101st NFL Season Wrap Up

Image courtesy CBS Sports

By Jack Cherico

On February 7, 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers played the season’s biggest game: the Super Bowl. The game was not what everyone expected, but it was certainly entertaining. At Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, Tom Brady did what he does best and won his 7th Superbowl, surpassing every NFL team in Super Bowl wins. Tampa Bay had a great season, and everyone in that building worked hard to etch their names into NFL history. 

After renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a frontline healthcare worker participated in the honorary coin flip to determine what team gets possession. The flip turned up heads; Kansas City won the toss and decided to defer possession to the second half. The coin toss is always one of the most interesting prop bets that occurs on Super Bowl Sunday, and even garnered attention from former NFL punter Pat McAfee, who bet $30,000 on tails.

Tampa Bay got the ball first, but no one could get the edge until Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker kicked the first points of the game to make the score 3-0. Brady and Tampa answered with a drive culminating in an 8-yard Brady touchdown pass to his favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, making the score 7-3. During Tampa’s next drive, a 31-yard throw to Mike Evans set up the offense on the 1-yard line, but the Chiefs defense was able to stuff running back Ronald Jones on 4th down. Kansas City couldn’t capitalize after their goal-line stand, and a bad punt set Tampa bay on KC’s side of the field. It looked like Kansas City stopped Brady again, but penalties negated a Tyrann Mathieu interception and Tampa Bay possibly settling for a field goal. Brady took advantage of the Chief’s mistakes and hit Gronkowski again for a 17-yard touchdown. 

Mahomes, having a terrible game at this point, drove the team to another field goal but gave Tampa too much time at the end of the half. After a pass interference penalty on Mathieu putting the ball on the 1-yard line again, receiver Antonio Brown ran a nasty in-route that Mathieu couldn’t get near. Before they knew it, Tampa was up 21-6 at halftime. At the end of the half, Brady got into an argument with Mathieu, who had no reason to talk at this time, as he was responsible for many of the Chief’s defensive troubles. 

The Weeknd’s performance was given mixed reviews, but I thought he did a great job, and he played numerous hit songs, namely “Blinding Lights” and “Starboy.” Coming out of the 2nd half, the Chiefs started hot, with a Clyde Edwards-Helaire 25-yard run that set up another Butker field goal. However, Tampa Bay answered, and they scored their final touchdown of the game, another Fournette run for 25 yards and a 28-9 scoreline. The Bucs all but had the game won at that point, and a field goal only rubbed salt in the wound. Tampa won their 2nd Super Bowl in team history 31-9, and Brady was named MVP. Brady threw for 195 yards on 21/29 passing, with three touchdowns, while Mahomes had his worst performance to date, with 243 yards on 26/49 passing with two interceptions. 

Analysis:

In my pre-Super Bowl article, I predicted the Bucs’ defense would be the x-factor, and their front seven was more prepared for Kansas City than any team to date. I thought the game would hit the under (56.5 points) and that Brady would win MVP, all of which were correct predictions. Although I cannot see the future, the reasons Kansas City did not play their best stuck out like a sore thumb; their offensive line was not ready for the front seven. The Chiefs lost pro-bowl tackle Mitchell Schwartz earlier in the season and tackle Eric Fisher in their previous game against Buffalo. Due to these injuries, a subpar offensive line was starting, and it showed. Mahomes faced 23 pressures and ran a total of 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage, trying to avoid Tampa Bay’s pass rush. Because Mahomes was rushed, he couldn’t put his regular precision on the ball, and his receivers were not in a position to catch the ball. On the opposite side of the ball, penalties killed the Kansas City defense. Some people may have said the number of penalties called against KC wasn’t justified, but on the 10+ calls against Kansas city, eight or nine were utterly valid. The Kansas City secondary played undisciplined football and held receivers to the point where they impeded their path to the ball. Tampa Bay played a more disciplined game and had a game plan that worked against one of the league’s best teams.

NFL Honors:

Before the game, the NFL had their annual award show to determine the best players in the league. In my preseason predictions article, I outlined who I thought would bring home the awards.

Predictions

MVP: Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Player of the Year: Deandre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals 

Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt, Defensive End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Halfback, Kansas City Chiefs

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jeffrey Okuda, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Comeback Player of the Year: AJ Green, Wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals 

Coach of the Year: Sean McDermott, Head Coach, Buffalo Bills

Actual winners 

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry, Running back, Tennessee Titans

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, Defensive Tackle, LA Rams

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Justin Herbert, Quarterback, LA Chargers 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, Defensive End, Washington Football Team

Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Smith, Quarterback, Washington Football Team

Coach of the Year: Kevin Stefanski, Head Coach, Cleveland Browns 

MVP: Mahomes was a close second, but Rodgers had a great season that I didn’t foresee. 

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Henry is a beast who had the first 2,000-yard season since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Maybe I’ll get it next time 

Defensive Player of the Year: TJ Watt deserved this award; he outperformed Donald in every meaningful stat; although he was double-teamed less, he still earned the prize.

Offensive Rookie Of The Year: I was very high on Herbert coming out of the draft, but he exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Defensive Rookie Of The Year: I was way off on this one; Okuda was pretty average but could improve next year. 

Comeback Player Of The Year: No one saw Alex Smith touching the field again after the grizzly compound fracture he suffered in 2018.

Coach Of The Year: I think McDermott was a solid choice; the Browns just exceeded more expectations than Buffalo.

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