by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Super Bowl LV has come and gone, one of the most overly hyped matchups of all time, Brady vs Mahomes...Kansas City's defending champion Chiefs vs Tampa Bay's Buccaneers, the first ever home Super Bowl team....
The hype was huge.... potential future HOF QB vs First ballot HOF QB...Brady's first Patriots-less trip through the playoffs delivering three road victories against the #1 defensive line in the NFL (Washington) and two title-winning quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers & Drew Brees...
Following last night's victory, Tampa Bay overcame three consecutive Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, eclipsing a gutty performance from Pat Mahomes for the win....and if not for the Buccaneers' recent drafting / signing of LSU brethren, Brady doesn't get back to the big game (or win it) this year.
Every Tiger, when given the chance, seemed to show up on the grandest stage....but altogether, LSU Tigers combined for 237 yards, Fournette's TD, White's INT, 15 tackles & 2 TFL...
There was plenty of Tiger on Tiger crime out there, from Fournette tackling Tyrann Mathieu after his INT off Brady (which would be taken off the board due to a controversial holding call) or Devin White issuing hard hits and a TD-saving tackle on Clyde (at least four tackles on Clyde)...
This was personal....there was plenty of trash talk as Mathieu and Fournette became engaged in warfare over and over again, not to mention the Mathieu vs Brady shenanigans...or is the reality more Brady vs Mathieu?
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire tore off a 26 yard run deep into Tampa territory, it seemed the Chiefs could get back in this game and cut Tampa's 21-9 lead, making it a 5 point game....but after that play, the Chiefs' offense were discombobulated beyond recognition...and that was all thanks to the mastery of Devin White:
Despite Tom Brady receiving another Super Bowl MVP, we all know who really dictated Super Bowl LV.
We'll get to our #1 Tiger (and player) of Super Bowl LV, but first we geaux through the key performances on the night:
3 TACKLES (2 SOLO)
-1 TD ALLOWED
This was a Super Bowl which could've gone in a very different direction for Tyrann...
Early in the game, the Chiefs' Spagnuolo defense were getting to Brady, forcing incompletions and punts; they were riding some confidence after holding Tampa Bay to a goal-line stand with Tyrann Mathieu playing a key role in stuffing Tampa's Ronald Jones II on the 1 yard line on both 3rd and 4th down.
Then, a crazy play occurred which could've changed the game:
On the cusp of Kansas City's red zone, Brady was pressured and let go of a pass a bit quicker than he would've liked, the ball flying straight into the outstretched arms of KC's Chris Jones.
Jones' left hand swatted the ball straight towards the vicinity of the Honeybadger and, while Chiefs' DB Charvarius Ward's fingerprints slid from the microscopic traces of a Tampa Bay receiver's breath on the other side of the field, Tyrann Mathieu somehow recovered & reacted to the flight of the ball twice....first from the Jones deflection & once again when Fournette flapped at it, the ball ricocheting off his hand, before popping straight into #32's grasp.
Fournette angrily tackled his fellow Tiger to the ground, the ball firmly in Mathieu's grasp....but then, we all saw the yellow flag....
In yet another demonstration of these referees' lust for a Tom Brady victory, Ward's nothing flag (which played no role in the outcome of the play) should've never been tossed...
Later on, Mathieu allowed a touchdown from a Tom Brady pass and while #32 wrestled with Tampa Bay players, the 7x Super Bowl winner disgraced himself by going out of his way to get in Mathieu's face.
When Tyrann reacted, unfazed and unwilling to back down from Brady's powderpuff antics, the referees suddenly threw an unsportsmanlike conduct flag against Mathieu, making sure the entire world knew "this is his first warning, the next will be a disqualification..."
From that point on, it was hard for Mathieu to find his groove:
It wasn't Brady who got in his head...it was the unfair ridiculousness of the refereeing within Super Bowl LV which played with him most:
Taking away one of the best Super Bowl interceptions ever from the turnover king was incredibly harsh (especially due to that flag), however it was almost too much for the former Thorpe Award finalist to take when Tom Brady got in his face and only Mathieu received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty...
After that, Mathieu became more or less a spectator, Tom using his lack of help at the DB position to work the Chiefs. Simply put, he only had to confuse Mathieu into picking the wrong read, zone or angle while attacking the vacated space, regardless of who was marking Tampa Bay's offensive weapons.
Brady was willing to bet on his guys vs the Chiefs' defenders....he wasn't going to bet on anyone vs Tyrann Mathieu...they had to take the premier DB out of the game, somehow....and that was to use his roving position-less role against him...
Arians & Brady performed this masterfully, never attacking Mathieu like Brady pretended he was....
Brady only went at Mathieu once, on the touchdown he allowed right before half to make it 21-9. On the play in question, Mathieu wasn't even supposed to be guarding Antonio Brown on the boundary....how was he only in single coverage there, with zero help? What was Spagnuolo thinking??? How did Mathieu let himself get beat, as well??
Simply put, the Chiefs' defeat isn't down to Tyrann Mathieu being beat...it's about this defense possessing only two prime secondary players, Brashaud Breeland and Tyrann....there's never help over the top for Mathieu (as he's usually the free safety, too), there's rarely anyone on Kansas City's defense who has the same drive & passion for glory as Mathieu.
If KC want another Super Bowl, they must go get another former LSU #7, the Cardinals' LSU hero Patrick Peterson at all costs, then grab a veteran safety & young LB with speed to back his playmaking qualities...
Mathieu will get a lot of crap from people like Bill Polian and his ilk, fools who'll use this as evidence that he's "out of line", especially when you appear to "mess with" Brady, every middle aged man's highly coveted wet dream....but does he deserve it?
Tyrann Mathieu is greatness personified...anyone trying to take that away from him, based on last night (or any night), is a fool.
87 TOTAL YARDS
64 RUSHING, 9 CARRIES
23 RECEIVING, 2 CATCHES
7.9 YARDS PER TOUCH
1st Downs: 4
3rd Down Conversions: 1
Gains Over 10: 4
Gains Over 15: 3
Gains Over 20: 1
Averaging 7.9 yards per touch, it's kind of insane how Andy Reid only managed to find Clyde the ball 11 times from 75 total snaps....
Totaling 87 overall yards (64 rushing from 9 carries, including a 3rd quarter-opening 26 yard long burst in which he juked past Shaquil Barrett) Clyde was the weapon Kansas City needed to win this game...the problem is....they didn't realize that fact until the game was all but over.
Sure, Devin White stuffed him in the backfield twice, but outside of Clyde's multi-threat abilities, no Chiefs player filled Tampa with fear...
Only two negative touches from Clyde all game (on a night where Hill & Kelce combined for fewer than a hundred yards before the garbage time 4th quarter) his 26 yard rushing attempt was the 2nd longest play of the Super Bowl for Kansas City (behind Kelce's 33 yard reception) and he also hauled in the 3rd longest reception of 18 yards, catching 2 of 3 total targets for 23 through the air.
Clyde wasn't given a proper chance in this game and that blame / burden falls directly at the feet of Andy Reid & Patrick Mahomes:
Only out there for 34/75 total offensive plays (45% compared to fellow former Tiger Darrell Williams' 55%), Clyde never had a chance to affect the game as he could have, constantly being removed just as he found a rhythm and often right after the hottest plays of the night....obviously they didn't understand how Clyde works best:
When you have him in a rhythm, you continue to feed him and bleed them....just look at what he did to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia & Auburn... all 4 had #1 defenses coming into those contests and all four left 5 spots or more down the charts.
After breaking bones in his ankle and hip in December (during a bout vs New Orleans inside his hometown Superdome), Edwards-Helaire did anything possible to make it back for the playoffs. And once he did, Clyde was money when called upon:
Across his NFL playoff debut (AFC title game vs Buffalo & Super Bowl LV), Clyde recorded 18 touches for 94 total yards alongside his 6th touchdown of the year, averaging 5.2 per touch.
Undeniably, Edwards-Helaire was simply not used enough early in the game against Tampa Bay. Had KC continued to stay patient on the ground or started setting up smarter screens & checkdowns for Clyde to bypass the pass rush / blitz, then Mahomes & co could've made a game of this...
Don't even say a word about Clyde being too "small" for pass protection, either...this is a rookie who deletes NFL edge rushers in pass-pro, and has done this on the regular since his time blocking in the backfield for Joe Burrow...I have no doubt he could've held up in pass pro, too. Speaking of which, put him in pass-pro, then once the blitzers arrive in the backfield, Mahomes could've had an array of openings for Clyde on the slip screen, with plenty of space in behind after the catch.
Instead, the Chiefs believed Mahomes, Kelce and Hill could win the game by themselves....thus making Tampa Bay DC Todd Bowles' job a lot easier. I can't help but feel bad for my man Clyde...he was barely out there and yet Fournette only out-rushed him by 25 yards...he had a hell of a Super Bowl...
"Mark my words....I'll be back...." Clyde proclaimed post-game....and I take him at his word.
1st Downs: 5
3rd Down Conversions: 2
Gains over 10: 4
Gains over 20: 1 (27 yard TD)
135 TOTAL YARDS
1 Touchdown (27 Yard run)
-Joins Terrell Davis (1997) & Larry Fitzgerald (2009) as the only NFL players to ever score a TD in all 4 postseason games in a single playoff run
In the game of his life, Leonard Fournette reprised his game-breaking role vs Green Bay yet again. Last night, his 27 yard off tackle touchdown run up his right side of the field was a carbon copy of the NFC title game's spinning, tackle-breaking footrace to the end zone at Lambeau Field...only this time, nobody touched Fournette, his pace in full swing.
Still after all these years, one of the greatest sights in football has to be Fournette in full stride, galloping down the sidelines or in between the tackles...there's just something special about watching #28 / #7 do what he does...
It's always felt like that, even during his time at Jacksonville when he carried the Jaguars' franchise to an AFC title game all by himself....
Well, when Jacksonville threw Fournette away and many teams passed on signing the supernaturally gifted former Tiger, Tom Brady went to Tampa and instantly asked for Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and to top it all off, he wanted Leonard Fournette as his running back.
Remember...Tom has a hell of a record with LSU running backs...now 4 Super Bowls...
Thanks to the social media age, we saw Instagram photos of Fournette & Brady getting really comfortable and friendly within seconds of meeting each other...remember, this was the era of Brady accidentally walking into neighbor's homes...Tom could do anything he wanted in Tampa....and when he arrived, he took over the franchise.
Would Tampa Bay have considered signing Fournette before Brady suggested his name?
I doubt it.
Everyone called him a bust and tossed him off like a used piece of toilet paper....
Grabbing 5 first downs, including 2 huge 3rd down conversions, Fournette made the Chiefs pay in the air or on the ground, turning into the ultimate version of his multi-dimensional greatness.
But just like he tweeted the day Jacksonville released him, "I can't wait for that Super Bowl", here he is winning one and playing a majestic role in the biggest moment of his career.
"It's crazy how in life you can manifest things..." Fournette laughed to NFL Network last night after being read his now famous tweet.
Tampa LB Devin White was snubbed yet again...yes, after only two years in the NFL, he's had to watch a pair of Pro Bowls in which he should've taken part...but perhaps his greatest snub happened last night.
When 43 year old Tom Brady, with his 21 for 29, 201 yards & 3 first half touchdown passes took home the Super Bowl MVP (his 5th from 10 Super Bowl appearances...yes I know, insane) even #12 knew who deserved the award more....
Former LSU titan Devin White posted his 3rd straight postseason performance recording 10+ tackles, forcing a turnover (his 4th of the playoffs) & leading his defensive unit to yet another smothering display of domination.
White made his presence known early, busting through the Chief's offensive line to bury former Tiger teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire deep in the backfield.
Devin flew from sideline to sideline, shutting down Travis Kelce, smashing Tyreek Hill, Clyde and Darrell Williams almost immediately upon catching the ball, and overall White's leadership inspired fellow defenders LaVonte David and Antoine Winfield to make big plays in coverage, constantly hampering Tyreek Hill & Travis Kelce, prohibiting any yards after catch in the process.
Over 209 defensive snaps (featuring in every single Tampa defensive snap) in 3 postseason appearances (out for Wild Card game), Devin White registered 38 tackles (27 solo), 4 turnovers forced (2 FR, 2 INTs), 3 TFL & 2 PDs, over 10 tackles & a turnover in each outing as Tampa downed Brees, Rodgers & Mahomes, giving White his first championship ring since little league football.
"I don't play for individual awards...I play to be the world's best... on the world's best team..." Devin White told NFL Network after the game.
WHICH TIGERS WILL WIN SUPER BOWL LVI???
by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: CONGRATS TO DEVIN, LEONARD, KEVIN, CYRIL & MICHAEL DIVINITY, A SQUAD MEMBER BEFORE THE CAMPAIGN. CONGRATS TO TYRANN & DARRELL FOR GETTING TO A SECOND STRAIGHT SUPER BOWL & FOR CLYDE COMING BACK TO MAKE HIS FIRST, PLAYING ADMIRABLY AS THE MOST CONSISTENT CHIEF OFFENSIVELY.