Big guys make all the difference
Sometimes, as a sports fan and even as a sportswriter, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and forget some basic truths about the games we’re watching.
One of those truths is this: the quarterback gets all the glory, but it’s those big ugly guys up front who often mean the difference between winning and losing.
We all got a big reminder of that basic fact on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl title while Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes had one of the worst performances of his NFL career.
Why did Brady play so well? Why did Mahomes struggle so mightily?
The answers, of course, begin and end at the line of scrimmage. While Brady’s offensive line was able to protect him and give him plenty of time to throw to his talented group of receivers, Mahomes was left to run for his life as Kansas City’s offensive line was simply manhandled by Tampa Bay’s defensive front.
Some of that had to do with the absence of Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, who missed the game after tearing his Achilles tendon during the AFC Championship Game against Buffalo two weeks earlier. Fisher is a former No. 1 overall draft pick and a two-time Pro Bowl selection. But even he might not have made a significant difference against a Buccaneers defensive front with players like Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett. Tampa Bay sacked Mahomes three times but hit him 10 times; Brady was sacked once and hit just twice.
Mahomes passed for 270 yards but also threw two interceptions. Kansas City failed to score a single touchdown for the first time since a 12-9 overtime loss to the New York Giants in 2017.
As the CBS broadcasting crew correctly pointed out, Sunday night’s outcome means Mahomes will have a huge mountain to climb to match Brady’s incredible Super Bowl record — as some people have predicted he will. A Chiefs win would have left Mahomes four Super Bowl rings short of Brady; instead he now needs six to catch up. And even if Mahomes somehow does get to seven Super Bowl titles, Brady would still have the head-to-head advantage.
But, as I said before, this game really wasn’t about the quarterbacks — and it wasn’t about the first-half penalties called against the Chiefs defense. This game was won — and lost — at the line of scrimmage. And it wasn’t even close.