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Tampa Bay’s Defense Put Tom Brady Back On His Throne

Devin White
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Of all the reasons why Tom Brady was named Super Bowl MVP Sunday evening, the most inspirational was probably Todd Bowles, the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator who defeated a power as strong as death itself.

Coaching the New York Jets.

Then again, Bowles isn’t a player. He should just be noted for jamming his middle finger in the football reaper’s eye up the second knuckle. He did a job that sent three of his past four predecessors to the shame of television, and once Adam Gase gets his googly eyes corrected, it will probably be four, but now he will be remembered as the guy who reduced Patrick Mahomes’s highlight reel to two desperate circus incompletions early in the fourth quarter of a game in which he was otherwise demoted to ordinary, and his crowning achievement as a player is now a two-year-old championship.

And we know what happens to quarterbacks who don’t win the Super Bowl, don’t we? Mocked, degraded, even traded, because nobody want to hear the story about the 18th fairway—just the 18th green.

We will now extricate you from that bog of stupidity (while reminding you that it exists nonetheless). And we will also stop talking about Todd Bowles because he only drew up the defense that ate the Super Bowl. Other sociopathically bent gentlemen did the actual deeds that made life safe for Brady to gin up his legacy from best quarterback ever to best quarterback ever.

Now if you’re committed to the force-fed narrative that the quarterback wins and everyone else serves, enjoy yourselves. The NFL and its army of volunteer sycophants puts a lot into those narratives even if it means one of its advertisers encroaching into baseball press boxes to appropriate Bruce Springsteen, and if they are narratives you support, then sure. Encase yourself in the cocoon of predictable feelings. It’s your game, too.

But the Super Bowl MVP was not the Bucs’ offense that scored 31 points, but the Bucs defense that held Kansas to nine. The real-time MVP was Shaquil Barrett rather than Brady. It was also Jason Pierre-Paul, and Ndamukong Suh, and Antoine Winfield Jr., and Lavonte David, and Devin White, and Vita Vea, and Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis, and … well, the entire Bucs defense that eradicated the Chiefs’ offense from the playbill. If you want every name listed, wait for the Bucs’ championship video. They’ll mention them all, and all you’ll need to do is pay $99 and subscribe to a magazine you’ll never read.

It wasn’t the existence of Brady, though, that made this a totally unforeseen rout, and it wasn’t even the lopsided penalty count  but the absence of Mahomes, and Tyreek Hill, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and yes, even Travis Kelce, who wasn’t impactful until it was too late for the Chiefs to create impact. Kansas City was the offense of the future, in the same way that Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams had the offense of the future two years ago.

Then the Rams were held to no touchdowns by New England, and now the Chiefs have been held to no touchdowns by Tampa Bay. The new car smell of the 2019 Chiefs is gone, and the people who oversaw the application of the dents and scrapes are the folks who actually won Super Bowl The Fifty-Fifth. Even after you note the Chiefs’ damaged offensive line that allowed the Bucs’ defense such freedom of action doesn’t fully account for the Bucs’ absurd level of dominance. Even Jim Nantz lamented the ruined “dream matchup” everyone knew was coming and never came close to seeing in the game’s final four minutes, and Jim Nantz never badmouths the show. Hell, even the eternal company man Tony Romo was imagining a rematch next year, which is going to require some convincing.

But next year is someone else’s problem. This year’s problem is that the MVPs will go under-recognized in service to the MVP who didn’t need to be re-installed onto a throne he was already inhabiting, and that for the first time in about forever, the New York Jets have a link to greatness—even if it means coercing Todd Bowles into admitting he once worked for the Jets, which at this point he no longer needs to do.