Super Bowl 2021 Highlights: Examining Pivotal Moments from Chiefs vs. Buccaneers

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2021

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette, right, celebrates with teammate Tom Brady after scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Super Bowl LV has come to a close. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in what was billed as a battle of two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever grace an NFL field.

Ultimately, the battle proved to be a one-sided affair. Brady played an efficient brand of football—though he certainly made some incredible plays—while Mahomes was consistently battered by the Buccaneers' vaunted pass rush.

As is usually the case in a game of this magnitude, much was decided by a few impact plays and pivotal moments. Here, we'll take a look back at how the game unfolded and where some of those game-changing plays entered the equation.

The action got off to a relatively slow start, as the Chiefs and Buccaneers traded scoreless possessions before Kansas City got on the board with a field goal. Brady and the Buccaneers answered with a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski just before the end of the quarter.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

BRADY TO GRONK 🚨 First TD of the Super Bowl (via @NFL) https://t.co/1TcMFq5Chb

Remarkably, this marked the first touchdown of Brady's career to occur in the first quarter of a Super Bowl. In fact, in his nine previous trips to the big game, Brady's teams had scored a total of three points in the first quarter.

"Hard to explain why or why not that hasn't happened," Brady said ahead of Sunday's game, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk. "I'm sure they're all a lot of individual things, why that's happened or not."

The next pivotal point came on Tampa's next drive, where the team drove down to the Kansas City goal line. However, the Chiefs defense stood up Ronald Jones II on fourth down, putting an end to Tampa's drive and giving Mahomes and Co. new life.


The @Chiefs make a GOAL LINE STAND. #RunItBack 📺: #SBLV on CBS 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/HJtQf5igun https://t.co/IogwjPfj0S

Unfortunately, Kansas City didn't go far offensively—due in part to a rare Travis Kelce drop—then committed a couple of huge special teams mishaps.

Rich Eisen @richeisen

Dreadful mistakes in the kicking game for KC. First a dropped snap leads to a hold which negates a terrific punt and brings about a total shank.

The mistakes continued for Kansas City, as a defensive holding call wiped out a Tyrann Mathieu interception. The Patriots were set to capitalize with a Ryan Succop field goal, but another penalty—this one offsides—extended that drive.

The end result was another strike from Brady to Gronkowski for six points and ultimately a 14-3 second-quarter lead. And by a strike, we do mean a strike.

Matthew Berry @MatthewBerryTMR

Vintage Gronk. Wow. (via @nfl) https://t.co/yyeQGkcZqs

During the lead-up to Super Bowl LV, Brady mentioned to ESPN's Ian O'Connor that he's considering playing long past his previous goal of 45 years old. Throws like the one Brady made on Gronkowski's second touchdown show exactly why he believes this.

Kansas City took back some momentum on its following drive, but heavy pressure prevented Mahomes from finding a target in the end zone. Instead, the Chiefs were forced to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Harrison Butker.

This was, at least, enough to pull Kansas City within a score.

On Tampa's ensuing drive, the Buccaneers benefited from a pass-interference call on a deep shot from Brady to Mike Evans. This quickly set up the Buccaneers with an opportunity within field-goal range.

Mathieu was then called for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Buccaneers an even better opportunity with just 10 seconds and zero timeouts. This time, Brady found Antonio Brown for a one-yard touchdown.

Eric Edholm @Eric_Edholm

That was a dirty route by AB. Whew.

At this point, frustration appeared to be setting in for the Chiefs, as Mathieu was called for unsportsmanlike conduct following the score. Naturally, a 21-6 deficit was not where Andy Reid's team thought it would be at halftime.

While Kansas City didn't have momentum heading into the break, the team picked up some just after halftime when Clyde Edwards-Helaire ripped off a 26-yard run. It was, to that point, easily the biggest play for the Chiefs.

Edwards-Helaire added a 10-yard run on the drive and helped push the Chiefs to the edge of field-goal range. However, pressure once again flushed Mahomes from the pocket and helped force an incompletion.

Yet again, the Chiefs were forced to settle for three points. This time, Butker nailed a 52-yarder to bring the score to 21-9.

Tampa answered right back, though. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo appeared a little more comfortable pressuring Brady on the drive, and Tampa countered by leaning on short passes and running back Leonard Fournette.

Fournette capped the six-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown run.

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SUPER BOWL LENNY TD 🚨 This is wild. (via @NFL) https://t.co/Yc5hM7pfTj

By midway through the third quarter, Tampa Bay had a 28-9 lead. Things didn't get any easier for Kansas City on its next drive. Shaquil Barrett sacked Mahomes, setting up 3rd-and-long. On the next play, a tipped ball landed in the arms of Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Within real-time minutes of their last score, the Buccaneers were back on offense with the ball in Chiefs territory.

Tampa threatened to reach the end zone again, but this time, the ball did bounce Kansas City's way. A bad snap from Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen on third down pushed them out of striking distance and into deep field-goal range.

Ryan Succop managed to make the 52-yarder to make the score 31-9, but things could easily have been worse for the Chiefs.

The Chiefs entered the fourth quarter inside Tampa Bay's 30-yard line, but it was clear by that point that Mahomes toe injury was a factor. His mobility wasn't what it was before he suffered the injury in the divisional round.

Combined with the absence of left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles), Kansas City was struggling to find answers for Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and the Buccaneers pass rush.

Yet, Mahomes showed that he wasn't going to surrender on 3rd-and-9 inside the 20. He bought time in the pocket, loaded up and nearly made a phenomenal play to put a touchdown on the board. His heave into the end zone fell incomplete, but just barely—and it was nevertheless an incredible display of Mahomes' talents.

Will Brinson @WillBrinson

Greatest incompletion of all time?

Kansas City, though, had no choice but to go for it on 4th-and-9 and failed to convert.

The Chiefs were able to force a punt on Tampa's next drive—the first time they had done so since the opening quarter—but the Bucs were able to bleed the game clock down to just over eight minutes.

Following the punt, Kansas City needed to go more than 90 yards. After a quick strike pushed the Chiefs past the 40, though, another sack set up 2nd-and-18. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Pierre-Paul gave the Chiefs another chance on the very next play.

A few plays later, Kansas City was within striking distance again, but a huge sac from Ndamukong Suh put the Chiefs in a 3rd-and-33 situation back near the 50-yard line.

The Chiefs failed to convert, but a taunting penalty on Winfield set up Tampa Bay deep in its own territory to start the drive.

Winfield gave a completely unnecessary peace sign to Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill, who burned the Buccaneers in the regular season but was held largely in check to this point in the game. Hill finished the game with 73 yards on seven receptions, a far cry from his 269-yard, three-touchdown outing against Tampa in Week 12.

Computer Cowboy @benbbaldwin

LOL Winfield https://t.co/3FZ29PvqG8

A quick three-and-out for the Buccaneers gave Kansas City another chance with less than four minutes remaining, but at this point, the game was all but over. It was over by the end of the drive, as Mahomes was picked off in the end zone by Devin White.

Brady ended the game with the ball in his hands and his knee on the ground, wrapping up the 31-9 victory and winning his seventh Lombardi Trophy.

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Seven rings. What else can you say? 🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐🐐 @brgridiron https://t.co/QZkJuPTybE

Brady finished the game a crisp 21-of-29 for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Mahomes went 26-of-49 for 270 yards with two interceptions. A year after the young gun was named Super Bowl MVP, Brady won the award for the fifth time in his career.

"We're coming back," Brady said during the CBS postgame process.

Given Brady's long history of striving for championships, he and head coach Bruce Arians will likely soon have the Buccaneers setting their sights on some highlight moments in next year's Super Bowl.

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