Buccaneers’ pressure makes Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes mortal
The All-Pro quarterback, under siege from a Buccaneers defensive front that dominated the Chiefs’ undermanned offensive line, struggled from the start in a 31-9 loss in Super Bowl LV.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes entered Super Bowl LV as one of the most decorated young quarterbacks in NFL history — a league MVP in his second season, a Super Bowl champion in his third.
He’s earned every accolade he’s received, including being a potential heir to Tom Brady as the greatest of all time. But Mahomes also is one of the all-time beneficiaries of being at the right place at the right time. He was drafted into an offense that already was in high gear, with a quarterback-whispering head coach in Andy Reid and multiple weapons to maximize his amazing intuition for playing quarterback.
In Super Bowl LV on Sunday night, Mahomes discovered how difficult life would be with a degree of difficulty other quarterbacks often face — mainly a tattered offensive line. The Chiefs have managed offensive line issues throughout the season, but the loss of left tackle Eric Fisher finally broke them and left Mahomes to all but fend for himself.
It wasn’t pretty. Under constant pressure from a dominant Buccaneers defensive front led by outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, Mahomes struggled from the start and was grasping for his magic touch all night in a 31-9 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Mahomes, the MVP of Super Bowl LIV last season, was valiant in defeat. He completed 26 of 49 passes for 270 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 52.3 passer rating.
“We weren’t on the same page as an offense,” Mahomes said. “I wasn’t getting the ball out on time. The receivers were running routes not exactly where I thought they were gonna be at. And the offensive line — they were good sometimes, and sometimes they let guys through.
“When you’re playing a good defense like that, you’ve got to be on the same page as an offense. We weren’t today. And that’s why we played so bad.”
Mahomes was sacked three times, but that wasn’t even close to illustrating the pressure he was under anytime he needed more than three drop-back steps to throw downfield. His longest completion was 33 yards to tight end Travis Kelce, but that was after the outcome was decided.
“They had a good game plan,” Mahomes said. “They took away our deep stuff. They took away the sidelines, and they did a good job of rallying to the football and making tackles. We weren’t executing early. I had a few miscues. We weren’t on the same page, but credit to them. They played a heck of a game defensively and offensively and beat us.”
As it turned out, the Chiefs’ offensive line issues were the difference. The Chiefs previously lost right tackle Mitchell Schwartz to a back injury, and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opted out. With Fisher out after suffering an Achilles injury against the Bills in the AFC Championship Game, line coach Andy Heck moved backup Mike Remmers to left tackle and guard Andrew Wylie to right tackle.
But against a red-hot Buccaneers defensive line, the load was too much. Barrett had a sack and four of the Bucs’ eight quarterback hits.
But even in futility, Mahomes’ last gasp was memorable. Trailing 31-9 early in the fourth quarter, Mahomes drove the Chiefs to the Bucs’ 12-yard line. On third-and-nine, Mahomes was hemmed in along the left sideline, and with Barrett grabbing him at the 28, Mahomes did a 360 and threw a pass into the back corner of the end zone that Byron Pringle actually caught, but out of bounds.
As that play was being called the greatest incompletion anyone had ever seen, Mahomes topped it on fourth down. This time, under immediate pressure, he spun around and scrambled to the right sideline. As he was tripped up by defensive end William Gholston near the 30, Mahomes was nearly parallel to the ground when he flung the ball in desperation — and amazingly hit his target, Darrel Williams, in the face mask at the goal line before the ball fell incomplete.
And that was that. Mahomes was out of miracles and forced to settle for the consolation that other quarterbacks live with. He did all he could. But it wasn’t nearly enough.
“Obviously I didn’t play the way I wanted to play,” Mahomes said. “But what else can you say? All you can do is leave everything you can on the field, and I felt like guys did that.
“[The Buccaneers] were the better team today. They beat us pretty good — the worst I think I’ve been beaten in a long time. But I’m proud of the guys and how they fought until the very end.”