The Super Bowl in review

— The torch wasn’t passed to a new generation in this Super Bowl. Tom Brady held it firmly in his hands to win his seventh Super Bowl as Tampa Bay routed the favored Chiefs. It was his first with a new team and means he has more Super Bowl rings than any team. The Steelers and Patriots have six each. 

— For the Chiefs, it was a night of running into a perfect storm. With both tackles injured, the Bucs were able to rush four, drop seven in coverage with two deep safeties. And the Chiefs made no adjustments and Patrick Mahomes was running for his life much of the game as he was pressured 29 times.  On top of that, the officials called some ticky tacky fouls Chiefs and, as usual, Andy Reid made some coaching blunders. He is 17-15 in the playoffs, 1-2 in Super Bowls, 0-4 in playoffs vs. Brady. His lack of adjustments when Chiefs saw they couldn’t block the Bucs front four and calling two-time outs at the end of the first half to help the Bucs score were inexcusable. And his team didn’t look well+ prepared. Reid also admitted after the game he should have helped Mahomes with more running plays. Then he also had to deal with his son’s traffic accident that left a young girl fighting for her life and raised questions about whether coaches should hire their sons or let them make it on their own.

— If the Chiefs had won, they would have been going for a threepeat and there would have been talk about a dynasty. Now there are questions about their future. As a Super Bowl loser, the odds are against them winning in 2021. Since Miami did it in 1972, the only team to lose the Super Bowl and win it the next year were the Patriots and Brady two years ago.

— If the Mahomes had won, he would have been trailing Brady in Super Bowls 6-2 with a lot of years to match him. Now the gap is 7-1. And while he figures to win again, the odds are against him catching Brady. And there are no guarantees he will win again. Brett Favre and Russell Wilson won one, lose one the next year and haven’t been back. Dan Marino lost one in his second year and never returned. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees each won one and haven‘t returned. Mahomes is still a wunderkind quarterback, but Reid has to coach better and fix the offensive line problems in particular if they are to return.

— Now the question is whether the Bucs can become the first team to repeat since Brady did it in 2003-2004. Only one quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, repeated twice. If Brady wins the next two, he can become the first quarterback to win three Super Bowls in a row and the second to win four in six years. Bradshaw is the only quarterback to do that. It seems crazy to talk about Brady winning two more, but he showed once again you can’t bet against him.

— Besides Reid, another loser was his offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was bypassed for a head job the last two years. It is not going to be any easier now considering the way the NFL snubs minority coaches.

–A nother loser was Bill Belichick, who went from being called the best coach ever to having questions raised about whether all his success was about Brady. He has a losing record without Brady, and Max Kellerman said on ESPN that Belichick needs to show he can win a Super Bowl without him. Stephen Smith (do I have to use the A?) said he doesn’t question Belichick as a coach but as a GM. He also said he didn’t make Brady feel wanted and that is one of the reasons he left. Don’t know whether that is true, but it is not Belichick’s style to give his players much love. And now Belichick has to counter with young promising AFC coaches, including Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and probably Trevor Lawrence. And Deshaun Watson could stay in the conference.

— The three big winners were coach Bruce Arians, who seemingly retired a couple of times, but showed he is underrated as a coach, and his two minority coordinators, Todd Bowles and Bryon Leftwich. Bowles has been fired once and Leftwich didn’t get an interview this year. They will get noticed now, but no guarantee of a head job. The NFL still has a sorry record on hiring minority coaches.  

Analyzing the Super Bowl LV quarterback matchup

This year’s Super Bowl is being hyped as the best quarterback matchup of all time – Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

But sometimes the hype doesn’t live up to the reality. This may be the most interesting matchup because it could be a passing of the torch from the best of this generation to probably the best of the next generation.

Still, it doesn’t match Bart Starr vs. Len Dawson in the first Super Bowl or Terry Bradshaw vs. Roger Staubach twice in four years in the 1970s to decide the team of the decade.

In those duels, both quarterbacks were at the top of their games. The Drew Brees-Peyton Manning matchup also featured two HOF QBs in their prime. This Super Bowl is like the old Western movie in which the young gunslinger challenges the old gunfighter.

It is amazing that Brady got here at age 43, but he is no longer in his prime. He threw picks on three consecutive second half drives against Green Bay but the Packers handed the Bucs an easy touchdown with a bad defensive strategy at the end of the first half.

And Packers coach Matt LeFleur took the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands on fourth down with just over two minutes left to take a field goal and cut the deficit from eight to five points. He never got the ball back. And he also went for two too early.

You can’t make mistakes like that against Brady.

Mahomes, by contrast, is just reaching his prime at age 25 in his fourth season. A victory will give him two rings in his first four years just like Brady did, and he will then be shooting to match Brady’s record of winning three in his first five years next year.

He also would be attempting to become the first quarterback to threepeat in the Super Bowl era. Green Bay won three in a row twice in 1929-30-31 and 1965-66-67, but only the last two games were in the Super Bowl era.

Also, a win this year would give Mahomes a realistic shot of matching Brady’s record of six Super Bowl wins over the next decade and a half. After all, Brady won three on his first five years and then didn’t win another one for the next nine years and lost twice to the Giants in that span before adding three more.

Mahomes is obviously the better of the two quarterbacks at this point. Which is why two-thirds of the betting action is on Kansas City covering the three-point spread.

Still, the Chiefs have a beat-up line after losing tackle Eric Fisher last week and the Bucs have a good rushing line and can put a lot of pressure on Mahomes.

And being the better quarterback in the Super Bowl doesn’t guarantee success. Walterfootball.com notes that in the Brady era, the better quarterback is only 5-12 against the spread in the Super Bowl.

And Brady lost to Eli Manning twice and once to Nick Foles even though he was the better quarterback. And he beat Kurt Warner in his first Super Bowl when Warner was better at that point.

Brady also didn’t cover the spread against Jake Delhomme or Donovan McNabb although he won both games. And if Mahomes loses this one, he is not likely to challenge the GOAT. He would be trailing Brady 7-1 in Super Bowls rather than 6-2. Winning six more would be more daunting than four more.

So, this is a Super Bowl about what the legacy of both quarterbacks will be.

If Mahomes is going to someday be remembered as good as or even better than Brady, he has to win this game. Brady will still be the GOAT of his time even if he loses but a 6-4 Super Bowl record wouldn’t be as impressive as a 7-3 mark.

It may not be the best quarterback matchup, but this game is still all about Mahomes and Brady.    

Super Bowl LV preview

This might be considered a Throwback Super Bowl.

It is like the early days of the Super Bowl when it was a football game rather than a national holiday and festival featuring millions of parties. Remember, the first one in Los Angeles wasn’t a sellout.

Now that has all changed. 

The game usually attracts 100 million or more viewers in the U.S., but all bets are off because this is the first COVID-19 Super Bowl. TV ratings are down this year even though more people are staying at home. It doesn’t figure to get a record TV audience, although it will still likely be the most-watched TV show this year.

It will have a different feel. More fans will be watching at home with only their families. Health officials like Dr. Fauci are cautioning fans not to have Super Bowl parties to avoid spreading the disease. The stadium in Tampa won’t be filled.

There wasn’t as much hype because the press conferences were by zoom and Kansas City didn’t come into town until Friday instead of spending the week at the site. The Bucs don’t have to travel because they are the first team to host the game in their own stadium.

Still, the Bucs-Chiefs Super Bowl figures to be entertaining. The Chiefs won the regular-season matchup by three, although they jumped to a 17-0 lead before sputtering. And they’re favored by three in this game.

All the hype is about Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes, but the real matchup will be the Bucs defensive line against a battered defensive line of the Chiefs.

The thing to watch is whether the Bucs can rush Mahomes with four to get him out of his rhythm and then drop seven into coverage. If the Bucs can’t get to Mahomes with four and have to bring a fifth rusher, the advantage goes to the Chiefs.

There’s also the question of how well Brady plays. Getting to the Super Bowl at age 43 is amazing even in an era when quarterbacks are protected, but he is obviously not what he was in his prime.

In his last Super Bowl appearance two years ago, he put three points on the board against the Rams the first three quarters and won 13-3. Thirteen points won’t beat the Chiefs, who are also trying to become the first team to repeat since the 2003-2004 Patriots.

As good as Brady is, he didn’t threepeat and hasn’t repeated twice. We will find out Sunday if Mahomes can take that next step towards greatness by repeating.

Will Reid blow another chance to beat Brady in a Super Bowl?

Andy Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs veteran leader, is one of the best coaches of his time, but he also belongs to a club that no coach wants on his resume.

He is one of the six coaches who have lost to Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. And he didn’t just lose. Like the other five, he was the victim of gaffes or mistakes in the game that helped Brady win it.

If the six losing coaches had coached better, Brady would not have six Super Bowl wins. The perception is that Brady has been lights out in the Super Bowl, but he had an 86.2 QB rating in his first Super Bowl win and a 71.4 QB rating in his sixth.

He has been above QB 101 only once in the six Super Bowl wins. His best Super Bowl was the second one against the Eagles when he threw for 505 yards with three touchdowns and a 115.4 QB rating and lost.

But the Patriots and Brady were able to take advantage of mistakes by the losers in the six Super Bowl wins. They took advantage of the opportunities there were presented to them.

And now Reid is the first of the six to get a second crack at Brady in the Super Bowl after facing him in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville in 2005.

The other five are Mike Martz, John Fox, Pete Carroll, Dan Quinn and Sean McVay. Fox and Reid made it back to the Super Bowl, and Reid became the only one of the five to win the Super Bowl after losing one to the Brady and the Patriots when the Chiefs beat the 49ers last year. 

And Fox became the only one of the six to beat Brady in the playoffs after losing to his team in the Super Bowl. Fox’s Broncos beat the Patriots in the AFC title game at the end of the 2013 season, 26-16,  but lost the Super Bowl to the Seahawks, 43-6, in the Super Bowl. 

Fox and Reid made it back to the Super Bowl and won it with different teams, but not against the Patriots. Martz, Carroll and Quinn haven’t made it back and Martz is now retired and Quinn was recently hired by the Cowboys as their defensive coordinator after being fired by Atlanta.

And Fox became the only one of the six to beat Brady in the playoffs after losing to his team in the Super Bowl. Fox did it twice as the Denver coach, beating the Patriots in the AFC title game 26-16 at the end of the 2013 season and 20-18 two years later. The Broncos were routed in the Super Bowl by the Seahawks 43-6 at the end of the 2013 season but beat his former Carolina team, 24-10 in the Super Bowl two years later.

Reid has lost twice to Brady in the playoffs – at the end of the 2015 and 2018 seasons — since his only Super Bowl coaching experience against him. The Chiefs 2018 loss when Dee Ford jumped offsides to nullify a Brady interception that would have clinched the game for the Chiefs was their last playoff loss.

So he goes into Sunday’s game with a three-game losing streak against Brady in the playoffs.

Reid first faced Brady when he coached the Eagles on Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville in 2005. The Eagles tied the game 14-14 late in the third period before the Patriots scored on consecutive drives to take a 10-point lead.

After Donovan McNabb threw an interception and the Eagles forced the Patriots to punt, the Eagles got the ball back trailing by 10 with 5:40 left. They went 79 yards in 13 plays, but didn’t use the hurry-up or the no-huddle and didn’t score until there was 1:48 left.

They then forced the Patriots to punt but they were pinned back on their own 4 with 46 seconds left. Game over.

Why the Eagles didn’t go to the no huddle remains a mystery. Reid said after the game, “Well, we were trying to hurry up. I don’t know what happened.” Even the Patriots were puzzled. Rodney Harrison told the Philadelphia Inquirer years later, “I’m looking at Tedy Bruschi and I’m like, “What the heck are they doing? Why aren’t they going to the hurry-up offense?”

Harrison said Bruschi said it was the dumbest thing he had ever seen. And that wasn’t Reid’s only gaffe. Reid also left two time outs in his pocket at the end of the first half, which ended with the Eagles on their own 41. They got the ball on their 19 with 1:10 left. McNabb threw 10 and 14 yard passes to get to the 41 before Reid called his first time out of the half. Another wasted opportunity.

And he had McNabb throw 51 passes in a three-point game, but then Reid has always leaned on the passing game. There has been talk that McNabb threw up on the final drive, but even if he did, he did end the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass. McNabb denied he threw up.

Thirteen years later, the Eagles handed Brady one of his three Super Bowl losses with Doug Pederson as the head coach and this time it was the Eagles who came up with the big play with the Philly Special.

And now Reid gets another chance at Brady in his first year with the Bucs. This time, Reid has Patrick Mahomes on his side and he’s favored. But Reid has a beat-up offensive line after losing tackle Eric Fisher in the AFC title game, and the Bucs have a good pass rush.

And he faces veteran coach Bruce Arians, who is the oldest coach to make a Super Bowl debut at age 68 years 127 days.

Reid, who is 62 years and 325 days old, can become the oldest coach to repeat. Vince Lombardi was 54 when he won the first two.

“I’m still part of the Geritol crew,” Reid said this week. “We are a little bit older and there is experience that comes with that and I guess you could say wisdom with age.”

Reid did show some wisdom when he joined the Chiefs in 2013 after being fired by the Eagles. He said he didn’t want to be the GM so he could concentrate on coaching. That turned out to be a good move. Now Reid gets a chance to avenge that Super Bowl loss when he was outcoached and end a three-game playoff loss string to Brady.

Reid, though, has a lot of company in coaches making bad moves while losing to Brady in the Super Bowl.

Here is a look at the other five:

–Mike Martz and the St. Louis Cardinals were two touchdown favorites to beat the Patriots in Brady’s first Super Bowl at the end of the first 2001 season. It was Brady’s first season of playing and he passed for only 145 yards with one touchdown and no picks and an 86.2 quarterback rating in the game. But Martz was outcoached by Belichick and that was the difference. He played a nickel defense to stop the Rams’ passing game. Martz should have countered by running Marshall Faulk, but he gave him only 17 carries. Meanwhile, Kurt Warner passed 44 times and 365 yards but threw two picks. The Greatest Show on Turf scored only three points the first three quarters and fell behind 17-3. Warner finally rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter with 1:30 left but Brady then directed a drive to put Adam Vinatieri in position for the game winning 48-yard field goal.

–John Fox coached the Panthers in Brady’s second Super Bowl after the 2003 season. The Panthers fell behind 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. The Panthers then came back for a touchdown to make it 21-16 with 12:39 left. Fox then made the decision to go for two and didn’t make it. So, the score was 21-16 instead of 21-17 if he had kicked the extra point. With 6:53 left, Jake Delhomme thew an 85-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad to give Carolina a 22-21 lead. And he went for two again and didn’t make it. So he was only ahead 22-21 instead of 24-21 if he had kicked both extra points. The Patriots then scored with 2:51 left to take a 27-22 lead and Belichick decided to go for two, which he said he wouldn’t have done if the score was 27-24. The Patriots got the two points for a 29-22 lead. The Patriots lead would have been 28-24 if Fox had kicked two extra points and Belichick kicked one.The Panthers then scored a touchdown and went for one to tie the game 29-29 with 1:08 left. If Fox had just kicked extra points after the two previous touchdowns and Belichick had kicked one, the Panthers would have been ahead 31-28.The Patriots took over on their 17 and drove to the Carolina 23 and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field to win the game. If Fox hadn’t gone for two twice, which caused Belichick to go for it once and make it, the field goal would have tied the game and they would have gone into overtime. The fact that Fox cost the Panthers a shot in overtime has been almost forgotten, but the decision helped Brady win his second Super Bowl.

–As we discussed earlier, Reid then failed to go to the no huddle in the Super Bowl after the 2004 season as Brady won his third Super Bowl in five years.–Brady didn’t win another Super Bowl the next nine years and made it only twice, losing both times to the Giants. And he appeared to be on the cusp of losing Super Bowl XLIX after the 2014 season when the Seahawks had second down and one time out at the New England one in the final minute. Instead of running Marshawn Lynch, Seahawk coach Pete Carroll decided to call a pass and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a pass in traffic in the middle of the field and Malcolm Butler intercepted it and Brady had his fourth Super Bowl win. Seattle hasn’t been back in the Super Bowl since. 

–Two years later, the Patriots were trailing Atlanta 28-3 and you know what happened then. The Falcons still led 28-20 with 4:40 left and had a first down at the Patriots 22. All they had to do was run three plays and kick a field goal for an 11-point lead and even Brady probably couldn’t overcome that. But after Devonta Freeman lost a yard on first down, Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, called a pass and Matt Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. On third down, a holding call pushed the Falcons back to the New England 45. The Falcons punted and Brady led them to a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game 28-28. In overtime, the Patriots won the toss and drove for the game winning touchdown and Brady had his fifth Super Bowl win. The Falcons haven’t returned to the Super Bowl since and Quinn was fired last season. If the Falcons had kicked the field goal, they probably would have won by three.–The following year, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles for Brady’s third Super Bowl loss.

–New England then made the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season after the 2018 and beat an overmatched Ram team, 13-3, that only got into the game because of their win over New Orleans in the NFC title game. They won it because of a non-call on what should have been a pass interference penalty on the Rams. The odds are that the Saints would have scored more than three points if they had made the Super Bowl. The Rams-Patriots game was tied 3-3 after three quarters before the Patriots scored 10 points in the fourth period. Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards with one pick and no TD passes and a pedestrian 71.4 quarterback rating. Even though there wasn’t a big single gaffe, McVay later admitted he didn’t prepare well for the game. “I’d be lying if I said that if things go a little off track, you probably have too many thoughts in your head,” he said later in a podcast. The moment seemed too big for both McVay and quarterback Jared Goff, who was recently traded. McVay told SI that he “over-prepared” and lost perspective. Whatever it was, Goff had a 57.9 quarterback rating. The bottom line is Brady got his sixth Super Bowl win.

So that’s the story of his 6-3 Super Bowl record that has earned him GOAT status. But he easily could have lost two or three more if not for gaffes by the opposing team and a 4-5 or 3-6 Super Bowl record wouldn’t look as gaudy. So many ifs. If Fox hadn’t gone for two, if Seattle had run from the one, if the Falcons had a kicked a field goal. Now he goes for his seventh win against a coach who knows what it is like to lose a Super Bowl to Brady.

Will Reid be ready to make up for last time? We find out Sunday.   

NFL conference championships in review

There wasn’t much Tom Brady could do to cement his legacy as the GOAT in the NFC title game. But he did it anyway.

He not only won a conference title game for the 10th time – first in the NFC – he did it in the most improbable way while leading the Bucs to a victory over the Green Bay Packers.

He did it at 43 with a wild card team that had to win three road games and he did it with a new team in a COVID-19 year when he didn’t have an off season or a normal training camp with a new team.

And he did it while throwing three interceptions – on three consecutive second half drives – and that was the second time he won a conference title game with three picks. All he does is win.

He also had the advantage of the opposing team making bonehead mistakes as has happened so often in his career.

Remember the Seahawks on the one-yard line? And he twice has won playoff games while throwing what should have been a game ending pick against the Chargers in 2006 and two years ago against the Chiefs.

The Chargers Marlon McCree fumbled the ball away after making the 2006 interception and the Patriots came back to win.

And two years ago, Dee Ford jumped offsides to nullify the Chiefs pick and the Patriots again came back to win.

This time, coach Matt LeFleur of the Packers, made the head scratching decision to kick a field goal on fourth down from the eight-yard line with just over two minutes left.

That cut the deficit from eight to give points and the Packers never got the ball back. And Aaron Rodgers didn’t come up big just as he didn’t in the team’s 2014 NFC title loss to the Seahawks.

Rodgers had a first down on the eight and threw three incomplete passes before the field goal. On the third down, he probably could have run it in for a score.

And Rodgers got only six points off Brady’s three interceptions as the Packers abandoned the run and Rodgers didn’t hit the passes.

Brady can be beaten in the playoffs. He’s lost three Super Bowls and seven other playoff games. But you don’t beat him by making mistakes.

—The biggest loser in the playoffs was Rodgers, who still has only one Super Bowl win on his resume and said after the game he faces an uncertain future and there were reports he wants a contract extension despite having three years left on his contract. The Packers responded by saying he is still in their plans. But will he win another Super Bowl? Was this his last best chance? Stay tuned.

—The Kansas City-Buffalo game was overshadowed by the Bucs victory. As expected, the Bills were no match for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The only negative for the Chiefs is that they lost tackle Eric Fisher, which may make it more difficult for them to protest Mahomes against the Tampa Bay pass rush. The Green Bay loss means there won’t be a rematch of Super Bowl I but CBS loves the Brady-Mahomes matchup. It pits the GOAT against the quarterback who may be the best for the next decade. A Mahomes victory will give him two Super Bowl wins in his first four years, which is what Brady did back from 2000 to 2003. Both both sat out their first season so they won two in three years. It would also give him a shot at a threepeat, which Brady never did. And it would mean he would need four Super Bowl wins in the next dozen years or so to tie Brady’s record of six Super Bowl wins.

—It was a difficult loss for the Bills, who know they have to go through Mahomes if they expect to get to the Super Bowl any time soon. And Josh Allen wasn’t up to the challenge. And Buffalo coach Sean McDermott made a head scratching decision which has been a theme for losing coaches in the playoffs. He twice kicked field goals from fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard-line and fourth-and—3 from the eight yard line when they needed touchdowns. McDermott said he did it to help the team’s morale. It would have helped their morale if they had scored touchdowns in those two situations. The Bills lost 38-24 so they probably would have lost anyway but you play to win the game, not to help morale.