"We're Not DOne Yet": The Story Of The 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By Rory Jones
"What The F**k Are You Crying For?"
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, the Bucs punched their tickets to Super Bowl LV. For many players, this would be their first appearance in the big game, and a new milestone in their careers.
Tom Brady however, doesn’t want his team celebrating just yet. The Bucs quarterback, who will make his record-setting 10th Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, was keen to remind his team that there was still one more game to win.
“What the f*** are you crying for?” He shouted at one of his teammates, after the NFC Championship win. “We’re not done yet.”
As the Bucs prepare to make their first Super Bowl appearance in 18 years, a Herculean task lies ahead. Their heavily favoured opponent – the Kansas City Chiefs – are reigning Super Bowl champions, and are almost universally tipped to defend their title in Sunday’s encounter. Although Tampa will become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium, the odds seem to be stacked against them.
A Mammoth Task Ahead
The Chiefs have won 25 of their last 26 games with quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the starter, who has the highest passer rating (108.2), and QBR (90.1) of any signal caller throughout the playoffs. In just his third year as a starter, he threw for 4,740 yards and 38 Touchdowns in 2020, to just 6 interceptions.
Boasting the number one ranked offense in the NFL, the Chiefs’ star studded lineup features Tyreek Hill – the league’s best wide receiver, and the league’s best tight end – Travis Kelce. Both are All-Pros this season, with Kelce breaking the record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2020, with 1,416. Hill, nicknamed ‘The Cheetah’, is the fastest player in the NFL, and posted over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns – just in the first quarter – when the Chiefs faced the Bucs earlier this season. That game finished 27-24, and many believe the Chiefs will once again be victors this Sunday.
Their top 10 defense have forced turnovers, and kept the Chiefs in games throughout the season, twice intercepting Tom Brady in week 12.
It’s easy to pick the Chiefs to win, perhaps too easy, but let’s not forget about the Bucs, and who they have as their quarterback.
Don't Bet Against Brady
For most 43 year old quarterbacks, their first year in a new offense would be a difficult transition – needless to say that joining a new team in a pandemic, with no training camp, and no preseason would present even more challenges. But Tom Brady is no ordinary quarterback, and somehow someway, he has led the Bucs all the way to the Super Bowl.
Throwing for 4,633 passing yards and 40 Touchdowns, Brady also posted a passer rating of 102.2, leading the Bucs to their first playoff berth in 13 years. Despite some struggles early in the season, most notably in the 38-3 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints in week 9, the Bucs have caught fire in the latter stages of the season, and enter the Super Bowl in red-hot form.
As it happens, the last time they played the Chiefs was the last time they lost this season. Since then, they have won their remaining four fixtures to finish the season with an 11-5 record. Then, as a Wildcard team, they have won three consecutive road games at Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay, to make it to the Super Bowl.
Defensive Postseason Dominance
In the history of the NFL, only 10 Wildcard teams have ever reached the Super Bowl. 6 of them have gone on to win it, which is likely no coincidence. Whatever happened during the Bucs’ bye week following their loss to the Chiefs, they seem to have fixed their early mishaps, and have looked more impressive in every outing during these playoffs.
They eliminated the Saints, led by a Hall of Fame quarterback in his final season, Drew Brees. Having lost to the Saints twice in the regular season, Tampa advanced to the NFC Championship game, where still many doubted the team’s ability to knock off the Green Bay Packers, and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Two weeks ago, when the Bucs took to Lambeau Field, in cryogenic conditions, they dismantled the Packers, as Brady once again out-duelled Rodgers, whose team did not have a single lead in the game. The Bucs’ defense have also played a key role throughout the playoffs, causing four turnovers against the Saints, and two against the Packers.
The Bucs’ defensive front, led by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and 2019 sack leader Shaq Barrett, will also play a crucial role against the Chiefs, who will be without two of their starting offensive lineman – Left Tackle Eric Fisher, and Right Tackle Mitchell Schwartz.
Dominant as the Bucs defense has been, we shouldn’t forget about the quarterback who has led them back to the Super Bowl. In three games, Brady has thrown 7TDs, the most of any signal caller this postseason, and his leadership has already transformed the culture of an organisation long bereft of playoff success and championship glory.
Once again on Sunday, the Bucs will be the underdogs. But as Tom Brady chases his 7th ring, there’s a different aura about this Bucs team. And before we rush to crown the Chiefs as back-to-back champions, the Greatest Of All Time will relish the role of the usurper.
Rory Jones is a sports journalist originally from West Yorkshire. He has been covering the NFL and NCAA for the last four seasons for both British and American publications. Rory is also the founder and co-host of The Sports Bubble podcast, which aims to raise the profile of the NFL in the UK. Find him on twitter @Rorysjones11