Super Bowl and NFL recap: an end to a strange season

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Sam Kassan, Staff Writer

After a season that many thought wouldn’t happen, the 2020-2021 NFL season has finally come to a close, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominating the Chiefs in a blowout 31-9 victory.  

From Derrick Henry flinging defenders off the field with his monster stiff arm to Daniel Jones infamously getting tripped by a ghost yards away from an 80 yard touchdown, there were no shortages of highlights from the regular season and playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl.  DK Metcalf turned on the jets to chase down Budda Baker, stopping a secured pick-6, and Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins stunned the Bills with what became known as the “Hail Murray.”  The MVP race also took many turns throughout the year.  Russel Wilson was seemingly on pace to finally receive his first MVP, but a major regression halfway through the season boosted Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes to the top.  As the season progressed, Rodgers slowly pulled away, winning his second career MVP. 

With the majority of the Chiefs Super Bowl winning roster from last year returning, they were heavily favored to repeat, but a storm was brewing in the NFC.  After being shoved out the backdoor by Belichick and the Patriots, teams were hesitant to sign 43 year-old Tom Brady.  Many agreed that this was the end of Brady’s career, but the GOAT had other plans.  Instead, he took his talents to Tampa Bay, who had gone 7-9 the previous year.  Regardless of this less than appealing record, Brady saw potential in a young, talented defense, along with an already elite offensive core of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Ronald Jones II.  Once Brady signed with Tampa, stars across the league turned their attention to what was going on in Florida.  Stud tight end Rob Gronkowski ended his retirement to play with his old teammate, wide receiver Antonio Brown agreed to be a team player in order to get a shot to play with Brady, and former first round pick Leonard Fournette also headed to Tampa Bay.  

“As a Patriots fan, I was sad to see Brady go, but I’m still rooting for him wherever he goes.  The fact that he was able to take a 7-9 Bucs team and completely turn it around into a Super Bowl winning roster just goes to show that he’s the greatest to ever touch a football,” said sophomore Joseph Asselta.

Heading into the playoffs on a four game winning streak, the Bucs took on the Washington Football Team, led by former practice squad quarterback Taylor Heinicke.  However, what should have been an easy win, turned into a nailbiter, as Taylor Heinicke shocked the world with his stellar performance.  The second round was one of the most highly anticipated matchups, with Tampa Bay taking on their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.  Although they got embarrassingly swept during their two regular season games, the Buccaneers rolled past the Saints behind four New Orleans turnovers.  In one of the greatest playoff QB matchups in NFL history, Brady took on Rodgers and the Packers, who were the overwhelming favorites to win the NFC.  Nobody could have anticipated the dominance of the Bucs defense, who held Rodgers in check even though Brady turned the ball over three times in the second half, allowing Tampa Bay to play in the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years. 

The AFC playoff games weren’t any less exciting, as the sixth seeded Browns upset their rivals, the Steelers, in a game that came as a shock to Steelers players and fans alike.  The Ravens finally got their revenge on the Titans, ending King Henry’s reign, but went on to take a tough loss to Buffalo in the divisionals.  Mahomes went down with a scary head injury against the Browns, but Chad Henne was able to secure the game for the Chiefs.  In the AFC Championship, Josh Allen and the Bills took on Mahomes and the Chiefs in a matchup featuring two of the most exciting young QBs to watch.  However, it was not the shootout we all expected, and the Chiefs stomped the Bills 38-24 in a devastating loss for Buffalo. 

With the Super Bowl set, Kansas City was the favorite to repeat.  The big game kicked off with 22 year old activist and poet, Amanda Gorman, reciting an original poem, “Chorus of the Captains,” welcoming the honorary captains invited by the NFL, including a Marine veteran and an ICU nurse manager.  

“I thought Gorman’s performance was truly inspiring.  Her words were empowering, and it’s awesome that the NFL is giving platforms to social activists trying to spread their message,” said sophomore Alex Almahmoud.  

Gorman gained popularity after becoming the youngest poet to ever perform at a presidential inauguration when she read her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President  Biden’s recent inauguration. 

The game started out uneventful, but on their third drive, Brady was able to push down the field and hit Gronk on a screen for a touchdown, one of two connections they would make in the endzone that game.  Viewers couldn’t help but flash back to their numerous touchdowns together in New England.  Carrying a 14-6 lead with little time left in the first half, a series of penalties on the Chiefs defense propelled the Bucs down the field and set them up for an easy touchdown before the half.  This drive would set the tone for the rest of the game.  Any doubt about whether Brady is truly the GOAT or not should have been erased, as he earned his seventh ring.  That’s more than any other individual team in NFL history.

It seemed like it was Mahomes vs. the world that Sunday.  With their two pro-bowl offensive linemen out and the rest shuffled around, the Chiefs couldn’t block a parked car.  Patrick Mahomes was running for his life every play, with pressures on over 50% of his dropbacks.  Shockingly, he seemed to find a way around the Buccaneers defensive front often, only to fling a dime straight through the hands of his receivers.  The Chiefs receivers forgot their hands in Kansas City, with Tyreek Hill dropping a ridiculous throw from Mahomes that would’ve resulted in a touchdown and could’ve changed the momentum of the game.  Furthermore, towards the end of the game, Mahomes rocketed the ball while being nearly parallel to the ground, only for it to bounce off of Darrel Williams’ facemask. 

Tom Brady may have won his fifth Super Bowl MVP, but the real MVP was Todd Bowles and his masterpiece of a defensive strategy.  Jets fans are very familiar with Bowles, as his head coaching campaign left much to be desired, but he showcased his strengths as a defensive coordinator on the biggest stage of all.  Leaving two safeties deep shut down the Chiefs big play tendencies, which is what the team thrived on, and their elite linebacker core in Lavonte David and Devin White did a number on Travis Kelce, and while he may have finished with 113 yards, he was not as much of a help during the big moments.  The defensive line was what truly won the game for the Buccaneers.  Even though they only blitzed on around 10% of plays, the line racked up a total of 29 QB pressures, a super bowl record. 

“This Super Bowl proves that any award with the letters MVP in it is a QB award.  While Brady didn’t play badly, his game did not stand out at all, while defensive studs like Shaq Barrett totaled 10 QB pressures and a sack while fellow linebacker Devin White also put up MVP deserving numbers,” said sophomore Jack McNaughton.  

Standout performances by Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh were also crucial to the defensive dominance over the most explosive offense in the league.

This game may not have been the most exciting Super Bowl in recent history, but fans should be more than grateful for the way things turned out.  In the midst of a pandemic, we are lucky that the season even happened at all, and there were many times throughout it that it seemed like it would not last.  The league had to navigate dozens of COVID-19 outbreaks, and the players were subjected to strict guidelines that they were forced to follow if they wanted to play the game they love.  Watching football on Sundays is used as an escape for many, and we are extremely fortunate to have been able to watch two of the best compete for the title.