The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to upset the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in a dominant performance that shutdown the defending champions. The Buccaneers were almost flawless and allowed quarterback Tom Brady to collect his seventh Super Bowl and fourth Super Bowl MVP. The 43-year-old orchestrated an efficient game that allowed the Bucs to keep rolling as the defense played their best game of the year.
Brady completed 21-of-29 passes for 201 yards and three scores. It was surprising he won the MVP just because the defense was the bigger reason the team pulled away, but Brady was a big reason the franchise took the jump from 7-9 to Super Bowl champions. His immediate impact was undeniable as he steadied an offense that lacked a reliable identity with Jameis Winston.
A solid set of playoff performances wrapped up a year where he ranked third in passing yards with 4,633 yards, second in the league with 40, and the ninth-best quarterback rating. He wasn’t perfect as his body is clearly not as fine tuned as five years ago, but as long as he has elite weapons and a quality defense, he’s going to continue being a winning quarterback.
The Bucs have to do some work to be back in this spot next year. Re-signing receiver Chris Godwin is likely, and then they must figure out Shaquil Barrett’s long-term future. It makes sense for them to continue leveraging the cap as much as they can to ensure Brady has the chance to make the clutch plays when his number is called.
There are three reasons why the Bucs won’t repeat as champions, and we’re going to break it down.
Every Super Bowl winner faces some sort of luck in order to win. Sometimes it’s a certain miracle play and sometimes it’s an overall theme to a season. The Bucs were an excellent team that earned their title but there’s no question they were lucky when it came to injuries.
The Chiefs were beaten up and battered with four of their starting offensive line members out and it clearly affected the game. Their offensive strategy was doomed from the start. It’s unlikely that’d happen again to such an extreme level.
Also, the Bucs had great injury luck themselves. Their biggest injury throughout the playoffs was missing Antonio Brown, who was the third-best receiver on this great roster. Few teams can ever be so fortunate when injuries are just part of the game.
Veterans flocked to join the star-studded Bucs team in hopes of winning their first Super Bowl but that rarely happens again. Now that Shaquil Barrett, Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette and Antonio Brown won a title, each can justifiably go get their last big contract elsewhere and be happy with their career. It should surprise no one if only David returns from that list, though Barrett will likely be tagged.
Ultimately the limitations of the cap means the Bucs will be playing in the margins in free agency, and therefore taking risks on some older players that might be past their prime. This is risky in terms of disappointing performance and injury woes. This goes back to having luck, but also the reality that relying on vets who are only taking one-year deals generally doesn’t lead to a Super Bowl.
The Bucs made a loaded roster work in 2020 and will be a strong roster in 2021 as well. We talked about their strategy to sign veterans being a risk, but they have to take care of their own in-house cap constraints. It’s possible they make the wrong call on several big deals on the books.
Offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ryan Jensen have huge cap hits that must be dealt with for the team to retain flexibility. Smith in particular is only a mediocre player but is making $14.25 million this year. Can the Bucs risk replacing him for less and getting an instant performer like they did with rookie Tristan Wirfs in 2020?
They must also make a decision at tight end since both Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard earn $6 million each. Retaining key free agents or not will further decide their flexibility on upgrading the roster in several areas. These are tough choices that can make or break a title run next January.
The Bucs figure to be back as top NFC contenders regardless but repeating is rare for good reason. I love that oddsmakers have this team as underdogs again in the conference and think they’re a good bet to return to the Super Bowl. But Year 2 of Brady in Tampa will be tougher than Year 1 because of the complacency and unknown factors that will pop up.