The Kansas City Chiefs were one game away from making history.
No team has won consecutive Super Bowls since the New England Patriots nearly two decades ago, and the Chiefs, who had lost just twice all season, seemed poised to do it after winning 25 of 27 games entering Super Bowl 55. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had other plans, dominating Kansas City in a 31-9 victory to earn the Lombardi Trophy at Raymond James Stadium and deny the Chiefs a chance for a rare repeat.
The Chiefs are no stranger to overcoming huge deficits in the playoffs, as they did on their way to winning Super Bowl 54. When a team has Patrick Mahomes as its quarterback, it seems as if they are never out of a game. But there were no comebacks against the Buccaneers, who kept the pressure on Mahomes and the team’s offense largely in check.
The game was a reminder that the Chiefs are not invincible and that despite their resounding success since Mahomes became their full-time starting quarterback, the team can still get better.
Kansas City Chiefs in the 3 seasons Patrick Mahomes has been the full-time starter:
– AFC Championship game
– Super Bowl champs
– Super Bowl appearance
– 38-8 record
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) February 15, 2021
Despite the loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl 55, Kansas City is still expected to be one of the contenders for the Lombardi Trophy next season. In fact, the Chiefs were immediately the early betting favorite to win Super Bowl 56. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers were the last two teams to lose in Super Bowls, and both the Rams and 49ers failed to reach the playoffs in the season following their defeats.
Even though they were dominated by the Buccaneers, it’s hard to imagine Kansas City following those teams, as they still have one of the most talented squads in the NFL. Nevertheless, the loss proved there are issues the Chiefs need to address either in free agency or through the draft to avoid another heartbreak and give the team its second Super Bowl win in three seasons.
1. Chiefs must upgrade the offensive line
One recurring image in Super Bowl 55 was of Mahomes desperately running from multiple Buccaneers pass rushers as he tried to extend a play and look for a target. While the Chiefs quarterback was still able to make some incredible throws that his receivers just couldn’t haul in, plenty of plays ended in sacks or a significant loss of yards. Mahomes finished the game by completing just 26 of his 49 passes for 270 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions, making it one of his worst games in NFL.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, he was pressured on 29 of the Chiefs’ 56 dropbacks in Super Bowl 55, the most in Super Bowl history. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, meanwhile, was pressured on just four of 30 dropbacks, the fewest of the 10 Super Bowls he has played in. Mahomes may be the best quarterback right now, but even a magician like him needs time to perform his tricks, which he didn’t have against Tampa Bay.
final tally, via @ESPNStatsInfo:
Mahomes was pressured on 29/56 dropbacks–the most of any QB in Super Bowl history.
Brady was pressured on 4/30–the lowest of his SB career.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) February 8, 2021
Kansas City started two backup offensive tackles in Super Bowl 55, but Mike Remmers and Austin Wylie couldn’t prevent the Tampa Bay defense from getting to Mahomes, who ran around for a total of 497 yards during the game trying to avoid sacks. Fortunately, an extended offseason could benefit the Chiefs and improve their offensive line for 2021. Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who got injured in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills, will return from a back injury.
Another offensive tackle in Eric Fisher, who suffered from a torn Achilles in the AFC Championship Game against the Bills, will need time to recover from the injury. Lucas Niang, a third-round draft pick in 2020, will likely return after missing the season due to COVID-19. Guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif could also be back after serving on the frontlines as a medical worker last season. But even if it happens, there are still holes that need to be filled.
That's the most pre-throw/pre-sack yards run by a QB in any game this season.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 8, 2021
The Chiefs haven’t exactly prioritized their offensive line during the time of general manager Brett Veach, with the team selecting just three offensive linemen in the NFL Draft and just one earlier than the sixth round, according to ESPN. But in order to give Mahomes time to work his magic and keep him healthy throughout the season, they may need to either spend in free agency or draft another option for their offensive line.
2. Chiefs must improve the pass rush
While Mahomes spent most of Super Bowl 55 scrambling to get away from Buccaneers defenders, Brady was given ample time to throw. The seven-time Super Bowl champion completed 21 of his 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns and was later named the Super Bowl MVP. While the Chiefs’ pass rush was instrumental in their run to the title last season, especially in the playoffs, it didn’t come alive in Super Bowl 55.
Presently, Kansas City has committed upwards of $200 million in player salaries for the 2021 season, and with the NFL salary cap set at $180 million, the team will need to get creative to get upgrades on their defensive front. The Chiefs could use their draft picks on getting a player who could team up with the likes of Chris Jones and Frank Clark on the defensive front.
Another option would be to go after one of the free agents on the market like J.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, or Matthew Judon. However, most of those players will likely receive offers from multiple teams, some of which can offer better deals. But one advantage the Chiefs have over their other suitors is giving them a chance to immediately compete for a title, which could convince them to take discounts.
Following the loss in Super Bowl 55, Mahomes and the Chiefs made a promise:
“Obviously, it hurts right now,” Mahomes told ESPN’s Adam Teicher. “It hurts a lot. But we’re going to continue to get better. We have a young group of guys that had a lot of success and we learned from that, but we’ve had a few failures and we have to learn from that.”
With Mahomes under center for the long haul and a young, talented roster surrounding him and coached by one of the game’s best minds in head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs will be in the title conversation for years to come. They’ve already had a lot of success in the last couple of years, and it’s interesting to see how the team bounces back and improves the team after a rare defeat in Super Bowl 55.