There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “So long as the sun rises in the East, Tom Brady will make it back into the Super Bowl.” Brady, in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has made it back to the championship. Opposing him is the potential new dynasty of the AFC: Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Buccaneers and the Chiefs have a lot in common. They are helmed by two generational quarterbacks in Brady and Mahomes. Their core offensive principles are essentially the same: throw the ball. They stretch opposing defenses across the field and capitalize on mistakes with splash plays down the field.
But how these teams throw the ball is totally different. Brady is the textbook definition of the old-school pocket quarterback and one of the most technically sound passers in the league. His lower body is married to his upper body, his hips, shoulders, and arm moving in one fluid motion when he throws. His game is built on technique, timing, and consistency.
Mahomes, on the other hand, plays backyard football. His throws don’t look as clean as Brady’s, but he can hit anywhere on the field from any position. He’ll throw across his body or on the run and still make pinpoint-accurate passes. Mahomes has also embraced nontraditional throwing techniques, mixing in a no-look, underhanded, or a left-hand pass every so often just to spice things up. His drop backs are more like backpedals to create space for him to improvise and time for his receivers to get further downfield. Mahomes scrambles, rolls out, and runs designed QB-runs; Brady is immobile but a master of moving within the pocket.
In this Super Bowl, a lot of attention will be placed on the offense, but the key to this matchup could be the defenses. After all, defense wins championships. The Buccaneers’ defense is top tier. They’re ranked sixth in yards per game allowed and eight in points per game. The linebacker pairing of Devin White and Lavonte David is elite. The pass rush recorded five sacks against the Packers in the NFC championship game.
On the other hand, the Chiefs, historically, have not been a defensive powerhouse. Over the past five years they haven’t had a defense ranked above the middle of the league. But that doesn’t mean their defense hasn’t produced. The secondary has quietly developed into one of the best in the league, highlighted by safety Tyrann Mathieu. The inside-outside pass rush combination of Chris Jones and Frank Clark have recorded 13.5 sacks and 43 QB hits.
With all that said, I think the Chiefs will win. Brady and the Tampa Bay offense have not been clicking the entire postseason. Their past two playoff wins are mostly because of their defense, not the offense. If the Bucs’ offense is rolling it looks unstoppable, but they haven’t shown that they can consistently keep it up. In the Super Bowl, they’ll face a big challenge in the Chiefs’ defense. KC’s defense is coming off a game where they limited the Buffalo Bills, the second-best offense in the NFL in yards, to just 122 passing yards from breakout star Josh Allen. The Bucs’ strength is ultimately their defense, but we’ve seen what Mahomes can do against elite defenses (see: the 49ers) in the Super Bowl. Brady has the Super Bowl experience, but Mahomes is just too hot to stop.
Prediction: Chiefs, 38–34
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Beall and All-Pro Reels