What made the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past three years had been his uncanny ability to quickly read the defence , settle on the right read and allow his otherworldly arm do the rest.
The Buccaneers didn't even give him time to skim their defence in the Super Bowl.
Whether pushing around the makeshift Kansas City offensive line or blitzing what had been the best QB against the blitz all season, the defence of Tampa Bay co-ordinator Todd Bowles made life miserable for Mahomes on Sunday night. He was 26 of 49 for 270 yards and two interceptions in a 31-9 blowout that denied the Chiefs back-to-back titles.
It was the first time Mahomes, who led them to their first championship in five decades last season, lost a game he started by more than one possession since Nov. 19, 2016, when Texas Tech fell 66-10 to Iowa State.
Mahomes came into the game with 17 touchdown passes and no interceptions against the blitz this season, but he missed his first six throws with an interception in those situations Sunday night.
Mahomes was left hobbling off the field at Raymond James Stadium, the beating capping a playoffs in which he sustained a concussion in the divisional round against Cleveland and a turf toe injury that will likely require surgery.
A big reason for his struggles? The only player on his offensive line in the same position he started the season was Austin Reiter, and the centre didn't fare a whole lot better than the rest of his teammates.
Guard Kelechi Osemele tore up both of his knees early in the season. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz hurt his back midway through the year. Left tackle Eric Fisher tore his Achilles tendon in the AFC title game. And all that happened after Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and third-round pick Lucas Niang opted out because of COVID-19.
The Buccaneers set the tone against the Chiefs on their opening defensive series, when Shaq Barrett went unblocked to help foil the drive. Later in the quarter, Jason Pierre-Paul got his big mitt on a pass to help force another punt, and Barrett was at it again by forcing a throwaway that led to Kansas City's second field goal later in the first half.
The first time Mahomes did have time? Travis Kelce dropped a third-down throw.
The first-half numbers were striking: Mahomes was 9 of 19 for 67 yards, while Tampa Bay counterpart Tom Brady had dominated the Chiefs defence for 140 yards passing and three TDs in staking the Buccaneers to a 21-6 lead.
They soon pushed the lead to 28-9 and Kansas City's potent offence was powerless to answer.
Barrett ran right through left tackle Mike Remmers for a sack early in the second half, and more pressure led to Mahomes chucking up a pass that was picked by Antoine Winfield Jr. In the fourth quarter, Mahomes was flushed so far out of the pocket on fourth down that he had to heave the ball about 50 yards just to get it to the end zone.
The ball wound up bouncing off running back Darrel Williams' facemask and falling to the turf incomplete.
It was that kind of night for Mahomes. It was that kind of night for the Chiefs.
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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press