Super Bowl LV

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. The two combined for two touchdowns, and the Bucs went up 14-3. The Chiefs put up another field goal before halftime. But the Bucs were up 14-6.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady.

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 were a 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:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Headed to Super Bowl After Historic Win

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 24, 2021

It was a game for the ages.

The Green Bay Packers were playing their second straight NFC Championship Game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were battling to become the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The match was played at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field. The Super Bowl they were aiming for will be played at Raymond James Stadium – the Bucs’ home turf. And it was the Bucs who would prevail. They won, 31-26.

The score was tied 7-7 at the start of the second quarter, after Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown to WR Marques Valdez-Scantling. Tampa Bay took over. They caught fire with a 52-yard catch by WR Chris Godwin. Then running back Leonard Fournette turned what looked like a nothing play into pure gold. Fournette hurdled a player, scooted away from one tackle, spun out of another, and found the end zone for the touchdown. That put Tampa Bay up 14-7.

Green Bay’s offense ran down the field to 1st and goal. WR Davante Adams had a rare drop on 1st and goal, and 2nd and 3rd down plays also failed. Green Bay settled for a field goal. That 24-yard field goal was good. That made it 14-10, and the Packers also played deftly on defense. Tampa Bay had a big play-action play on 3rd and 2, with a 19-yard catch by Godwin. But the Green Bay defense forced a stop.

Green Bay had a big play on 3rd down, but then Rodgers was sacked by Bucs defender Jason Pierre-Paul. Then Rodgers got picked off by Bucs cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. Tampa Bay took over and were unable to convert on third down.

It looked like the Buccaneers were going to punt. But then, on 4th down, the Bucs called a timeout. They decided to go for it on 4th and 3; Brady found Fournette for a first-down catch. After another timeout, the Bucs made a huge play with just eight seconds left. Brady hurled the ball to wide receiver Scotty Miller for the touchdown. That stunning 39-yard TD made it 21-10 at the half.

The second half began in equally stunning fashion. Green Bay got the ball to start the half, but then Aaron Jones fumbled the ball. The Bucs defense recovered, taking the ball to the 10-yard line. Their offense immediately cashed in. Brady threw another touchdown to tight end Cameron Brate. Tampa Bay took a commanding 28-10 lead.

But Green Bay put up a fight. They launched a successful scoring drive, evading the Bucs defense with both running and passing plays. Before the third quarter was halfway done, they’d reached 1st and goal. Rodgers threw to wide-open tight end Robert Tonyan for the touchdown. It was 28-17.

Tampa Bay continued to struggle on its drive. Brady got picked off by Adrian Amos, and then Tampa Bay’s defense got flagged for offsides. Green Bay had the ball and the momentum. They continued streaking down the field as the third quarter went on. Then Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, setting up 1st and goal for Green Bay. On 3rd and goal, Brady threw to Adams for the touchdown, capping a drive in which Tampa Bay’s defense was badly outplayed. The Packers went for a two-point conversion but failed. That made it 28-23.

Tampa Bay’s drive got off to a promising start but was foiled. Brady got picked off by Packers cornerback Jaire Alxander after WR Mike Evans failed to make a catch. But the Bucs got the ball right back after Rodgers was sacked on third down. They gave it back, too: Brady was again intercepted on a pass intended for Mike Evans. Then Rodgers was sacked again on 3rd and 11.

The mayhem finally ended with Tampa Bay’s next drive. The highlight was a 29-yard catch-and-run by Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Bucs managed to get within field-goal range. Kicker Ryan Succop drilled a 46-yard field goal to extend the lead. The Bucs led 31-23.

The Packers advanced once again to 1st and goal. But the Bucs defense stymied Green Bay’s offense. On 3rd and goal, Rodgers got mobile, running a few yards before throwing to Adams. But the pass was incomplete. The Packers settled for a field goal instead of going for it on 4th down. The field goal was good, and the score was now 31-26.

Back to a five-point lead, the Bucs got the ball with just over two minutes remaining. The Packers defense was flagged for encroachment. Tampa Bay picked up the first down. (The play may have been strategic, according to announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.) But that strategy was soon overshadowed by a late flag. The Packers defense got called for pass interference after an incomplete pass by Brady. Then, after a lengthy review, it was determined that the Packers had 12 men on the field. That 5-yard penalty put the Bucs at 1st and 5.

The Buccaneers finally returned to play with little more than a minute left. On 3rd and 5, Godwin took off for a first-down slide. And that first down sealed the game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won, becoming the first team ever to play the Super Bowl at home.

Super Bowl 55 will be played on Feb. 7, 2021, in Raymond James Stadium. It will be Tom Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance. It is head coach Bruce Arians’ first Super Bowl as coach. “We’re comin’ home, and we’re comin’ home to win,” Arians said after the game.

Bucs Best Saints in Divisional Game

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 17, 2021

In what may be Drew Brees’ final game, his New Orleans Saints battled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the New Orleans Superdome. The Buccaneers cashed in on four turnovers to win out over the Saints, 30-20.

There wasn’t a ton of offense early on. Saints kicker Wil Lutz kicked two field goals for New Orleans. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop made a field goal to make it 6-3. After the field goal, Brees was intercepted by Bucs’ Murphy-Bunting. Murphy-Bunting returned the pick for 36 yards. That set up a touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Mike Evans. That gave Tampa Bay a 10-6 lead.

Taysom Hill tossed the ball to Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw deep across the field to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. That 56-yard touchdown made it 13-10. The Bucs got the ball back and settled for a field goal after a would-be touchdown by Chris Godwin got overturned. Succop nailed the field goal to tie the game. It was 13-13 at the half.

In the second half, turnovers made the difference. Brees found Tre’Quan Smith for the touchdown. The Saints had a 20-13 lead, but it was all downhill from there. On the Bucs’ drive, Ronald Jones too off; the Saints defense surrounded him, but he still pushed forward for the first down. Then Bucs running back Leonard Fournette ran in for the touchdown. The game was again tied, at 20-20.

The Saints went three-and-out. But the Buccaneers had a socring drive. An incredible 15-yard catch by Tyler Johnson wowed observers, and Scotty Miller had a big catch after that. A 29-yard completion on 3rd and 5 helped set up another Succop field goal. That made it 23-20.

On the Saints’ next drive, Brees was picked by Devin White. That was his third turnover of the game, and Tampa Bay cashed in. Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught a pass from Brady — his first catch of the postseason. Gronk’s 13-yard catch put the Buccaneers at 1st and goal. Then Brady scored with a 1-yard touchdown run! That extended the Bucs’ lead.

With the fourth quarter ticking away, the Saints had little time to mount a comeback. But Brees got picked off again — the fourth turnover by the Saints. The Bucs held on to the ball just long enough to last past the two-minute warning. They won, 30-20. Brady is now on his way to his 14th conference championship. The Buccaneers will play the Green Bay Packers in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

During the game, word broke that this will be the last game Drew Brees plays at the Superdome. NFL analyst Jay Glazer reported today that Brees will retire after the season concludes. Brees will retire as the all-time leader in passing yards and completions. He helped bring New Orleans a Super Bowl title after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And as he left the Superdome, Brees turned back, giving his home stadium of nearly 20 years one last look.

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UPDATE: NFL reporter James Palmer shared a video of Brady and Brees chatting on the field after tonight’s game. The two quarterbacks were joined on the field by their kids. Brady even played catch with one of Brees’ sons. After he caught the ball in the end zone, Brady remarked: “We could’ve used you tonight!” Palmer captured a sweet moment:

Tampa Bay Edges Washington for First Playoff Win Since 2003

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 9, 2021

Tonight, the last game in a Saturday tripleheader kicked off on NBC. The Washington Football Team took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a stadium just 10 miles from the U.S. Capitol — the site of a deadly riot on Wednesday. Inside the (mostly empty) stadium, the game unfolded. Somehow, an 11-5 Buccaneers team had trouble competing with a 7-9 Washington team. But Tampa Bay held on, cementing its first playoff win in over 17 years,

Tampa Bay scored first with a field goal. Washington QB Taylor Heinicke started for the team; QB Alex Smith was out with a calf injury. Heinicke performed gamely, drawing several compliments from announcers Al Michaels and Tony Dungy. But he was intercepted by Bucs defender Murphy-Bunting.

Tampa Bay took over. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady quickly made a first-down throw to Scotty Miller. Within minutes, Brady found WR Antonio Brown for the touchdown. The extra-point kick was blocked, but Tampa Bay still led, 9-0.

Washington ran right through the Tampa Bay defense, racking up yards on the ground and through the air. That drive culminated in a touchdown by Washington running back J.D. McKissic. It was 9-7 when the Bucs began their next drive. Tampa Bay had a 22-yard catch by Brown and another first down from running back Leonard Fournette before a touchdown by WR Chris Godwin. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. So it remained 15-7.

On their next drive, Tampa Bay made it to 1st and goal, but couldn’t score. They settled for a field goal, which kicker Ryan Succop drilled. Washington embarked on a race-against-time drive, but couldn’t convert before time ran out. That made it 18-10 at the half.

In the second half, Tampa Bay’s defense utterly failed to contain runs or passes. On what should’ve been a sack — Heinicke was surrounded by the Bucs defense — the QB somehow managed to break free and dive across the end zone for the touchdown. Tampa Bay’s subpar defense — and Heinicke’s deft escape — made it 18-16.

A touchdown by Bucs tight end Cameron Brate was overturned. But Fournette dashed into the end zone for the TD. That put the Bucs up 25-16. Heinicke suffered a shoulder injury on Washington’s next drive; he was seen running off the field. But after a brief spell in the locker room he returned to the field of play. He rallied his team to another score, lobbing a TD pass to Steven Sims. It was 28-23.

With their lead slimmed down, the Bucs put together another scoring drive. WR Mike Evans had a 40-yard catch, followed by a Fournette first down. The drive culminated in a 37-yard field goal by Succop. That gave Tampa Bay a 31-23 lead. Though Heinicke valiantly tried to lead Washington to victory, a questionable fumble by a receiver and a sack by the Bucs defense stymied him. Escaping pressure from the defense with under two minutes left, Heinicke heaved the ball on fourth down. But the pass was incomplete. That sealed the win for Tampa Bay. They won, 31-23, for their first playoff win since 2003.

Tyreek Hill Helps Chiefs (Barely) Beat Buccaneers

Terrance Turner

The offensive fireworks were in major supply as the Kansas City Chiefs played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today. At Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, the two teams battled mightily for advantage in a hard-fought match. But it was the Chiefs who would prevail — barely.

The Chiefs scored first with a field goal. On a subsequent drive, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes stunned viewers with a 75-yard pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Then Mahomes connected with Hill again! Hill made a huge catch, ran past defenders, and backflipped into the end zone for a touchdown that put Kansas City up 17-0.

But the Buccaneers weren’t going down without a fight. Mahomes hurled a pass to make it 1st and goal, but he fumbled the ball after a tackle by Berry. The Bucs recovered and launched their own drive. Holding penalties on both teams ensued. But the drive nonetheless generated four first downs. Bucs Tight end Rob Gronkowski made a pivotal grab near first down and then caught a dramatic 29-yard pass that set up 1st and goal. Then Ronald Jones scored a touchdown after a long-legged run to the end zone.

The Chiefs regained possession and got to business on a workmanlike drive. Demarcus Robinson gained 10 yards on one play and nine on another;; Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had nine yards on one play and eight on the next. A field goal by Harrison Butker made it 20-7 at the half.

The Buccaneers got the ball to start the second half. They soon began a field-goal drive of their own. A highlight-reel completion by Gronkowski went 48 yards and enabled a chip-shot field goal. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop drilled a kick through the uprights to make it 20-10.

After a tense moment of jawing between Brady and Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, the Chiefs took over. After an improbable nine-yard run by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Mahomes took off on a 17-yard run. That opened the door for a touchdown. Mahomes found Hill AGAIN for a 21-yard score. This was Hill’s third touchdown of the day.

Hill finished the day with 13 catches for three touchdowns and 269 yards — the most ever versus the Bucs, according to writer Greg Auman. Mahomes would finish with 462 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bucs had a feast-and-famine drive. Brady threw a stellar 46-yard throw to Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin — then threw an interception. But the Chiefs failed to capitalize on the takeaway; they went three-and-out on their drive. Brady was later intercepted again, by Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu. But once again, the Chiefs did nothing with the turnover, going three-and-out.

The Bucs took advantage of that offensive stagnation. On 4th and 3, Brady found Mike Evans for a 31-yard touchdown. They nearly got the ball back after Mahomes was intercepted. But Tampa Bay defender Jason Pierre-Paul was flagged for roughing the passer. That left Mahomes with no picks; today Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.

A first-and-goal stand by the Chiefs was gradually undone by two holding penalties (both on lineman Eric Fisher). Then the Chiefs began racking up defensive penalties: Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was penalized TWICE for roughing the passer, costing the team valuable yardage. Those fouls placed the ball near the goal line, and the Bucs cashed in when Brady located Evans for their second TD of the day.

The Chiefs took over with just four minutes left and deftly worked the clock. On 3rd and 7, Mahomes threw to Hill — who saved his team by making the catch for a crucial first down. The Chiefs let the remaining time run out, strategizing successfully to manage the clock. That helped them seal a narrow victory. The Chiefs won, 27-24.

The Chiefs improve to 10-1. The only team with a better record in the NFL is the 10-0 Pittsburgh Steelers (who play the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday night). The Buccaneers fall to 7-5 after losing their second straight game, according to USA Today.

Saints Roll Over Buccaneers in Tampa Bay

Quarterback Tom Brady and Drew Brees embrace after tonight’s Sunday Night Football. (Photo by the author.)

By Terrance Turner

Everyone on tonight’s “Sunday Night Football” picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win tonight’s match against the New Orleans Saints. Six commentators – including Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico — picked the Buccaneers to win the game.

They were wrong.

The Saints scored almost right out the gate, with quarterback Drew Brees finding Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown. That put them up 7-0. Tampa Bay went three-and-out — an ominous sign of things to come. But the Saints had struggles, too. Deonte Harris had a big catch-and-run on their next drive, but a Saints player was tackled near the 10-yard line, and the Bucs defense caused a fumble. Tampa Bay recovered the ball, but did little with it. Once again, they went three-and-out.

Saints took over. From the 35-yard line, running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 17 yards. That later led to a 1st-and goal. Saints scored again: Brees threw to rookie tight end Adam Trautman for the touchdown. It’s Trautman’s first NFL touchdown. His inaugural score made it 14-0.

Later, Taysom Hill hurdled over defenders for a big play that took the Saints near the 10-yard line. Then Brees hurled a pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the touchdown. With the game 21-0, Bucs got the ball back. Things seemed to be progressing until Brady was intercepted AGAIN, this time by Saints #97. On the Saints drive, Hill gain flew down the field to make it 1st and goal. Alvin Kamara ran in for the score. Touchdown Saints!

It was a disastrous series for Tampa Bay: punt, punt, punt, another punt, and then an interception. The Buccaneers were able to foil the Saints’ drive, but then kicker Wil Lutz added to the Bucs’ misery with a field goal. The first half ended with the Saints up 31-0.

In the second half, both teams struggled on offense. The Bucs got as far as 1st and goal, but after four attempts to score, they couldn’t convert. On their drive, Brees fumbled the ball and gave it to Tampa Bay. But Brady got intercepted again, this time by Saints defender Malcolm Jenkins. With 9:07 left in the quarter, Brees threw to Josh Hill for the touchdown. An extra point made it 38-0.

The Buccaneers took over. With 7:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Brady got under pressure and just heaved the ball in the air. He was flagged for intentional grounding. Then he was sacked by the Saints defense. On 3rd and 34, the pass was incomplete. on fourth down, the Bucs finally scored some points. Kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make it 38-3. And that’s how it ended.

The Saints win, 38-3.

Buccaneers Edge Giants In Dramatic Win

By Terrance Turner

“Monday Night Football” tonight was one for the ages. It was a lot closer than observers may have anticipated, but the result was exactly as expected. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers overcame a double-digit shortfall to run up the score and defeat the New York Giants, 25-23.

Things got off to a surprising start in the first half. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones hit Dion Lewis for a TD to make it 7-3 in the first quarter. Then he drove the team 77 yards, with Wayne Gallman running into the end zone from the 2-yard line with 1:46 remaining in the half. The Giants surprised viewers by scoring two touchdowns and stopping the Bucs from reaching the end zone. Brady was pressured and sacked, as drive after drive stalled. The Giants were up 14-3 early on, but Bucs kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make the score 14-6 at halftime.

In the second half, Succop drilled another field goal, making it 14-9. Then Brady found one of his favorite targets — Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. With 6:05 left in the third quarter, Gronk caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brady. The Giants defender punched the ball out after Gronk took a couple steps, but the refs upheld the TD. It’s the third week in a row that Gronk has caught a TD from Brady — and it’s their 93rd touchdown together.

This gave the Bucs their first lead of the game. The Buccaneers attempted a two-point conversion, but it was unsuccessful. That left the score 15-14. But Brady and Gronk have nevertheless accomplished a singular feat: they have now passed Steve Young and Jerry Rice in the record books. The only QB-WR duo with more TDs is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

In the fourth quarter, Jones threw yet another pick. (He has 13 interceptions for the season — more than any other quarterback besides Philadelphia’s QB Carson Wentz.) On the next possession, Brady launched a crucial connection with Tyler Johnson.

The Giants added a field goal in the fourth quarter. But the team later got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, putting the Bucs closer to the goal line with nine minutes left. Then Brady hurled the ball 8 yards to receiver Mike Evans, who made a highlight-reel catch for the go-ahead touchdown. That made it 22-17.

On their next drive, the Buccaneers moved down the field. Brady connected with Gronkowski for 18 yards. A would-be catch for Mike Evans got flagged for pass interference, helping the Bucs move forward. But they were again stymied by a stalwart Giants defense. Fournette was stuffed at the first-down line. Instead of going for it, Arians elected for a field goal, which Succop sent right through the uprights. It was now 25-17.

The Giants struggled after getting the ball back. Jones, under pressure, backed up and threw the ball on a prayer. The result was a miraculous catch by Darius Slayton. Later, Jones managed to convert on 4th and 16, keeping the drive alive. And out of nowhere, Jones launched a 19-yard touchdown to Giants receiver Golden Tate. With 28 seconds left, the New York Giants had sprung to life.

The score was now 25-23. All the Giants needed was a two-point conversion to tie the game. But it wasn’t to be. On the final play Jones’ pass to Dion Lewis hit Bucs player Antoine Winfield in the arm, bouncing off to land as an incomplete pass. The refs threw a flag, indicating possible pass interference. But the referees eventually decided there was no foul committed. “There is no flag for pass interference on the play,” the ref announced.

That sealed the deal. The Buccaneers won, improving their record to 6-2. This is Brady’s 30th win after trailing by 10 or more points — more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

National Tight Ends Day

By Terrance Turner

Oct. 25, 2020 (Updated Oct. 28)

Today is National Tight Ends Day. Although this may sound like a made-up holiday, San Francisco tight end George Kittle designated the day as the last Sunday in October. Kittle is one of the league’s leading tight ends, along with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski. Kittle explained the holiday in a video:

Kittle credited San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with the holiday’s genesis. “I’m pretty sure it was a day [that] all the tight ends were active, and so Jimmy G was like, ‘What is it, national tight end day’?” Kittle recalled. That moment sparked Kittle to establish the occasion for the last Sunday in October.

Famous for his aggressive, exuberant play, Kittle has become one of the league’s premier tight ends. He is frequently ranked among the league’s best at his position, along with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. (The two faced each other in this year’s Super Bowl, with Kelce’s Chiefs besting Kittle’s 49ers 31-20.) Both Kelce and Kittle are known for their fun-loving approach to the game of football: Kelce is known to celebrate touchdowns with funny dances; Kittle will laugh hysterically after pancake-blocking a defender.

Both of them noticed the other’s festive style. Kittle studied film of Kelce while in college at Iowa. “I think the thing that really kind of stands out the most is you see his personality when he plays and how much fun he has,” Kittle said. “Very similar to (Rob Gronkowski) and his personality, the way it shows. I think they just kind of opened the door for tight ends like me to be able to express ourselves on the football field.”

Kelce returned the compliment during Super Bowl media week. “George Kittle, man. I was just talking about his tenacity,” Kelce told the NFL Network. “How he runs routes. How he plays the game with a certain level of energy and enthusiasm. Man, you gotta love it.” Both Kelce and Kittle power their respective teams with energetic, enthusiastic play. And that similarity was not lost on Kelce.

“I think we’re both positive guys,” Kelce said with a big smile. “We both love to play the game and, at the same time, we both love life.”

But both match their appetite for fun with high-level play. Kelce is tied for the NFL record for the most seasons by a tight end with 1,000 or more receiving yards (four seasons and counting), according to FOX Sports. In 2018, Kittle broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end, racking up 1,377 receiving yards (His 88 catches that season were also the most for his position.) Kittle broke the previous record of 1,327 yards, set by legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski. But that’s far from the only record Gronk has set.

While with the Patriots in 2011, Gronkowski racked up those 1,327 yards and 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end. He had 18 total touchdowns that year, also the most ever for a tight end in a season. (A pass Gronk caught for a score against the Colts was later ruled a lateral pass, making it a rushing TD. “My first rushing touchdown ever,” Gronk marveled after the game.) Gronkowski became the first tight end EVER to lead the league in receiving touchdowns, according to NFL.com.

Additionally, Gronkowski is the first player at his position to have 10+ touchdowns and 1000+ receiving yards in three different seasons (2011, 2014-2015). He had three consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches (2010-12). He has the most catches (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history, according to USA Today. His gloves are on display at the Patriots Hall of Fame.

And he’s not done yet.

Last week, Gronk caught his first TD of the season during a 38-10 win against the Packers. It was his first touchdown as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and his first in nearly two years. (Gronkowski retired briefly in 2019, citing health concerns.) On Sunday — National Tight Ends Day — he caught another touchdown from Tom Brady. That was the 92nd touchdown between them. Brady and Gronk are now tied for second place on the all-time list. The only quarterback-receiver duo to connect for more touchdowns is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Like Kelce and Kittle, Gronkowski also likes to have fun — on and off the field. His parties are legendary: he had a traveling party bus in 2015 and a party boat in 2016. He even hosted a topless pool party in Vegas in 2012, as seen below.

Rob Gronkowski Hosts Topless Pool Party

Gronk has cemented his legacy as one of the league’s best tight ends. But the true GOAT may be Tony Gonzalez. The tight end played 12 seasons for the Chiefs and five more for the Atlanta Falcons between 1997 and 2013. In the process, he racked up a ton of dazzling stats. Gonzalez is the all-time leader for receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) at his position, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. He also has the most career touchdowns (76) in Chiefs franchise history. Gonzalez joined Gronk, Kelce and Kittle for a sitdown earlier this year, just before the Super Bowl. Gronkowski noted that “this is the first time in history, I would say, that the two top tight ends in the league are in the Super Bowl, facing each other. What’s that relationship like?”

Find out in the video below.

UPDATE: Tight end Hayden Hurst made a crucial catch tonight for the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw the ball so low that it nearly hit the ground, but Hurst reached out his arms and caught the ball with his fingertips. The ball touched the ground as Hurst reeled it in, but upon further review the catch was upheld. The crucial catch eventually led to a field goal. The Falcons eventually won the game, 25-17.

Catch the crazy play below.

Buccaneers Steamroll Packers Amid Sports Frenzy in Tampa Bay

By Terrance Turner

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the World Series.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-2.

The Buccaneers stunned the once-undefeated Green Bay Packers Sunday evening with a burst of offensive power. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shined, leading the team to its fourth win. According to UPI, Brady completed 17 of 27 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-10 win on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went 16 for 35 and threw two interceptions.

The Packers jumped out to a 10-point lead early, but then the Buccaneers scored 38 unanswered points. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got picked off by Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean in the second quarter. Dean lit up the team with a 32-yard interception return to the end zone. That pick-six put the Bucs on the board.

Another interception by Rodgers opened the door to a TD rush by Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II. That touchdown put Tampa Bay up 14-10, its first lead of the day. It was a lead that the team would never let go.

Later, Brady slung another touchdown pass to Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson as the second quarter wound down. Then, with just over a minute left in the first half, Brady threw a laser-point pass to Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. It was Gronk’s first touchdown of the season — and his first in nearly two years. The last time Gronkowski caught a touchdown, it was 2018 — 679 days ago — in a Patriots game versus the Miami Dolphins.

That added to an already commanding lead. The game was 28-10 at halftime.

Rodgers continued to struggle in the second half, contending with an aggressive Bucs defense that swarmed and sometimes sacked him. (Tampa Bay’s Ndamukong Suh was especially difficult to evade.) Rodgers’ woes continued when Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a chest injury and had to return to the locker room.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay continued to roll. Kicker Ryan Succop drilled a 50-yard field goal to give the Bucs a 21-point lead. And the team benefited from some costly mistakes by its opponent. A massive defensive pass interference call on the Packers was followed by a flag for having too many men on the field. Those penalties set up Tampa Bay’s next (and final) touchdown, courtesy of running back Ronald Jones. The Buccaneers defeated Green Bay handily, 38-10.

Notably, the Buccaneers were one of the most penalized teams going into this game. But they managed to play this game from start to finish without any penalties. The Buccaneers haven’t played a penalty-free game since 1983.

“… It was good. I think not turning the ball over helped a lot and I think not being behind on down and distance helped a lot,” Brady said after the win, per the team. “But certainly (there are) better things that we can do (and) things better than what we did today. We’re going to keep working at it.”

Brady & Bucs Stymied By Saints In Season Opener

By Terrance Turner

Today was the first time since 2000 that Tom Brady hasn’t started for the New England Patriots. Instead, he served as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But while the Patriots cruised to a win earlier this afternoon, Brady and the Bucs…didn’t. The New Orleans Saints’ sensational offense and bruising defense obstructed them at every turn.

The game began promisingly enough. Brady scored the team’s first points himself, rushing into the end zone for a touchdown that made it 7-0. But the Saints answered with a touchdown of their own: running back Alvin Kamara scored a rushing TD to tie the game. After Brady was intercepted by Saints’ Marcus Williams early in the second quarter, Kamara seized the moment and scored again, putting his team up 14-7. It was his second touchdown in 90 seconds.

By the midpoint of the second quarter, the game was already getting chippy. On one play, the jostling between Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore turned serious. After the play, when Evans’ back was turned, Lattimore shoved him from behind. Evans turned around and appeared to throw a punch at Lattimore, knocking off his helmet. The two began scuffling, and their teammates joined in. The referees had to break up the action before it turned into a brawl:

Lattimore got flagged for unnecessary roughness; the 15-yard penalty went against the Saints. But they recovered rather quickly. A Buccaneers drive stalled when Brady got sacked; their field goal was blocked by a Saints defender. The Saints ended up scoring a field goal of their own to end the half, making the game 17-7.

After halftime, more woes awaited the team. Brady was intercepted again by Saints’ Janoris Jenkins, who returned the ball for a pick-six. That made it 24-7. The Buccaneers rallied to narrow that lead, helped by a 45-yard penalty against the Saints. That set up a touchdown for the Bucs. Brady found tight end O.J. Howard for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 24-14. Later, kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to bring the Bucs within one score.

A volley of sorts ensued: Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders scored a touchdown to make it 31-17; that was followed by a field goal from Saints kicker Wil Lutz. The Bucs responded when Brady hit receiver Mike Evans for a 2-yard TD. But the Saints recovered an onside kick, and a 38-yard catch by Kamara set up 1st and goal. Kamara rushed in for a touchdown, but it was overturned on replay. (Kamara had stepped out of bounds just nanoseconds before the ball crossed the plane.)

It didn’t matter. Kamara (who just signed a $75 million, five-year extension yesterday, after rumors of a trade) was all smiles. It wasn’t hard to see why. The Saints began their season with a convincing win, 34-23.