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Brady Leads Tampa Bay Bucs To Super Bowl Win Over Kansas City Chiefs

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All right. Going into last night's Super Bowl, the defending champion, Kansas City Chiefs, had been favored to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is not what happened. Tampa Bay defeated the Chiefs 31-9, a win that was shocking in its dominance. What wasn't so shocking - Bucs quarterback Tom Brady won another Super Bowl. NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Normally, a record seventh Super Bowl title and a record fifth Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award - Tom Brady won both last night - earn you top billing, but not in this story. It goes instead to Tampa Bay's defense. Since 2018, when Patrick Mahomes took over as Kansas City's starting quarterback, the Chiefs had never been held to single digits in a game - until last night. Tampa Bay's defensive line constantly pressured Mahomes. The defensive backs prevented the long passes that usually slay KC's opponents. In the thick of it, Tampa linebacker Shaq Barrett, who spoke excitedly to NFL Network after the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAQUIL BARRETT: If you'd have came into this game saying they wouldn't have scored a touchdown, I'd have been like, whoo, we must have played some tremendous defense. I did not think we was going to keep them from scoring a touchdown, but we stepped up. We showed out.

GOLDMAN: And the Chiefs' vaunted offense did not. Mahomes said he mistimed his throws. Receivers were out of position. And the offensive line often struggled against Tampa Bay's pass rush.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK MAHOMES: When you're playing a good defense like that, you got to be on the same page as the offense. And we weren't today, and that's why we played so bad.

GOLDMAN: The game had been hyped as a battle of quarterback greatness - Brady, the greatest ever; Mahomes, the greatest right now. Brady staked a claim to both last night, throwing three touchdowns to Mahomes' none, two to his old New England Patriots sidekick, tight end Rob Gronkowski. They now have a record 14 touchdown connections in the playoffs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM NANTZ: Brady play action - looking, third option, end zone - caught - Gronkowski again.

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: If that sounds like actual human cheering - a rarity this NFL season at fanless stadiums - it was. The NFL allowed 25,000 fans last night; 7,500 of them were health care workers vaccinated against the coronavirus. They got free tickets, including emergency room nurse and Bucs fan Katy Pivato. She was in the upper section socially distanced from strangers. Her hospital colleagues were sitting in other sections, but she wasn't the least bit lonely.

KATY PIVATO: I mean, it would have been fun if we could have all been together. But these are different times right now. But it was still an incredible game. And it's one of those things that it's a bonding experience with the people that are sitting a row down below you. And, you know, we're all having a great time.

GOLDMAN: Music to the NFL's ears as it became the latest professional sports league to complete a sometimes difficult season during the pandemic. And a surprise finish, thanks in part to 43-year-old Tom Brady, who shows no signs of slowing down.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTARCTIC'S "HEY KIDS!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.