Patrick Mahomes stifled and stymied by Buccaneers’ masterful defensive effort

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is tackled by Tampa Bay's Devin White (45) and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is tackled by Tampa Bay’s Devin White (45) and Jason Pierre-Paul during Super Bowl LV on Sunday in Tampa, Fla.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

An offense thought to be uncontainable was stymied in Super Bowl LV to the point of being unthinkable.

The Kansas City Chiefs failed to reach the end zone on any of their 11 possessions Sunday as record-setting quarterback Patrick Mahomes might have established yet another new standard, this one for going backward.

Tampa Bay and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had Mahomes retreating all night, scrambling on a sore toe and behind a leaky offensive line for a 31-9 Buccaneers victory that was shocking in its appearance. For the first time ever, the explosive Chiefs offense directed by the magical Mahomes was a dud.


“I think he got a little tired of hearing about how unstoppable they were,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said of Bowles on a videoconference. “I thought he came up with a fantastic plan, just to keep them in front of us and tackle.”

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Feb. 7, 2021

Kansas City finished with just three field goals and failed to sustain anything, converting just one of its first nine third downs.

Mahomes didn’t reach 100 yards passing until the final minute of the third quarter. Going back to his days in college, this game marked the first time a team he quarterbacked failed to score a touchdown.

“We didn’t want him sitting in the pocket just zinging dimes on us all night,” Bowles said. “The D-line got some pressure on him and was making him run and making him a little bit uncomfortable. I thought that was key for us.”

The Buccaneers didn’t have a sack until midway through the third quarter but pressured Mahomes throughout. They hit him eight times and eventually sacked him twice.

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett had one of the sacks and was credited with four of the quarterback hits. Tackle Ndamukong Suh, a former Ram, finished with 11/2 sacks.


“The biggest thing was to cover up the receivers and make him hold the ball so our rush could get there,” Bowles said. “I think mixing up the coverages and making him think a little bit allowed those guys to get off up front.”

The level of stress Mahomes experienced Sunday could be expressed numerically. He traveled 497 yards before throwing the ball or being sacked, according to Next Gen Stats.

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is pressured by Tampa Bay's Shaquil Barrett.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Including scrambles, Mahomes covered a career-high and mind-boggling 615 yards with the ball in his hands.

All that real estate on a night when the Chiefs never reached the end zone.

“That’s a credit to the guys up front getting the pressure but mostly to the guys in the back because we took away some of the underneath throws,” Bowles said. “While those guys up front hunted, the guys in the back covered.”

The Buccaneers repeatedly exploited a Chiefs offensive line that was patched up but hardly in a manner anywhere close to airtight.


With left tackle Eric Fisher out because of an Achilles injury, right tackle Mike Remmers shifted to the left side and right guard Andrew Wylie moved out to Remmers’ normal spot.

Veteran Stefen Wisniewski started Sunday at right guard, meaning Fisher’s injury resulted in three positions on the offensive front being shuffled. And the Chiefs already were playing without another injured starter, tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

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Feb. 7, 2021

Bowles seized on the absences by taking away Mahomes’ first read and forcing him to dance around on a toe injury that reportedly will require offseason surgery.

Mahomes finished 26 of 49 for 270 yards with two interceptions. His passer rating of 52.3 was a career low in 54 games, including the postseason. He rushed five times for 33 yards but had no runs longer than 11 yards.

“Patrick wasn’t going to beat us running,” Arians said. “We let him run all day, just keep chasing him around and see if we can make some plays.”

Said Bowles: “We’d rather have him run than throw. We just tried not to have him have the 15-, 20-yard gains … If he’s not throwing the ball 30 yards down the field, we’ll take those little five- and eight-yard runs all day.”


The Buccaneers also drowned the fuse on Kansas City’s normally lit offense, limiting Mahomes to one play that netted more than 25 yards — a late, 33-yard completion to Travis Kelce after the outcome had been decided. When these teams met — also in Tampa — on Nov. 29, speedy Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill finished with 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns. He had seven receptions for 73 yards Sunday.

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Feb. 7, 2021

“We had to make sure he didn’t beat us over the top and make sure we tackled him underneath,” Bowles said. “He’s an explosive receiver … Our guys were up for the challenge.”

They certainly were, particularly linebacker Devin White, who produced a game-high 12 tackles. White sealed the final score by intercepting Mahomes at the goal line in the final two minutes.

In that Nov. 29 matchup, Tampa Bay limited Kansas City to three field goals on 15 possessions, Bowles solving an offensive riddle that has perplexed the NFL since Mahomes took over as the starter three seasons ago.

“He’s a mastermind,” cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting said. “He puts his players in the right positions to win. He believes in them and he believes in their ability. I love playing for Coach Bowles.”

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Feb. 7, 2021