The Winners and Losers of Super Bowl LV
Winner: The Tom Brady Legacy
There is somewhat of a diminishing return on multiple championships. If you win just one, it is the defining moment of your life. But if you're the greatest of all time, like Serena Williams, you end up with an overflowing trophy room and a hazy memory of how many Australian Opens you've won. What's the difference between four championships and five? Five championships and six? But something feels special about Tom Brady's seventh Super Bowl championship, which he won in a 31-9 rout over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Brady could have won anywhere in between five and 50 championships in New England, and it wouldn't have done much to change my perception of him. Either Brady was the GOAT, or Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the GOAT, or the Brady-Belichick combo was the GOAT. (You could cycle through those three options until you got tired and decided to simply say the Patriots were cheaters.)

But with the win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, Brady has now won a title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; he has more Super Bowl wins than any franchise-yes, even more than the Patriots; and he has won both of his career playoff matchups with the meteoric superstar Patrick Mahomes-the only two playoff losses of Mahomes's career.

This offseason, I assumed Brady's late-career trip down to Florida would be like so many other ancient quarterbacks pushing things a bit too far. (I should mention that I closely watched Brett Favre play for the Jets.) Instead, Brady was one of the best quarterbacks in the league this season-better than he'd been in 2019 with the Patriots-and he won the Super Bowl.

Prior to this year, every quarterback aged 43 and older in NFL history had combined for 21 passing touchdowns. Brady had 40 this season, the second most in the NFL. Winning the Super Bowl isn't always a reflection of great play by the quarterback-think of Peyton Manning having a genuinely bad game in his last Super Bowl victory with the Broncos before immediately retiring. But Brady looked fine Sunday night, going 21-for-29 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

It's tough to comprehend what a seventh championship means when five was already the most incredible thing anybody had ever done. But before Sunday night, you could've viewed Tom Brady as just a function of the Patriots. Now his greatness is essentially impossible to explain. I don't know how he won with another team; I don't know how he won at this age. I just have to both fear and respect this thing we've never seen before and will never see again.

Loser: The Chiefs' Replacement Offensive Line
There's one simple stat that defines Super Bowl LV. Tom Brady was pressured four times on 30 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Info, while Patrick Mahomes was pressured 29 times on 56 dropbacks. Brady spent all night throwing out of a clean pocket; Mahomes spent all night scrambling for his life. Part of this is because the Buccaneers have a better pass rush than the Chiefs, and part is that the Buccaneers offense prioritized quick throws, while the Chiefs waited for receivers to get open downfield. But the main reason is obvious: Kansas City's backup offensive linemen couldn't block.

The Chiefs were without both of their offensive tackles on Sunday night. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been out since Week 7 with a back injury, and left tackle Eric Fisher went down with an Achilles injury during the AFC championship game. Kansas City was also missing Kelechi Osemele, the starting left guard who tore tendons in both knees in Week 5, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, last year's starting right guard who opted out of the season to serve as a doctor in Canada during the pandemic.

The result was something best described as a makeshift unit. Only one Chiefs offensive lineman (center Austin Reiter) started this game in the same position he played in the season opener. Mike Remmers-who spent most of the year at right tackle and is most famous for allowing Von Miller to win Super Bowl MVP back in 2016-filled in at left tackle. At right tackle was Andrew Wylie, who spent most of the year at right guard and had taken only two career NFL snaps at tackle before this season.

So on Sunday night, going up against a talent-free offensive line that wasn't used to playing together, the Buccaneers sacked Mahomes three times, drew four offensive holding penalties, and kept the QB on the run all night long.

One of Mahomes's defining traits is that he demolishes blitzes. Going into the game, this seemed like it could be a problem for the Buccaneers, as their defense is led by blitz-happy coordinator Todd Bowles. Mahomes picked apart Tampa Bay's blitzes when the teams met in Week 12. And when USA Today's Steven Ruiz listed potential ways for the Buccaneers to win this game, he highlighted their need to find ways to pressure Mahomes without blitzing. Thanks to the Chiefs' terrible offensive line, they did. According to the NFL's NextGenStats, the Bucs sent blitzes on only five of 52 dropbacks-and they got 29 pressures on Mahomes.

Offensive linemen may be some of the most forgettable players on the football field, but Super Bowl LV showed that they're not replaceable. The Chiefs' loss falls not on Mahomes, but on the not-quite-strong-enough shoulders of the players in front of him. Mahomes may be great, but no quarterback is great enough to win when they're under pressure more often than not.

Rodger Sherman, The, published 8 February 2021