Super Bowl 2021 Score: Quarter-by-Quarter Breakdown of Chiefs vs. Buccaneers

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2021

Super Bowl 2021 Score: Quarter-by-Quarter Breakdown of Chiefs vs. Buccaneers

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Super Bowl 55 was billed as a generational clash between the greatest quarterback of all time and the one player with the potential to eclipse his accomplishments, but by the end of the night, it was a one-sided beatdown highlighted by a superb defensive game plan and an efficient and methodical offensive approach that proved execution trumped raw talent.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their second Lombardi Trophy at home Sunday night in a game that never felt particularly close as Tom Brady outdueled Patrick Mahomes, scoring three touchdowns and further cementing his status in the history books as the best to ever sling a pigskin.

    Relive the big game, the shift in momentum and what led to KC's downfall with this quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the Bucs' triumphant homecoming.

1st Quarter

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    A historic touchdown for Tampa Bay headlined the first quarter of Sunday's game, but it was the defending Super Bowl champions who struck first.

    After a pair of drives resulted in punts for the NFC champions, Kansas City moved the ball efficiently. A five-yard toss to Tyreek Hill, a Mahomes keeper for a first down and a six-yard run from Clyde Edwards-Helaire preceded an offsides penalty on Tampa Bay.

    Realizing he had a free play, Mahomes launched the ball into the end zone, but an alert Sean Murphy-Bunting broke the play up at the last second, saving a touchdown. Mahomes and Co. settled for a 49-yard field goal from kicker Harrison Butker for the first points of the game.

    As he had so many times over the course of his career, Brady answered emphatically. 

    A holding call on cornerback Bashaud Breeland gave the Bucs free yardage, and Brady cashed in, completing a 16-yard pass to Antonio Brown and a 15-yard screen to tight end Cameron Brate. Running back Leonard Fournette ran for first down, Brady hit Brown again for five before finding Rob Gronkowski for an eight-yard score.

    The hookup between longtime teammates pushed them past Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, making them the most prolific postseason duo ever with 13 touchdowns.

    A 41-yard kickoff return by the Chiefs' Byron Pringle and a six-yard pass from Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce put a wrap on the first quarter, which saw the KC quarterback pressured frequently by an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that sought, successfully, to disrupt the opposing offense.

2nd Quarter

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Uncharacteristically undisciplined defense proved costly for Kansas City in the second quarter, but not before a key stop of the Tampa Bay offense early on.

    After the AFC representative's drive stalled, Brady and the Bucs moved the ball down the field with two hard runs by Ronald Jones II, assisted by lead blocks from Gronkowski.

    Brady built on that momentum, finding Mike Evans in the middle of the field of a 31-yard gain. Jones took the ball to the 2-yard line, but a first-down run fell short and offensive lineman Joe Haeg dropped a pass that would have put the Bucs up by two scores. The Chiefs defense held tough, stopping the Bucs on consecutive runs for a goal-line stand.

    Mahomes found Hill for a 14-yard pickup across the middle but failed to move the ball much more than that. Punter Tommy Townsend blasted a 56-yard punt, but a holding call on linebacker Ben Niemann forced a do-over. This time, Townsend shanked the punt for 29 yards, ensuring Tampa would start on the 38-yard line of KC.

    As if the short field was not enough, a holding call on Charvarius Ward and offsides on fellow cornerback Antonio Hamilton put the Bucs offense on the KC 17. Brady found Gronkowski for their second hookup of the game and a 14-3 lead.

    Mahomes withstood more pressure from the Tampa defense to get the Chiefs in position for a second Butker field goal, this one just 34 yards, narrowing the score to 14-6.

    With under a minute remaining in the half, Brady launched a ball deep for Evans. Breeland was again flagged, this time for 34-yard pass interference. Another PI call, this time an eight-yarder on Tyrann Mathieu, set the Bucs up at the 1-yard line. An inside pass to Brown upped Tampa Bay's lead to 21-6.

    Like the first quarter, the defensive scheme by coordinator Todd Bowles was essential in keeping Hill in check and forcing Mahomes to think fast, thus disrupting the offensive flow. Here, though, frustration from Mathieu and sloppy, undisciplined defense gave Brady free yardage and resulted in the Bucs taking a significant lead into halftime.

3rd Quarter

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Tony Romo talked up the Chiefs offense and the superhero-like Mahomes narrowing the gap and keeping the dream of a repeat alive. A 26-yard run by Edwards-Helaire, an eight-yard pass to Kelce and another 10-yard gallop by the rookie running back appeared to prove the color commentator right.

    Bucs linebacker Lavonte David broke up a 3rd-and-7 pass, though, and forced another Butker field goal to bring the score to 21-9.

    Looking to put the proverbial dagger in KC's chances of a comeback, Tampa Bay took to the field with a touchdown in mind. A pass from Brady to Fournette on 3rd-and-4 for 12 yards kept the drive alive. A 25-yarder to Gronkowski two plays later took the NFC champs to the KC 27.

    From there, Fournette reminded the world why he was the fourth overall draft pick in Jacksonville in 2017 with a 27-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 28-9.

    Mahomes' disastrous night continued with a tip and interception by rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. To that point in the game, the 2018 Most Valuable Player was 0-of-7 on third-down passing, a staggering statistic representative of the defensive execution of the opposition.

    Brady jumped on a loose ball following a high snap from Ryan Jensen, the lone miscue on a near-flawless night for the offense. A loss of 14 on that play set up kicker Ryan Succop for a 52-yard field goal to make the Chiefs' prospects of a comeback that much more unlikely.

    But that did not mean the defending champions would roll over and quit.

    Mahomes, noticeably limping as he nursed a turf toe injury in need of surgical repair, marched his team down the field. He hit Hill on a 21-yard pass, then added a 13-yarder to Sammy Watkins. An incomplete pass to Darrel Williams stunted the momentum as the quarter came to a close.

    The Chiefs' inability to sustain drives, thwart pressure and execute at the level they typically did again reared its head. They were out-toughed in the third quarter, really the whole game, something CBS' Nate Burleson would point to as one of the differences in the outcome during the postgame show.

4th Quarter

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    With reality and a sense of desperation setting in, the Chiefs started the fourth quarter driving.

    Mahomes connected with Kelce for another of his 10 total catches, bringing the ball to the 12. Edwards-Helaire added one. Rushes by Shaq Barrett and William Gholston forced the ball out of Mahomes' hands in three consecutive plays as the Chiefs turned the ball over on downs.

    With their second Super Bowl title in sight, the Buccaneers stuck to the ground game. Runs by Fournette and Ronald Jones II picked up a total of 27 yards before Brady hit Brate for six. The steady, methodical drive continued, with Fournette rushing for nine more yards. A 3rd-and-1 shot from Brady to Gronkowski missed, though, and the team punted to the Chiefs' 8-yard line.

    Mahomes hit Kelce for 33 yards, a rare explosive play allowed by the superb Bucs defense. Suh made up for the breakdown, sacking Mahomes for an eight-yard loss. The aggression of the defense proved costly as Jason Pierre-Paul earned a 15-yard roughing penalty as a result of an ugly hit on the quarterback.

    The game plan to hit Mahomes early and often extended into the fourth quarter as Suh added an explosive sack. A 23-yard catch-and-run from Hill on 3rd-and-33 set the Chiefs up for a crucial 4th-and-10. They failed to convert.

    The Bucs ran the ball, punted on fourth down and gave the Chiefs one last shot at avoiding a Super Bowl appearance without a trip to the end zone.

    Prior to Sunday's game, Mahomes had never lost a game by double digits. Seeking to ensure that stat would not hang over his performance like a black cloud of insult, he marched into the red zone...and threw his second interception of the game, this one to linebacker Devin White.

    Three kneel-downs later and the extraordinary Brady earned his seventh Super Bowl title and fifth MVP award. Though the attention was on him, and rightfully so given his stature, it was the balanced offensive attack by coordinator Byron Leftwich (29 passes for 201 yards; 33 rushes for 145) and the superb play of a defense that pressured Mahomes on 29 of 56 passing attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Info (h/t Mina Kimes), and essentially eliminated Hill.

    Bowles, a failed coach with the New York Jets, shut down the Chiefs' potent offense and held them to three field goals. It was a masterful game plan and one that should be studied by every NFL team trying to crack the code that has been Kansas City's league-wide dominance over the last three years.

    As for Brady, it was yet another example of big-game excellence by the best to ever lace a pair of cleats. The all-timer is referred to as the GOAT, and with good reason. He bet on himself and proved his detractors and former team wrong by stepping out of the shadow of Bill Belichick and adding to his unparalleled resume.