The best quarterback in history, Tom Brady, against the best quarterback of the moment, Patrick Mahomes. It is the confrontation that awaits us at 55e Super Bowl, February 7 in Tampa Bay.
By virtue of their 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become the very first team in history to play a Super Bowl game at home, in this case at Raymond James Stadium.
Hours after Brady and the Buccaneers won, Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs ended the Buffalo Bills’ good run with a 38-24 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
For Brady, it will be an incredible 10e participation in the Super Bowl (6-3 record). They say you have to be lucky sometimes to be good and Brady was on Sunday. The legendary passer did not play well at all in the second half, including three interceptions.
But Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who lost for the fourth time in the National Conference Finals since their last Super Bowl conquest 10 years ago, have been unable to capitalize on Brady’s interceptions.
This was the big difference. While the Buccaneers took advantage of their opportunities in the first half – they scored six touchdowns following turnovers from their opponents since the start of the playoffs – the Packers were unable to do so, especially after the two interceptions of Jaire Alexander.
Alexander played a great game, but the same certainly can’t be said for the other two main Packers cornerbacks. Brady constantly attacked Chandon Sullivan, throwing passes to the receivers he was called upon to cover. Kevin King made two extremely costly mistakes.
King inexplicably let Scott Miller run behind him with seconds left in the second quarter and the Buccaneers seated at the Packers’ 39-line. Miller scored an improbable touchdown, which allowed the Bucs to return to the locker room with a 21-10 lead.
The same King was penalized for interfering with Tyler Johnson late in the game, which ended the Packers’ hopes. Even if he hadn’t been held back by King, Johnson would most likely not have been able to catch Brady’s pass.
Packers head coach Matt LaFleur meanwhile made a questionable decision by going for a field goal instead of aiming for a touchdown as his team lost 31-23 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. and that the ball was at the Bucs 8-line.
“The way our defense battled and played, I felt that was the decision to make,” commented LaFleur.
Whenever it doesn’t work, we regret it, don’t we?
Matt LaFleur, Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers
While LaFleur’s decision could be defended as the Packers still had their three timeouts in the bank at the time, the young coach essentially took the ball out of Rodgers’ hands and put it in Brady’s hands.
After the meeting, Rodgers also opened the door to speculation by saying that he did not know what the future held. Rodgers played a good game overall (33 for 48 for 346 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception), but was unable to pull off the play that could have gotten his team into the Super Bowl in the dying minutes.
Brady, meanwhile, gave the Buccaneers a good lead, including making several assists in a third down situation in the first half. In addition to Miller, Mike Evans and Cameron Brate caught touchdown passes from No.12 Bucs, who had 20 of 36 passes for 280 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Chris Godwin led the team with 5 catches for 110 yards.
On the ground, Leonard Fournette was solid once again. The former Jacksonville Jaguars gained 55 yards on 12 carries and scored a spectacular 20-yard touchdown with a run down the sidelines.
The Buccaneers also got some good play in their defense, especially from their front row. Quarterbacks Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul had three and two sacks respectively, taking advantage of the absence of left tackle David Bakhtiari.
Antony Auclair at the Super Bowl
For the second year in a row, there will be a Quebec player at the Super Bowl. A year after Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, it will be Antony Auclair’s turn.
Auclair was left out in the game at Green Bay, making his fourth season with the Bucs, a team that can count on a number of good tight ends, including Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate.
If Duvernay-Tardif had chosen to play in 2020, two of the three Quebec players in the NFL would have been present at 55e Super Bowl. The other Quebec player is Dean Louis-Philippe Ladouceur, of the Dallas Cowboys.
Duvernay-Tardif’s teammates demonstrated that they were clearly superior to the young Bills by easily defeating them. After the Bills took the lead 9-0, the Chiefs scored 21 straight points in the second quarter and were never threatened again.
Playing despite a toe injury and having successfully followed the concussion protocol over the past week, Mahomes has been impeccable. He completed 29 of his 38 passes for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Bills’ defense never found a way to slow Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce down. Hill has Olympic-style speed and demonstrated it several times throughout the game, finishing with 9 catches and 172 yards. Kelce attacked the Bills’ midfield all night long, catching 13 passes for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hill and Kelce became the first pair of receivers to total over 100 yards apiece in two playoff games that same year.
An unfinished puzzle for the Bills
Josh Allen had a tough night at the hands of the Chiefs defense, who played with a lot of intensity. The Bills quarterback did what he could (28 for 48 for 287 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception), but we could see that there was still a few pieces missing from the puzzle of Sean McDermott’s formation.
That said, the Bills have just had their best season in 25 years. Allen has established himself as one of the top five or six quarterbacks in the NFL, Stefon Diggs has added oomph to an offense that was lacking, the offensive line has become a force, and there are good elements in defense. If the Bills add a top running back and quarterback hunter in the coming months, they will be legitimate contenders in 2021.
For now, however, Kansas City remains king and master of the American Conference. The next and final challenge for the Chiefs, who played their best game of the year against the Bills, will now be to retain their Super Bowl title.
The latest team to achieve this feat was Brady’s former New England Patriots, who lifted the Lombardi Trophy after the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Brady will try to stop the Chiefs from getting there in what will be the fifth clash between him and Mahomes. Both quarterbacks have two wins apiece and Brady won the only playoff game, the American final two years ago.
With his win over Buffalo, Mahomes became the first quarterback in history to make it to the Super Bowl twice before he turned 26. At 43, the phenomenal Brady has just won his 10e conference final. A dream scenario.