Chiefs Overwhelm Bucs, 41-31, in Super Bowl LV Rematch
The last time the Kansas City Chiefs visited Raymond James Stadium they failed to score a touchdown for the first time in Patrick Mahomes' career as their starting quarterback. That was decidedly not the case on Sunday night when the Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met in a Super Bowl LV rematch that didn't resemble the original game in any meaningful way.
Mahomes hit TE Travis Kelce on a 16-yard touchdown pass just 46 seconds into the contest and finished with 249 yards and three scoring passes in a 41-31 win for the visiting Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. The loss was the Buccaneers' second in a row at home after they began the season with road wins at Dallas and New Orleans. The 2-2 Buccaneers are tied with the Atlanta Falcons for first place in the NFC South, with Atlanta coming to Raymond James Stadium in Week Five.
"We didn't play well," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "They did a good job and they kicked our butts all over the field. … Our red zone defense was poor, our run defense was poor, our pass defense was poor, our third-down efficiency was poor and we played a poor game and that falls on me. I'll take that."
The game began in demoralizing fashion for the Buccaneers, as rookie RB Rachaad White fumbled the ball away on the opening kickoff, and it didn't immediately get much better. Kansas City found the end zone on its first three possessions, converting six straight third-down attempts, and didn't punt until there were 52 seconds left in regulation.
A dropped pass by RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Tampa Bay territory on fourth down in the second quarter represented the Bucs' first stop of the game, but blitzing CB L'Jarius Sneed forced a fumble by Tom Brady on the very next play and the Chiefs were back in the end zone again moments later.
The Buccaneers did rally in the second quarter with a pair of long-scoring drives, both of them built solely on Brady's passing. The home team finished the first half with negative-three yards on three carries, but Brady completed 18 of 24 passes for 195 and two scores, both of them to Mike Evans. With Evans back from a one-game suspension and Chris Godwin and Julio Jones returning from injuries, Brady had more weapons at his disposal and finished the game with 385 yards and three touchdowns on 39 of 52 passing.
"You want to be healthy," said Bowles of the Bucs' offense. "If you're healthy, you give yourselves a chance. But that had nothing to do with this game. Everything in this game fell on the defensive side of the ball."
Tampa Bay's defense, which came into the game allowing a league-low 9.0 points per game, had difficulty finding any answers for Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense. The Buccaneers surrendered more points than they had in any previous game since Bowles arrived as the defensive coordinator in 2019 (he was later promoted to head coach in 2022), and most significantly allowed 12 third-down conversions on 17 attempts. The Chiefs hit the Bucs with a balanced attack, gaining 189 yards on the ground and 228 through the air, and Kansas City also won the turnover battle, 2-1.
"It's a team sport," said Brady. "We didn't great on offense. We didn't help them very much either. We didn't do great in the first half. Too many missed opportunities on third down, turnovers. Tough game, they're a tough team, but we've got to play a lot better of we want to beat good teams. It hasn't been our best yet this year but it will be good to see what it looks like when we do play our best."
Kelce was a particular problem on third down, with Mahomes hitting him on three conversions in the first half. Kelce finished the game with nine catches for 92 yards and that game-opening score. "He's a heck of a ballplayer," said Bowles. "It's part of his greatness and some of the things we didn't do well, as well. We didn't play a good ballgame, like I said. We did not do a good job of doing our assignments or calling the game, as coaches and as players."
White, seeing his most extensive action yet, redeemed himself after his early fumble by catching five passes for 50 yards and scoring on a one-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter. However, the Buccaneers finished the game with only three rushing yards on six attempts, the second-lowest total in franchise history. The 1989 Buccaneer gained one rushing yard on 10 attempts against Washington on October 22 of that season.
The Buccaneers' offense started slowly but picked up steam after the first quarter and ended up scoring touchdowns on all four of its red-zone incursions. Brady completed passes to 10 different players, with Evans leading the way on an eight-catch, 103-yard night. It marked the 17th time he had scored two or more touchdowns in a game and his 31st career 100-yard outing. Chris Godwin returned from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury and caught seven passes for 59 yards. While RB Leonard Fournette was held in check on the ground he did catch seven passes for 57 yards and a score.
The game started about as poorly as it could, with White fumbling on the opening kickoff return and the Chiefs recovering at the Bucs' 21. It took only two plays for the visitors to capitalize, with Mahomes hitting Kelce over the middle for a 16-yard score just 46 seconds into the game.
White's second return was better, getting the Bucs a drive start of their 28, and two plays later Fournette took a well-designed screen up the field for 25 yards to the Chiefs' 44. Cam Brate caught a 10-yard pass near the left sideline to move the sticks again but a Fournette run up the middle lost four. Brady zipped a quick pass to Godwin over the middle to make it third-and-four but another flare-out to Fournette didn't work and Succop came out to give the Bucs three points with a 45-yard field goal.
Mahomes started the next drive with another completion to Kelce for 12 yards after scrambling around in the pocket. The Chiefs faced a third-and-one at their 42 and Mahomes somehow made it work out of a broken play, getting off a lob to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster for four yards while being dragged down by CB Carlton Davis.
Three plays later, on third-and-10, Mahomes fit a pass in to Kelce between three defenders for just enough to move the chains again. On third-and-one from the Bucs' 32, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire shot through a gap on the right side to pick up 20 yards. After a Mahomes keeper down to the three, Edwards-Helaire got it again and powered over right guard for the score.
The Bucs' offense went three-and-out on its second try and Jake Camarda's 49-yard punt was fair caught at the Chiefs' 18. Kansas City easily overcame an illegal formation penalty with short passes to Smith-Schuster and Kelce. As the second quarter began the Chiefs faced a third-and-two at their 41 and Mahomes scrambled for the first down at the 48.
On the next snap, Mahomes went deep down the middle and WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling made a leaping grab at the Bucs' 21. Another third-down catch by Kelce made it first-and-goal at the two and Mahomes made a signature scramble-around play before flipping a TD pass to Edwards Helaire.
The Bucs' next drive started with an 11-yard pass to rookie RB Rachaad White and Brady then struck deep down the middle to Evans for a gain of 30. Another 11-yard catch for Brate made it first down at the Chiefs' 23. Another 10-yard outlet to White made it first down at the 13 and Evans ran a deep square-in on the next play, hauling in the TD as he was hit hard by S Juan Thornhill.
The Chiefs' next drive started with the team's sixth straight third-down conversion to start the game, once again on a Kelce reception, and a horse-caller flag on Carl Nassib put the ball all the way up at the Bucs' 43. The Bucs got their first third-down stop of the game at the 34 but the Chiefs went for it on fourth-and-one. The drive ended when a wide-open Edwards-Helaire couldn't hold on to a flare pass to the right.
The Bucs' good feelings ended immediately when, on the next play, blitzing CB L'Jarius Sneed hit Brady and forced a fumble that the Chiefs recovered at the Bucs' 20. Three plays later, Mahomes converted a third-and-seven by scrambling around left end and diving past the sticks on the sideline. On third-and-goal from the one, the Chiefs put TE Noah Grey in motion and he stopped behind the center, took a direct snap and powered up the gut for the visitors' fourth touchdown.
An eight-yard catch by Godwin started the Bucs' next drive and brought on the two-minute warning. Brate's third catch of the game converted a third down at the Bucs' 35. Brate took a hard hit on another catch two plays later to make it third-and-one, and when the next ball was snapped just before he got off the field the Bucs drew a 12-men-on-the-field penalty. Brady found Julio Jones on third-and-six to keep the drive alive.
After a quick hit to Godwin over the middle for 12 yards, the Bucs used their first timeout with 46 seconds left in the half. On third-and-one from the Chiefs' 32, Brady found Evans near the left sideline for a gain of 16, and a throw into the end zone to Brate resulted in a pass-interference call on Thornhill that made it first-and-goal at the one. Two plays later, Brady threw the signature back-corner end-zone fade to Evans with 10 seconds left in the half.
The Chiefs got the ball to start the second half and Mahomes immediately zipped a 15-yard pass over the middle to rookie WR Skyy Moore. The Bucs' defense forced a third-and-10 at midfield but the Chiefs dialed up a perfect tunnel screen to Smith-Schuster and the play went 19 yards to the Bucs' 30. The drive stalled there and Matthew Wright came on to hit a 44-yard field goal to make it 31-17.
The Bucs got a quick first down on the ensuing drive on a Godwin catch but three incompletions followed and they had to punt it away. Kansas City started anew at its own 35 and put together a fifth touchdown drive, moving 65 yards on nine plays and ending in Mahomes' 10-yard touchdown pass to TE Jody Fortson. That made it 38-17 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
Brady started the next drive by looking for Evans and hitting him twice for 22 yards to get the ball just across midfield. Facing a third-and-three at the Chiefs' 41, the Bucs ran a well-designed screen to White for a gain of nine to the 32. Two plays later, rookie TE Ko Kieft made a spinning back-shoulder catch on the right sideline for 19 yards for his first NFL reception, making it first-and-goal at the four. Thornhill was flagged for an illegal hit on Evans in the back of the end zone, moving the ball up to the two, and three plays later White dived over the top for his first career touchdown.
Camarda's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds before the end zone, drawing a penalty that allowed Kansas City to start at its own 40. That drive faced a third-and-four at the Bucs' 44 but Mahomes split several defenders to drive a 22-yard pass into Kelce's arms. The Bucs defense held at that point but Wright made it a three-score game with a 32-yard field goal with 11 minutes left in regulation.
The Bucs' next drive started with offensive pass interference and holding calls, making it third-and-26 at their own 27. A punt quickly followed with eight minutes left. The Chiefs took the next drive to the midfield stripe but Mahomes tried to hit Smith-Schuster down the right seam and CB Sean Murphy-Bunting got to the ball first for an interception. Murphy-Bunting took it back 33 yards to the Chiefs' 34 with 4:42 left in regulation.
Brady turned that into a score, completing four of five passes, including a 13-yard screen to Fournette to start the drive and a five-yard scoring strike to the same back to finish it. The Chiefs got the ball back with 3:30 on the clock and burned it down to less than a minute before punting, also killing all of the Bucs' timeouts. The Bucs completed four passes in the closing seconds, including several that included laterals, but saw the clock run out as they passed midfield.
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 3 October 2022