- Cardboard O-line: If nothing else, Eric Fisher has silenced his doubters for good with his absence. The loss of the 2013 overall first pick to an Achilles tear could not be felt more acutely as Mahomes was left scrambling in every direction from the moment the ball touched his hands. I don’t care if you’re as elite as Mahomes — no QB1 can reliably make anything happen if you’re left running in the wrong direction almost immediately because your makeshift offensive line gets pushed around like they’re toddlers. Most of the time, the Bucs didn’t even bother sending blitzers — they just sent four guys on the pass rush while everyone else got to drop back into coverage, double-teaming Kelce and Hill on the rare times Mahomes got to make a clean throw. This isn’t really anyone’s fault in particular, as too many players were forced into roles they were simply not up for. If you want to blame anyone, blame the front office for neglecting the line in the offseason.
- Zebras wearing Bucs colors: I realize the Chiefs were sloppy, and Mathieu’s unsportsmanlike call at the end of the half was his fault. But if even Tony Romo is calling out the officials on the one night above all others when it’s in CBS’ interests to put the league in the best light possible… I’m sorry, but the game was arguably decided in the second quarter and it was decided slightly by the Bucs and Brady, partly by the Chiefs (see below) and mostly by the officials. One egregious flag came after CB Breeland barely touched the Bucs receiver on a completely uncatchable ball — but the Bucs WR flopped like he just came over from the Premier League, and head official Carl Cheffers needed little urging to bite with a DPI call. Prior to that, a Tyrann Mathieu pick was called back for some questionable holding absolutely nowhere near where the play was made and which had zero impact on the game. Didn’t matter — Cheffers would’ve been damned before letting the ball turn over from Brady to Mahomes. A similar fraudulent DPI call came in the endzone after the ball sailed about half a mile over Mathieu and his receiver. Call after ridiculous marginal yet game-changing call leads one to speculate if Cheffers made some discrete, anonymous bets last night with large amounts of cash. It was that bad! (To first-time female Super Bowl official Sarah Thomas’ credit, I did not see one of these ridiculous flags come from her pockets.)
- The timeouts with Brady on the field: This one falls squarely on Andy Reid and nobody else. With less than a minute to go at the end of the first half, Brady deep in his own territory, and the Bucs holding onto just one forlorn timeout, it looked like not even TB12 could pull off one of his miracles. The Bucs even looked surrendered to heading to the lockers with a mere 14–6 lead, with a couple running plays that didn’t even make a try at going out of bounds to stop the clock. But then, for reasons we may never know, Reid stopped the clock twice in a row. Did he really think he would get the ball back from Tom freaking Brady? Did he think he could make a drive with like 30 seconds left or whatever even if they did punt? This spectacular gift to Tampa Bay turned what had been merely going through the motions into a real, vintage Brady march down the field for 6 (with significant help from the Bucs’ 12th man on the field Carl Cheffers, as noted). A one-possession match was now thrust out of KC’s reach — for good, as it turned out.
By the second half rolled around, the team was already down in the hole and dispirited; and with Mahomes not able to get anything started when he was spending his entire time running for his life from guys like Shaq Barrett, our coffins were prepped and waiting before The Weeknd had even stepped off the stage.
Hostile refs and Andy Reid’s questionable clock management are nothing new for Chiefs Kingdom. Neither are holes in the O-line, really, although tonight’s performance was shameful — and at least one this one is fixable. Both our drafts and our free agency moves have got to go to the offensive line, or we’ll be faced with another long, despondent flight home next winter.