Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. For the Kansas City Chiefs, this adage was in full effect. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes entered the Raymond James stadium expecting to be a back-to-back Super Bowl champion upon exiting. What ensued was his worst performance in the NFL.
The signal-caller threw for 270 yards with 27 completions out of 49 attempts and two interceptions. In the end, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Chiefs, 31-9.
So, what exactly went wrong for Mahomes in the biggest stage of them all?
It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Kansas City had 11 penalties for 120 yards, while Tampa Bay just had four for 39 yards.
Some of those calls were questionable – the pass interference calls on defensive back Bashaud Breeland for tripping one the biggest wide receivers in the league in Mike Evans and safety Tyrann Mathieu, who had contact with Evans come to mind. However, other calls were clearer, like Mecole Hardman’s offside penalty.
These particular penalties would set up touchdowns for Tampa Bay.
Kansas City has quite the collection of weapons for Patrick Mahomes, such as speedster Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. While the two had the most receiving yards for Kansas City, they had some crucial errors that could have changed the tone of the game.
In the first quarter, Hill had a long bomb thrown to him that ended up clunking him in the head. The team had to settle for a field goal. Next quarter, Kelce dropped a crucial pass that would have secured a first down. Drops are uncharacteristic for these All-Pro pass catchers.
Even running back Darrel Williams had his share when he dropped what would have been a touchdown in the last quarter.
The Chiefs could have had Eric Fisher, Mitchell Schwartz, and Kelechi Osemele on the trenches, protecting Patrick Mahomes and creating openings. Due to injuries, Kansas City had to field a sub-standard line, which gave new meaning to what an “offensive” line is. Mahomes had more yards running for dear life than the other running backs in the game.
The Bucs defense feasted on this line and pressured Mahomes 29 times. One of the concerns with the Tampa Bay defense was their preference for blitzing. Mahomes is the best in the league against the blitz and regularly burns teams for doing so. In the Super Bowl, Todd Bowles’ unit, only sent a blitz six times. This was the game plan, but the lack of pass protection made it so much easier to stick to the plan.
The things that cost them the game can be addressed. The penalties can be fixed by having a more disciplined team. The drops were flukes more than anything. Next season, Kansas City will have a healthy offensive line and they might add more depth in the draft or free agency.
This Super Bowl defeat is a bitter pill for Kansas City and their fans to swallow, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Chiefs still have a brighter present and future than any other team. Despite Mahomes’ performance, he still made some amazing throws that only he can.