By Terrance Turner
Feb. 7, 2021
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stand before the national anthem. (Kim Klement -USA TODAY Sports)
My television froze one minute before kickoff.
I tried turning it off and on. It came back on, but somehow CBS was the only channel my TV couldn’t tune to. I could watch the Australian Open on ESPN. I could watch Isaac Mizrahi discussing jewelry on QVC. But I couldn’t watch the Super Bowl.
I turned off my TV, reset my Xfinity cable box, and waited. An hour later, there was still no signal. So I missed the entire first half. I missed every first down and scoring drive. I missed the halftime show by The Weeknd. I missed the start of the second half. I missed 27 points worth of offense.
Xfinity ruined my Super Bowl.
When I finally got my signal back, I realized what I had missed — a record number of penalties by one team, a dominant performance by another. When the signal came on and the smoke cleared, the Buccaneers were ahead 21-6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by quarterback Tom Brady, were incredible. The team’s explosive offense was powered by Brady and Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Chiefs had 95 yards worth of penalties — a record for any Super Bowl team in the first half. They only managed a field goal before the two-minute warning. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers generated three touchdowns before halftime. Brady and Gronkowski shined, recreating the same chemistry that worked for years in New England.
Brady found Rob Gronkowski for an eight-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter, giving Tampa Bay a 7–3 lead. The connection was the 13th Brady-to-Gronk touchdown pass of their postseason careers, the most in NFL history.
In the second quarter, the two struck again. A fourth-down offsides penalty on the Chiefs gave Brady and the Bucs a fresh set of downs. Brady found Gronk for a 17-yard strike; Gronkowski made the catch in the end zone, practically untouched. Gronk now joins Jerry Rice as the only players to have two or more touchdowns in multiple Super Bowls, per Sports Illustrated.
The Chiefs put up another field goal before halftime. But the Bucs were up 14-6 at the half.
Tampa Bay took advantage of two pass interference calls on the Chiefs to set up Brady’s 1-yard touchdown pass to receiver Antonio Brown with six seconds left in the opening half. That last-minute score gave the Buccaneers a 21-6 lead at the half.
The Chiefs launched an ultimately successful drive that resulted in a field goal. Harrison Butker’s kick was good, narrowing the score. It was 21-9. But the Chiefs had to contend with a red-hot Tampa Bay offense. Gronkowski had another huge gain before running back Leonard Fournette dashed into the end zone. The Bucs went up 28-9.
On the Chiefs’ drive, Mahomes was intercepted — and then there was a holding call on the offense. The Chiefs defense managed to stop the Bucs after another offensive surge. Brady had two incompletions in a row (for the first time all night). Then a snap was too high for Brady, flying over his head. He fell on it, but that made it fourth down. The Bucs settled for a field goal. Ryan Succop drilled a 53-yard field goal to make it 31-9.
The Chiefs had a dramatic gain down the field when Mahomes found Kelce. Then, when Mahomes was sandwiched by two Tampa Bay defenders, the Bucs were flagged. A roughing the passer penalty added 15 yards. (Mahomes was visibly shaken up after the play.) They got up to the red zone but were stymied by Tampa Bay’s defense. Chiefs turned the ball over on downs.
Mahomes got injured again on a blitz by Suh and another Tampa Bay defender. Limping even as he ran, Mahomes suffered a number of sacks and knockdowns that hampered his performance. The physical toll became more evident on what would be the Chiefs’ final drive.
As the fourth quarter ticked under two minutes, the Chiefs finally appeared to be putting together a successful drive. It was too late to mount a comeback. But by scoring their first touchdown of the game, the Chiefs could make the scoreboard look more respectable.
For a while, it looked as though they might. The Chiefs closed in, rushing into the red zone with about 1:45 to go. But Mahomes was picked off again, ending the game. The Buccaneers won, 31-9. Tom Brady wins his seventh championship. Gronkowski wins his fourth. Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Mike Evans earn their first Super Bowl rings. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
UPDATE (Feb. 10): The Buccaneers celebrated their big win with a victory parade, a day after Gronk’s trip to Disney World. The team clearly had a great time, and spirits were high. At one point during the outing, Tom Brady tossed the Lombardi Trophy to Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, who made a perfect catch:
Tom Brady appears to be having a great time. He had to be helped off the party boat in Tampa: