield and make it a 14-point game with Brown’s touchdown before Fournette’s third-quarter score proved the decisive blow.
Brady to Gronk, yet again – Super Bowl stats
- Tom Brady now has more Super Bowl wins than any NFL franchise, one clear of both the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (6)
- Rob Gronkowski became the first man to make at least one catch in five Super Bowls.
- Brady and Gronkowski have connected for five passing touchdowns in Super Bowls, passing Joe Montana and Jerry Rice (four) for the most in Super Bowl history.
- Brady and Gronkowski have combined for more post-season touchdowns than any other quarterback-receiver duo all-time – 14.
- This game saw the largest age gap between quarterbacks in Super Bowl history (18 years and 45 days).
- At 68 years and 127 days, Bruce Arians became the oldest coach to win the Super Bowl.
The Weeknd makes most of Covid restrictions
Mark Savage, BBC music reporter
The Super Bowl Half-time Show is traditionally built on grand gestures and eye-popping spectacle.
Think about Lady Gaga diving off the roof of Houston’s NRG stadium, or Katy Perry riding an animatronic lion, or Diana Ross soaring out of Arizona’s Sun Devil Stadium, waving to fans through the open door of a helicopter.
This year was a little different. Canadian R&B star The Weeknd was the interval act and, for the first time in the game’s 55-year history, he was largely forced to perform from the stands, rather than the pitch, in compliance with strict coronavirus protocols.
And his 12-minute show was “watched” by thousands of cardboard cut-outs, who bulked out the 25,000 socially-distanced fans.
But the 30-year-old made the most of the restrictions with a gimmick-free show that put the emphasis on his songs.
More to follow.