Super Bowl 55 features a generational quarterback matchup for all ages.
Which generation wins out? Tom Brady, 43, led the Buccaneers to a 31-26 victory against Green Bay in the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Brady will be making his 10th Super Bowl appearance and has a chance to win his seventh Super Bowl championship – an unprecedented accomplishment considering the move from New England to Tampa Bay in the offseason.
Will Patrick Mahomes, 25, break that record in the not-so distant future. Mahomes led Kansas City to a 38-24 victory against Buffalo in the AFC championship game Sunday. The Chiefs earned the opportunity to be the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since Brady led New England to back-to-back titles in 2003-04.
Kansas City opened as a 3.5-point favorite to win Super Bowl 55.
Of course, Mahomes and Brady have interesting supporting casts. Mahomes’ favorite targets – Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce – combined for 290 yards and two TDs in the AFC championship game. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned from a hip injury, and Tyrann Mathieu leads an opportunistic defense that is used to playing with the lead. Will former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell play a role in Super Bowl 55? Vetearn coach Andy Reid also has a chance to win a second Super Bowl.
Brady has the support of a two-headed running game in Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski fill out the receiving corps. Devin White and Lavonte Davis are two of the NFL’s best linebackers, and veteran Ndamukong Suh finally gets to play in a Super Bowl. Will former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown play a role in the Super Bowl 55? Veteran coach Bruce Arians has a chance to win his Super Bowl.
Both teams are loaded at the most important positions.
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The Chiefs beat the Buccaneers 27-24 in Week 12 in a game where Mahomes and Brady put on a show. Mahomes finished 37 of 49 for 462 yards and three TDs – and most of that was on big-play connections with Hill.
Hill torched the Tampa Bay defense with scores of 75, 44 and 20 yards, respectively, and those big plays staked Kansas City out to a 27-10 lead.
Tampa Bay’s secondary will have to make adjustments with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and that will be tougher knowing safety Antoine Winfield Jr missed the NFC championship game and Jordan Whitehead left with an injury.
Kelce presents another problem in the middle of the field. He had eight catches for 82 yards in the first meeting and can test White and David in the middle of the field. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett combined for five sacks on Aaron Rodgers in the NFC championship game, but Mahomes is more mobile at this point in his career. Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can be creative with the running back committee of Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams and Bell to put a running game on top of all that.
Brady led a fourth-quarter rally with a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to Mike Evans in the first meeting, but the passing game isn’t just limited to Godwin and Gronkowski. Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson and Cameron Brate play their roles within the passing game, and Brown, who suffered a knee injury in the divisional playoffs, gives offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich more than enough to work with, especially with the two-headed rushing attack of Jones and Fournette, who had just three carries in the first meeting.
Brady knows Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo well. He was the Giants’ coordinator in the Super Bowl victory against the Patriots in 2007, and he will rely on Alex Okafor and Frank Clark to generate pressure. Mathieu and Bashaud Breeland had interceptions in the first meeting.
All of that is window dressing for what should be another thriller between Brady and Mahomes. They have split four previous meetings, which included the 37-31 thriller in the 2018 AFC championship game. Brady led the game-winning TD drive in overtime without letting the Chiefs touch the ball, and the Buccaneers have not lost since that regular-season defeat to Kansas City this season.
Plus, Tampa Bay is playing in their home stadium. It takes a special team to knock off Brady in a Super Bowl, and the Buccaneers have made a NFC wild-card run on the road. Brady is playing with as much confidence as ever. They will be a tougher challenge this time around.
The Chiefs remain that team to beat. Mahomes returned from a concussion suffered in the AFC divisional playoffs and showed no rust against the Bills with 325 yards and three TDs. It’s that combination of wow plays and calm within the system that makes Mahomes the quarterback for the next generation.
Brady will make him earn it, but the Chiefs finish off a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with a victory in a thrilling finish. Mahomes earns Super Bowl MVP honors, and Kansas City heads into 2021-22 looking for a three-peat.
It plays out like the regular-season meeting, but each team tacks on another score.
Super Bowl 55 final score
Chiefs 35, Buccaneers 32