It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay won its second Super Bowl championship by beating the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl LV in the friendly confines of Raymond James Stadium. Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and was named the Super Bowl MVP as he out-dueled Patrick Mahomes, who was sacked three times, threw two picks and was under duress the entire night from Todd Bowles’ menacing defense.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
Table of Contents
STATEMENT 1. Greatest Bucs Win By The Greatest Bucs Team
Out of the way, Jon Gruden.
Move over, Derrick Brooks.
Step aside, Mike Alstott.
This 2020 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers team is the greatest team in Tampa Bay history.
This in no way belittles or demeans the amazing accomplishment of the 2002 Bucs team winning Super Bowl XXXVII, which forever has the distinction of being the first Tampa Bay team to become world champions. But it’s time to reorder the rankings given the magnitude of what this year’s team accomplished in becoming the first team to host – and win – a Super Bowl in its home stadium. And to do so in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic no less.
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and owner Malcom Glazer – Photo by: USA Today
The Tom Brady-led Bucs defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in an epic Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium that proves that defense can still win championships.
So why is this 2020 Tampa Bay team better than the original Super Bowl squad from 2002 that featured three (or more) future Hall of Famers on defense? Because Brady and the Bucs had to travel for three weeks to get back home for the Super Bowl as a wild card team, and had to beat the likes of New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes to dethrone the defending champs and win the Super Bowl.
In 2002, the road was easier for Tampa Bay, as that Bucs team trounced three lesser QBs in San Francisco’s Jeff Garcia, Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb and Oakland’s Rich Gannon, and only had two the last two games away on the road. While Gannon was the league’s MVP that season, Rodgers was the MVP this year, and Mahomes was last year’s Super Bowl MVP. McNabb, Garcia and Gannon were good quarterbacks, but they weren’t in the elite, Hall of Fame class that Brees, Rodgers or Mahomes are.
While Super Bowl LV didn’t feature five interceptions, including three pick-sixes like the 2002 Bucs team turned in, the performance put on by Todd Bowles’ unit was just as impressive in its own way, harassing Mahomes all night and keeping the high-powered Kansas City offense out of the end zone. In his young, fabled, four-year career, Mahomes had never started a game for the Chiefs where the offense didn’t score a touchdown.
Tampa Bay’s pass rush took advantage of an injury-riddled, makeshift offensive line in Kansas City and made Mahomes run for his life practically all night, sacking him three times. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh led the way with 1.5 sacks, while outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett had one sack and a game-high four pressures.
The Bucs’ Grave Diggers secondary was clutch, holding Mahomes under 300 yards passing and keeping Tyreek Hill out of the end zone. Mahomes threw for over 450 yards in the Week 12 meeting, with Hill having 269 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a game that would turn out to be the last Tampa Bay loss of the 2020 season.
Bucs FS Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill – Photo by: USA Today
Rookie safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. had the first interception of the night off a deflected pass that was tipped by fellow safety Mike Edwards. It was one of nine pass breakups by Tampa Bay’s sticky secondary, which didn’t give up the big play because of Bowles’ smart deployment of Cover 2 and Cover 4 rather than his usual heavy dose of Cover 1 or Cover 3. Bowles only blitzed Mahomes four times on the night because he didn’t have to. Tampa Bay’s front four provided plenty of pass rush, hitting Mahomes a total of eight times.
Winfield made sure to let Hill know that the Bucs secondary dug his grave late in the game, flashing a peace sign right in his face, which drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Hill often throws up a peace sign to opposing defensive backs on the way to the end zone, but the tables were turned in Super Bowl LV.
While the 2002 Buccaneers had their ghosts to vanquish in Philadelphia by finally beating the Eagles and shutting down the Vet, which had been their house of horrors in the early 2000s, this 2020 Tampa Bay team had its own psychological hurdle to face. After five straight losses, including four during Bruce Arians’ brief tenure with the team, the Bucs went to New Orleans and finally beat the bully, 30-20 in the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs. It was a remarkably similar feel to what Tampa Bay did in Philly 18 years ago.
This 2020 Bucs team has its own share of future Hall of Famers, but perhaps not on the defensive side. Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Mike Evans, who was held to just one catch for 31 yards but drew a couple of big pass interference penalties by the Chiefs, are destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, showing that this year’s Super Bowl squad is led by an offense that averaged over 30 points per game. That’s the most in Tampa Bay history.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
Brady, the greatest QB of all time and the most winning player in NFL history, is the most storied player to ever wear the red and pewter – even if it’s only in his first season with the Bucs. Super Bowl XXXVIII QB Brad Johnson has his place in Bucs lore, but he’s no Brady, who won his seventh Super Bowl title and his fifth Super Bowl MVP on the night by throwing three first half touchdowns to help build a 21-6 lead that would never be threatened thanks to a dominating performance by Tampa Bay’s defense.
It was truly complimentary football at its finest during Super Bowl LV. Just like it was back in 2002 in Super Bowl XXXVII when Gruden’s offense scored 27 of the Bucs’ 48 points that day, which would have been enough to beat Oakland without any of the Bucs’ three defensive touchdowns.
Only better this time around for Tampa Bay with the GOAT leading the way.
STATEMENT 2. Every Point Scored Was From A Bucs Newcomer
Bucs general manager Jason Licht deserves a tremendous amount of credit for assembling this year’s Super Bowl LV championship team, as it was littered with plenty of homegrown talent with the likes of wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, offensive linemen Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa and Tristan Wirfs, running back Ronald Jones II, nose tackle Vita Vea, linebacker Devin White and the Bucs’ entire Grave Diggers secondary. But it was the newcomers to Tampa Bay this year that stole the show in Super Bowl LV.
Bucs QB Tom Brady and GM Jason Licht
In fact, every point that was scored by the Bucs in their Super Bowl win came from a player that wasn’t on Tampa Bay’s 7-9 team from a year ago. Quarterback Tom Brady, who was Licht’s free agent prize this offseason, threw for three touchdowns, including two TD passes to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was acquired in a trade with New England for a fourth-round pick, in the first half.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown had a more productive night than Chris Godwin, who had just nine yards on two receptions. Brown, was a midseason addition and had five catches for 22 yards, including a 16-yarder in the first half. But it was his 1-yard touchdown catch on a slant from Brady with just six seconds left before halftime that proved to be the most critical. That scoring strike between Brady and Brown, who scored his second TD in the postseason for Tampa Bay, gave the Bucs a 21-6 lead at halftime and all of the game’s momentum.
Running back Leonard Fournette, who was added right before the start of the season, led the Bucs in rushing with 89 yards, scored on a 27-yard dash in the third quarter to build Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-9. Ryan Succop, who was a free agent addition in the offseason and beat out Matt Gay for the kicking duties, remained perfect on postseason field goals in his career, drilling a 52-yarder in the third quarter to get the Bucs to 31 points. Succop was also perfect on all of his extra points in Super Bowl LV.
Reserve tackle Joe Haeg, who was another free agent acquisition this offseason, almost caught a touchdown from Brady in the first half on a play-action pass from the 2-yard line, but Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens knocked the ball loose before the 300-pounder could haul it in. Still, Haeg made his presence felt as the team’s designated blocking tight end, helping Fournette and the Bucs’ ground game run for 145 yards against Kansas City.
Whether it was with draft picks, free agents or players acquired via trade, Licht and the Bucs’ personnel and scouting department did an amazing job putting together this year’s Super Bowl championship team.
And Licht saved his best for last with his 2020 acquisitions.
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: What Was The Best Part About The Bucs’ Revenge Tour?
The easy answer is beating Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, but in reality, it’s more than that. The Bucs finally stopped beating themselves this year, and that occurred on the plane ride home from Chicago after a disheartening 20-19 loss in Week 5 in which the offense bogged down inside the red zone, committed too many turnovers and the team had 11 penalties for 109 yards.
“I think our guys coming back on the plane from Chicago made a commitment to each other that we’re going to stop beating ourselves,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians. “What a great, great job they have done all the way through. If you don’t beat yourself – no turnovers, very, very few penalties – you’re going to be hard to beat. We realized that after that game and it’s been an easy job coaching ever since.”
Bucs FS Antoine Winfield, Jr. – Photo by: USA Today
The Bucs never had more than eight penalties in any game since then, and weren’t flagged for more than 65 yards any week since the loss to the Bears. In Super Bowl LV it was Kansas City that imploded with two turnovers and 11 penalties for 120 yards, while Tampa Bay had no turnovers and just four penalties for 39 yards.
After five straight losses over the last three years, the Bucs finally extracted revenge on the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs, winning 30-20 in New Orleans and won the turnover battle 4-0 in that game. The Packers wanted a rematch from the 38-10 shellacking they received in Tampa Bay in Week 6 and got it, but the Bucs prevailed again, 31-26.
Kansas City returned to Tampa Bay for a rematch to defend its Super Bowl title, and failed miserably, 31-9, with Arians and coordinators Todd Bowles and Byron Leftwich out-coaching Andy Reid and his coordinators, Steve Spagnuolo and Eric Bieniemy to get the job done.
But the sweetest revenge for the Bucs was finally beating their own demons – the team’s own ability to self-destruct. Those demons had chased many a Tampa Bay player and coach out of town over the last dozen years, and have plagued this team through the Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter eras.
Those demons were exorcised this year in Week 5 on a plane ride home from Chicago.
QUESTION 2: Why Did The Bucs Elect To Wear White On Pewter?
Bucs WR Antonio Brown – Photo by: USA Today
The answer is simple – Tampa Bay is undefeated in that uniform combination in 2020. Despite being the home team – literally because the game is at Raymond James Stadium, and because the NFC is the home team in this year’s Super Bowl – the Bucs decided to wear white jerseys and pewter pants instead of their red home jerseys.
The Bucs are now 6-0 when wearing that uniform combination with previous wins at Carolina, Atlanta and Detroit in the regular season, and New Orleans and Green Bay in the playoffs. Kansas City won last year’s Super Bowl wearing red jerseys and white pants, but finished 9-3 in that uniform combination.
Of course the Bucs wore their own red jerseys the last time they played the Chiefs, who wore white jerseys in that game, losing to Kansas City, 27-24, at Raymond James Stadium in Week 12. So perhaps the Bucs wanted to change up their mojo by giving the Chiefs a different look – literally and figuratively – this time around.
And the Chiefs were undefeated – 7-0 – while wearing white jerseys in 2020, so good call by the Bucs to roll with the white-on-pewter look in Super Bowl LV.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Playoff Lenny Won’t Be Back
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette – Photo by: USA Today
Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette successfully rehabilitated his image in just one year with the Buccaneers, and could be ready to cash in with a lucrative, multi-year deal elsewhere as a starting running back in 2021. Fournette had to learn to accept being a role player in Tampa Bay and sharing the carries and the spotlight with Ronald Jones II this year. Jones was the starter and the star, rushing for 978 yards and seven touchdowns while Fournette rushed for 367 yards and six TDs during the regular season.
But with Jones sidelined with COVID-19, a broken pinkie and a quad injury entering the postseason, Fournette became “Playoff Lenny,” leading Tampa Bay with 300 yards, including 89 in the Super Bowl, and scoring a touchdown in each postseason game. After rushing for 3.8 yards per carry during the regular season, Fournette increased his average to 4.7 yards per carry in the postseason, and showed big-play ability in ripping off a 20-yard TD run in Green Bay and a 27-yard scoring dash in Super Bowl LV against Kansas City.
The Bucs would like to have Fournette back on a modest, one-year deal, but with a rehabbed image and a Super Bowl ring, Fournette may want to find greener pastures elsewhere as a feature back once again. Look for Tampa Bay to draft a running back in the first three rounds to replace Fournette.
PREDICTION 2: Bucs Will Win The NFC South In 2021
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today
I’m not saying Tampa Bay can’t – or won’t – repeat as Super Bowl champions next season. But as Kansas City showed during Super Bowl LV, it’s hard to get back to the big game and win it in back-to-back years. Of course Tom Brady has done that before in New England, and it’s never wise to bet against the GOAT.
But just one day after the Super Bowl we don’t know which Bucs will be back in the fold for 2021 yet, and which ones the team will lose in free agency. We also don’t know which new acquisitions G.M. Jason Licht might have up his sleeve – a trade for defensive lineman J.J. Watt perhaps? – or which players he’ll draft.
So it’s safer to suggest that the Bucs will dethrone the Saints as NFC South champions in 2021, and doing so will put them in the playoff tournament. Then it’s up to the teams that are the healthiest and hitting their stride to advance.
If that’s Tampa Bay yet again, as it was in 2020, then there is no reason why Brady and the Bucs can’t defend their Super Bowl title out in Los Angeles next year. Oh, did I mention that Brady is a California kid?
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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