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NFL Super Bowl LV Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

See the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Watch 2021 NFL Super Bowl Sunday at 6;30 p.m. ET on CBS/ ESPN Deportes, as well as stream live on the NFL App and Yahoo Sports app.

NFL Super Bowl LV Preview: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Backstory

Upon the grandest stage in sports, the past and future will collide in the present, the greatest of all-time clashing with the greatest of what lies ahead.

One of the most ballyhooed young arms in NFL chronicle, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is looking to lead his squad to a repeat Super Bowl championship and into the realm of becoming the NFL’s next dynasty.

Opposing him on Sunday will be the man many deem the greatest QB ever, Tom Brady, who’s aiming to captain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to becoming the first franchise to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium, while collecting an improbable seventh Super Bowl ring for himself.

It will be the fifth time the two have faced off and the series is split at 2-2, but everything’s bigger on Super Bowl Sunday.

As Mahomes the magnificent and Brady the G.O.A.T. rightfully sit atop the marquee and command the spotlight, the biggest of big games offers up a parade of all-stars all around the celebrated quarterbacks.

Travis Kelce is having one of the finest seasons a tight end has ever had for the Chiefs, and though Rob Gronkowski hasn’t turned in the kind of numbers this season that have made him a certain Hall of Famer, it’s worth appreciating he’s emerged from retirement and is playing in another Super Bowl in his first season out of New England — just like the QB he followed to Tampa Bay. With Buccaneers receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill, the dynamic possibilities out wide for both teams are outstanding.

Tampa Bay’s defense — led by burgeoning star Devin White, the unheralded Lavonte David and the suddenly red-hot Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul — has followed the postseason lead set by Brady.

The Chiefs defense is coming off an AFC Championship Game win over a Buffalo Bills team that had as much momentum as any playoff team and was held to two touchdowns.

On opposing sidelines, the Chiefs’ “Big Red,” Andy Reid, and the Bucs’ B.A., Bruce Arians, bring a combined age of 131 years and 86 days for the oldest coaching matchup in Super Bowl history.

This is, indeed, a matchup for the ages.

The 43-year-old Brady will become the first player in North American sports to win a championship with multiple teams past 40 should Tampa Bay emerge victorious. And as Brady becomes the first NFL player to start 10 Super Bowls, Mahomes will become the first quarterback 25 or younger to make multiple Super Bowl starts, per NFL Research.

Each and every Super Bowl is historic, but this one is more than that.

It’s special because these teams have emerged from the most trying season in the history of this league, still standing and vying for the Lombardi Trophy and a reason for their fans to rejoice amid these most uncertain times.

It’s special because Mahomes is the fresh new face of the league and he and the Chiefs are on the doorstep of becoming the first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the 2003-04 Patriots and just the ninth repeat winners ever.

It’s special because its buildup truly started in the offseason, when the Chiefs began building to become a dynasty and when the Buccaneers brought in Brady and so many other notable names followed.

Kansas City began the 2020 season as the favorite to win it all again. Even after they suffered first loss of the season to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs were still viewed by most as the top team in the league. Will they finish out this repeat run and forge a new dynasty?

Or will one of the co-architects of the NFL’s greatest dynasty, thumbing his nose at age and time and refusing to go gentle into his career’s sunset, dazzle us once more? It seems almost forgotten that at one point in this season, Brady was on the wrong end of jokes and criticism, because he seemingly couldn’t count to four. In the Buccaneers’ loss to the Bears — a result that appears astounding in hindsight — Brady appeared to have lost count of the downs with the game on the line and Tampa Bay drifted away into defeat. Now the world is watching to see if Brady can count to seven.

On Sunday in Tampa we will find out, as 100 yards of possibilities lie ahead and either the Chiefs or Buccaneers find themselves just 60 minutes from glory.

Under Pressure

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback: Atop the sturdy and sensational shoulders of the magnificent Mahomes many believe the future of the league resides. An easy grin is one of Mahomes’ calling cards right along with a magical right arm, but nothing is as easy as Mahomes has made it look in his short, but already historic run as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback. For all the accomplishments and superlatives, though, if the Chiefs fall on Sunday, the blame could fall on Mahomes’ shoulders. Whether that’s fair is irrelevant; it comes with the position he plays and the spotlight he commands. Regardless of how the game plays out, many a headline is likely to read that Mahomes, who led the Chiefs to a win over the Bucs in the regular season, isn’t ready to take the torch from Tom. And for as talented as the Chiefs are, they very much go as he goes. Last season, Matt Moore surprised many with how he performed when Mahomes was injured, and in this season’s Divisional Round win over the Browns, Chad Henne’s fill-in performance was rightfully heralded. Reid likely deserves much of the credit for that. However, those were brief samples of life without Mahomes. As the Chiefs aim for dynastic fortune, it is their wunderkind QB, already on a Hall of Fame path, who is the driving force behind that. So it goes in this battle of greatness that the highest of hopes ride on just how great Mahomes will be. For all the accomplishments already behind Mahomes, pressure remains and always will at this point of the season. If others falter for the Chiefs, those will be sidebars. Win or lose, Mahomes is the main story.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback: The G.O.A.T.’s unlikely to ever be seen as the goat, but no matter how unbelievable it has been to see Brady turn the Bucs into NFC champions in his first season with the franchise, the story is incomplete without a Sunday triumph. He has reached the Super Bowl in his first season away from New England and without Bill Belichick. But can he win one in a different uniform and without Belichick? That is the prevailing storyline. There was talent in Tampa before Brady’s arrival, but plenty followed him there. As excellent as Brady’s been with his play — his only Bucs season so far saw him set a new team record with 40 TDs — his ability to get talented vets to converge on a long-beleaguered franchise and to uplift those that were already there has been astonishing. That’s all evidence of just how much this is indeed Brady’s squad. If Brady’s bunch is to tumble on Sunday, a torch will be passed to Mahomes and the man who seems to be the youngest 43-year-old of all-time at kickoff will have suddenly aged into the narrative of his best days being behind him. To think that Brady’s legacy is on the line here would be folly, but heavy is the helmet that wears the crown. Brady knows that more than anyone and as implausible as his instant success with the Bucs has been, that doesn’t dim the spotlight or lessen the gravity. In the minds and hearts of many, Brady will forever be a Patriot, but right now, he’s a Buccaneer vying for his first ring with Tampa Bay. All the world is watching — including more than likely his former head coach — to see if Brady can win his seventh seventh Super Bowl title and his first without the Patriots. If there is any doubt remaining as to whether TB12 made the right decision in March to go south from Boston, he will emphatically squash those queries with a victory.

Matchup to watch

Kanas City Chiefs offensive line vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass rush: With an AFC Championship Game win all but secured in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs were dealt a huge loss when Eric Fisher was injured. Though there was still a second-straight Super Bowl berth to celebrate, there were many already prognosticating what a significant blow might have been dealt with the K.C. starting left tackle going down with a torn Achilles. There will be no Fisher and likely no Mitchell Schwartz for the Chiefs on Sunday. They’ll cobble together a starting front five that’s likely to be — from left tackle to right — Mike Remmers, Nick Allegretti, Austin Reiter, Stefen Wisniewski and Andrew Wylie. And the injury depleted Chiefs line will be tasked with protecting Mahomes from a Buccaneers defensive front that most recently lambasted the quarterback who’s likely to win the AP Most Valuable Player award ahead of Mahomes at NFL Honors on Saturday night. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times in the NFC title game against the Bucs, with Shaquil Barrett racking up three and Jason Pierre-Paul tallying two. The Bucs’ pass-rushing pressure and damage was done largely with four-man rushes. As the Chiefs offer up such a dangerous arsenal for linebackers and defensive backs to contend with, this matchup proves pivotal not just in keeping Mahomes upright, but in keeping K.C.’s offense running on high. The play of the Chiefs offensive line despite injuries and the subsequent shuffling largely gets overlooked. This time around it might well be the deciding factor in the game, as the Bucs’ pass rush might well be playing the best it’s played all season.

Final thought

This has been a season unlike any other before it and one many believed would not even reach this point. It has, though. It has arrived and Sunday will be a celebration of all the amazement that lay before it and all the history that will be made. No matter how young or old, age doesn’t seem to matter on this day. And as Brady defies time and Mahomes defies belief, Sarah Thomas will be the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl, while Arians’ coaching staff — the only one in the NFL with two women on it — forges ahead and brings about more progress. Believing anything can happen on any given Sunday was perhaps never more accurate than this season — though the adage could have been “any given day” considering games were played on each day of the week for the first time in league history. It’s been a season of chaos and unpredictability the likes of which we’ve never experienced before — and hopefully never again. It’s played out amid an ongoing global pandemic, racial strife and an overwhelming political divide within the country. And so it goes that some time on Sunday, when the afternoon has drifted into night, the Chiefs or Buccaneers will celebrate the greatest of team accomplishments. But what it will truly be is a celebration for more than just the victors; it will mark an anniversary of the realization that even in the most arduous times, the most magnificent of triumphs can still be grasped.

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