I take no pleasure in saying this, but fans of the Kansas City Chiefs are with St. Louis Rams fans in knowing what it’s like to lose a Super Bowl under these circumstances:
Your team was the popular betting favorite to win … and lost in a stunner. The Rams were a 14-point favorite over New England in Super Bowl 36 and lost at the end, falling by three points, 20-17, after charging back to tie it. The Chief were a 3-point favorite over Tampa Bay for Super Bowl 55 but never charged at all … losing by 22 in a remarkably easy blowout for the Buccaneers.
— Over a three-season stretch that preceded Super Bowl 36, the Rams had a regular-season record of 37-11 and already had won a Super Bowl. Over the three-season stretch that ended with Super Bowl 55, the Chiefs were 38-10 and had already won a Super Bowl. And both teams had future Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Kurt Warner, Patrick Mahomes.)
Your offensive-minded genius coach was taken to school by the other side’s defensive mind. The Mike Martz offense 31.4 points per game in 2001, highest in the league, but was held to 17 points by Bill Belichick’s Patriot defense. Chiefs HC Andy Reid was flummoxed by Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. And a KC star-studded, light-show offense that averaged just under 30 points per game in 2020 scored a meager nine at Tampa Bay.
Sigh: You lost to a team that had Tom Brady at quarterback. TB12 was 24 and a virtual rookie when he led New England on the suspenseful winning drive to defeat the Rams in Super Bowl 36. Brady was 43 when Tampa Bay struck down the Chiefs on Sunday. If it’s any consolation, Chiefs fans, your team was conquered by The GOAT. This was Brady’s seventh Super Bowl triumph and 34th postseason victory. When the Rams lost to the Patriots to cap the 2001 season, Brady was largely unknown and had become the starter in 2001 after an injury to Drew Bledsoe. We didn’t understand how Brady could beat Warner in that Super. No offense, Chiefs fans, but you knew damn well that if any QB could take Mahomes down, it would be Tom Brady. You saw him do it in the 2018 AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
Rams fans saw their team victimized by terrible officiating in Super Bowl 36, with the officials ignoring the Patriots frequent muggings, clutching, grabbing, and tackling of Rams receivers and running back Marshall Faulk … and I’m referring to the times when the receivers and Faulk did NOT possess the football. Belichick correctly gambled that the officiating crew would not want to flood the field with flags during a Super Bowl, and he instructed his defenders to be ultra aggressive. They were. And just as Belichick anticipated, the officials didn’t have the guts to call blatant penalties.
The Chiefs were the victims of bad calls, phantom penalties, etc. The Chiefs were penalized 11 times for 120 yards. Hell, if only the crew had called that many on Belichick in the 36th Super Bowl. But the Patriots were assessed only five penalties for 31 yards … and looking at that just now — I had to be sure, so I checked the box score — I still can’t believe that.
That said, fans of the 2001 Rams and 2020 Chiefs have something else in common: both passionate fan bases want to blame their team’s bitter defeat on officiating. And, in the Rams’ case, cheating by Belichick.
Sorry … no excuses.
The Rams lost because they lost the turnover battle, 3-0. One of which resulted in a game-changing pick six for the Patriots. The Rams lost because Belichick didn’t think Martz would order up a bunch of running plays, and as if on cue, Martz flew into the trap. Belichick set up his defense with extra defensive backs on 75 percent of the snaps; he believed that Martz would insist on throwing the ball anyway. And that’s what happened. Martz also made a costly lineup decision, starting Rod Jones at right tackle and benching a healthy Ryan Tucker. And it was Jones that whiffed on the block that led to the Patriots’ pick-six INT return by Ty Law. The New England offense had only 267 yards and 15 first downs but scored 17 of their 20 points off of Rams turnovers.
The penalties in Super Bowl 55 hurt the KC defense, but that isn’t why the Chiefs lost. The Chiefs glued-up offensive line was bullied by Tampa Bay’s defensive front four. The pressure on Mahomes was frequent and intense, and KC could do nothing to block it and stop it. By rushing four most of the game Bowles could set up his defense with two safeties deep and roll coverages to take away the sidelines. Mahomes didn’t have time; by NEXT GEN stats he scrambled around for nearly 500 yards in Sunday’s game.
The Tampa Bay offensive line was brutally tough and plowed the way for 145 rushing yards. Brady was exceptional when the Bucs needed him to be, passing for three touchdowns.
My heart goes out to Chiefs fans. We know all about having a circus-like offense smothered by bad officiating and a bad-ass defense. We know what it’s like to lose to Tom Brady. We know all about it … including the frustration and anger and sorrow.
Thanks for reading…
Bernie’s talk show is on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS, Monday through Fridays 3-6 p.m. … listen online or download the show podcast at 590the fan.com