Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs knew they were walking into a fight with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but no one told them to pack their eight-ounce gloves. It seemed like the battle would go the full 12 rounds when the bell rang in the first, but it was not to be. Thanks to a list of defensive errors by the Chiefs, Brady essentially had his way from the waning moments of the first quarter throughout the remainder of the contest. Things were only made worse for Kansas City when their makeshift offensive line could do nothing whatsoever to keep Mahomes from avoiding duress and, when he did, he was treated to several game-altering drops by some of his top weapons.
Two of those occurred in the end zone, one by wideout Tyreek Hill and the other by running back Darrell Williams, and neither could be afforded in a game that saw Mahomes fail to score a single touchdown while throwing two interceptions on the day. Mahomes did all he could to channel the magic needed to avoid going 0-2 against Brady in the postseason, but it was not to be. And when the clock hit all zeroes, it was the latter hoisting a seventh Lombardi trophy -- thanks to a complete game by the Buccaneers.
The Chiefs threw some punches, but the Bucs walked away with a unanimous victory, and the following top 15 plays serve as a reminder of just how bloody the fight ultimately became.
[Note: These are in chronological order.]
1. Ronald Jones established the tone early
Leonard Fournette was again set to start the game, but Jones is still a dangerous player out of the Bucs backfield. This play proved just that, and Jones went on to finish with a respectable 61 rushing yards on only 12 carries.
2. Frank Clark is a hungry man
It was still a 0-0 ballgame at this point, and Clark wanted to put his imprint on the game early, so he did -- taking down Brady on third-and-8 for a six-yard loss to halt the Bucs second possession of the game. The Chiefs went on to take a 3-0 lead thereafter.
3. Rob Gronkowski is back
It's true Gronkowski wasn't often his usually dominant self in 2020, but he most certainly was on the biggest stage in sports. The future Hall of Fame tight end hauled in this touchdown to give the Bucs their first lead of the game, and he was just getting started.
4. Anthony Hitchens doesn't like tricks
When offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich dialed this one up, it had touchdown written all over it. He was right, except for the fact Hitchens would have none of it -- punching the ball free at the last second and forcing what would become the best goal line stand of the evening.
5. Damien Wilson follows Hitchens' lead
The great PBU by Hitchens only matters if the Chiefs can get at least one more stop in short yardage, and Wilson made sure to honor that request with a brick wall style takedown of Jones to force fourth-and-1.
6. Chiefs defense stands tall
They stopped the Bucs twice already in short yardage, but could they do it a third time? The answer was a resounding yes, because when Jones again tried to punch his way into the end zone -- this time with defensive lineman Vita Vea taking on the role of fullback -- Kansas City met him with the Dikembe Mutombo finger wave and sent the Bucs offense back to their sideline.
7. Rob Gronkowski gets two scoops
Sprinkles are for winners, and Gronkowski was pouring them all over his Super Bowl ice cream. Why have one touchdown when you can have two, putting the Bucs up 14-3 after not scoring a single TD in the postseason prior to gut punching the Chiefs? Anyone who thought he was washed was incorrect. By the way he played in the Super Bowl, it's clear his label reads "dry clean only."
8. Bashaud Breeland's pass interference
Some say this wasn't catchable and that Mike Evans should win an Oscar for his performance, but the fact remains the flag was extremely costly when the Chiefs could least afford it. The added problem was also in what happened after this infraction.
9. Tyrann Mathieu flagged in end zone
Brady didn't exactly need any help advancing the ball, but he got some anyway. After Breeland's penalty in defense of Evans, Mathieu got one of his own, and in the end zone -- resulting in the ball being placed at the one-yard line. You can guess what happened next and, no, it wasn't another impressive goal line stand.
10. Antonio Brown joins the party
It was Brown making the Chiefs realize business was still booming as he took in a one-yard TD catch from Brady to give the Bucs a 21-6 lead in the waning moments of the first half. But at least the Chiefs were set to get the ball to start the second half and that would count for something, right?
11. Playoff Lenny strikes again
The Chiefs would muster only a field goal in the third quarter before the Bucs went back to work with kidney shots. Gronkowski continued his great performance with a 25-yard catch and run that put Tampa Bay in position to strike again, and they'd do just that -- with Fournette tearing off a 27-yard touchdown run to change the tone of the game from "pulling away" to "blowout."
12. Shaq Barrett wants all the smoke
Like a wild bull, all Barrett saw was red (literally as well as figuratively speaking) in his pursuit of Mahomes on Sunday. He landed only one sack but amassed a team-high four quarterback hits on the evening, and this one set up a key takeaway to come for the Bucs.
13. Antoine Winfield, Jr. establishes a no-fly zone
Barrett set it up and Winfield knocked it down. It's well known Mahomes isn't an easy QB to grab an interception off of, but when he tried to make something special happen with this pass to Tyreek Hill, Winfield would have none of it. He'd go on to help contain Hill for most of the night, and then let him hear about it by returning his "peace sign" taunt dished out initially by Hill in Week 12.
14. Patrick Mahomes tried to make magic
When your offensive line, receiving targets and defense fail you, you'll probably lose the game. Needless to say, that's what happened to a determined but flustered Mahomes, who dug deep into his hat and nearly pulled out one or two rabbits before they skipped away -- i.e., his receivers dropped the ball.
15. Devin White drops the coffin
The game was over long before this moment, but White wanted to make sure he sent the Chiefs off with the last taste in their mouth being a turnover. It proved to be a microcosm of a great defensive postseason run the Bucs, one that saw them lead all playoff teams in takeaways as they ran roughshod over team after team en route to lifting the first Lombardi trophy for the Bucs since the 2002 season.
Honorable mention: The rogue fan
Nothing about this NFL season was normal, thanks to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, but something felt usual about seeing a fan lose his senses and decide to streak across an NFL field. He'd pay for his transgression with a form tackle by league security, but you can't say it wasn't a fun and fitting moment to close out a wild and crazy 2020 campaign.