Tom Brady, Bucs breeze past Chiefs for Super Bowl title
Quarterback Brady wins his seventh Super Bowl championship on Sunday night with help from a nasty Buccaneers defense, a bruising running game and terribly timed Chiefs gaffes.
Quarterback Tom Brady breezed to his record seventh Super Bowl championship Sunday with help from a nasty Buccaneers defense, a bruising running game and a few terribly timed gaffes by the Chiefs.
And, of course, an old friend.
Less than nine months removed from wrestling for the WWE 24/7 championship as a retired, gregarious Patriots legend, tight end Rob Gronkowski caught the first two of Brady’s three touchdown passes in a 31-9 laugher at his new home field, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Gronkowski led the Bucs with six catches and 67 receiving yards, and his blocking helped clear the way for running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to dictate the physicality of the game.
The fourth quarter proved to be little more than a coronation for Brady, the Super Bowl MVP for the fifth time and the king of NFL quarterbacks.
‘‘It’s been an amazing year,’’ Brady said.
Brady was efficient, completing 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 125.8 passer rating. It was his seventh title but his first with the Bucs, who have posted the NFL’s worst winning percentage since their founding in 1976.
‘‘It’s hands-down one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history,’’ Gronkowski said.
Brady’s counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, ran for his life behind a makeshift offensive line, trying — and failing — to rally the Chiefs. Hobbled by turf toe and a playbook that became predictable with such a large deficit, Mahomes lost an NFL game by double digits for the first time in his career.
‘‘The worst that I think I’ve been beaten in a long time,’’ Mahomes said.
Last March, Brady became a free agent for the first time after 20 seasons with the Patriots. A month after he signed with the Bucs, Gronkowski ended his year-old retirement solely to join his friend. The Patriots, who still held his rights, agreed to trade him for a fourth-round draft pick.
‘‘The players here were ready to win,’’ said Gronkowski, who said he likely will return to the Bucs next season. ‘‘Just to come in here and be a small, big part of it — I played my role — was amazing.’’
Gronkowski was the first, but not the last, high-profile player to point himself toward Tampa. Fournette joined up after he had been waived by the Jaguars in September. Receiver Antonio Brown, cast aside by the Raiders and Patriots last season for more disturbing reasons, signed in late October.
On Sunday, those four — Brady, Gronkowski, Fournette and Brown — accounted for all the Bucs’ touchdowns. Gronkowski’s first touchdown catch, an eight-yarder, came with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. His second came with about six minutes left in the first half and was the 13th Brady-to-Gronkowski postseason touchdown, an NFL record.
Brown caught a one-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the first half, and Fournette ran 27 yards for a touchdown halfway through the third quarter.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, were penalized eight times for 95 yards in the first half, and several of them were costly.
In the first minute of the second quarter, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones was whistled for unnecessary roughness for shoving Bucs center Ryan Jensen, turning third-and-seven into a first down. The Chiefs escaped trouble when they stuffed the Bucs on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward was called for holding as safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted a tipped pass halfway through the second quarter. The Bucs kept the ball and eventually lined up for a 40-yard field goal on fourth-and-five, but Mecole Hardman lined up offside, giving them a first down. Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown to Gronkowski on the next play.
The Bucs’ final drive of the first half featured three Chiefs gaffes. Coach Andy Reid took a timeout before the Bucs lined up for third-and-two with 44 seconds left at their 37. Had Reid not done so, the Bucs might have run the clock out. Instead, Brady converted third down.
On the next play, cornerback Bashaud Breeland tripped receiver Mike Evans with a deep pass in the air, costing the Chiefs 34 yards. The next time the Bucs threw to Evans, Mathieu was flagged for pass interference in the end zone with 10 seconds left. Brown caught his one-yard scoring pass on the next play to put the Bucs up 21-6.
The Chiefs made a 52-yard field goal to start the second half, but they threw two interceptions and turned the ball over on downs twice the rest of the way.
Mahomes was tortured by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who two years ago chose the Bucs over joining old friend Matt Nagy with the Bears. The Bucs blitzed only six times, relying on their front four to get to the quarterback on their own. Mahomes went 26-for-49 for 270 yards and posted an ugly passer rating of 52.3. He was sacked three times.
Reid coached the game under a cloud. His son Britt, the Chiefs’ outside linebackers coach, was involved in a multi-car crash Thursday that injured two children. A search warrant application cited Britt Reid telling officers he had been drinking. He didn’t travel to the game.
‘‘Just from a human standpoint,’’ Andy Reid said afterward, ‘‘my heart bleeds for everyone involved.’’