Intriguing notes and insights abound in advance of thrilling culmination to historic 2020 season
An NFL season unlike any other in recent memory will conclude on Sunday night with one of the game's top players looking to repeat as a Super Bowl champion, taking on the man who holds the record for most career titles. In advance of a star-studded matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, here are 10 stats you need to know about this thrilling showdown.
0: No AFC team has ever beaten an NFC team twice in a single season
Super Bowl LV will be the 14th matchup of teams that met earlier in the season. Kansas City won the regular-season matchup in this same stadium just over two months ago, but winners of the first game are just 6-7 in the rematch. The Chiefs will aim to reverse the trend set by the four previous AFC teams who lost in the Super Bowl against a team they beat earlier in the season. Buffalo in 1990 (vs. New York Giants) was the first such team to win in the regular season before losing in the Super Bowl rematch, suffering the same fate in 1993 (vs. Dallas) before Tennessee (1999, St. Louis Rams) and New England (2007, Giants) did likewise.
1: Tampa Bay will become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium
As Raymond James Stadium gets set to host its third Super Bowl, its NFL occupants will become the first team ever to play for the Lombardi Trophy in its home stadium. The Buccaneers have played in just one previous Super Bowl — Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003 — on the opposite coast, beating Oakland 48-21 in the "Pirate Bowl" in San Diego to cap off the 2002 season.
2: Both Kansas City and Tampa Bay forced at least one turnover in all but two games this season, including the postseason
The Buccaneers failed to notch takeaways in Week 1 (at New Orleans) and Week 15 (at Atlanta), while Kansas City's only takeaway-free games were in Week 9 (vs. Carolina) and Week 17 (vs. Los Angeles Chargers). Maybe not surprisingly, they combined to go 2-2 in those games. On the season, Kansas City and Tampa Bay have forced 25 and 32 turnovers, respectively — each with a pair of four-takeaway games — with the Buccaneers' seven takeaways in the playoffs alone providing the difference.
8: Patrick Mahomes has enjoyed plenty of success when throwing on the run
Mahomes didn't just throw on the run (8+ MPH, defined as quarterback's speed at time of throw) regularly, he excelled while doing so. Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards while on the run with 951 with Seattle's Russell Wilson next in line (867). Mahomes also ranked first and second, respectively, in touchdown passes (13) and completions (76) when on the run, something he was for 23 percent of his pass attempts. Tom Brady, meanwhile, finished last among 35 qualified passers in throws on the run, coming in at just three percent of his attempts.
15: Qualified players (those with 100 or more total touches) that have averaged six or more yards per touch, a group led by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce
Hill's 14 yards per touch paced the league, with Kelce right behind him at 13.5. Only six other qualified pass catchers averaged even 10 yards per touch, with Hill and Kelce maintaining healthy leads over the group. Here's another sign of the pair's dominance in the passing game: Kelce (9.8) and Hill (9.7) each averaged nearly 10 yards *per target* during the season. So Patrick Mahomes can be fairly confident that his offense will gain a first down simply by throwing at either of his top targets, with having just one such game-changing talent — let alone two — on the minds of the opposing defense.
20: Patrick Mahomes has been blitzed on just 20 percent of his dropbacks since he became the Chiefs' starter in 2018
That 20 percent mark is the lowest in the NFL in that span, as Mahomes has been tremendous against opposing blitzes. Mahomes has registered +0.42 EPA (expected points added) per dropback against the blitz since becoming the Chiefs' full-time starter, by far the best efficiency in the league and nearly double the mark of any other qualified quarterback. That's a matchup to watch on Sunday, as Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has thrived on bringing the blitz though he only blitzed on 17 percent of Mahomes' dropbacks — the lowest rate by any Bowles-led unit since 2016 — when these two teams met in Week 12.
32.7: The Buccaneers' defense has generated a quarterback pressure on 32.7 percent of snaps when defensive tackle Vita Vea is on the field
When Vea is not on the field, that rate falls by more than six percentage points (26 percent). Tampa Bay gladly welcomed its interior lineman back during the NFC Championship Game after he suffered an ankle injury in Week 5 that forced him to miss 13 games. Opposing offenses have struggled running the ball against the Buccaneers with Vea on the field, mustering just 2.7 yards per carry compared to 3.9 when Vea is on the sidelines.
43: Tom Brady's age, which will make him the oldest player ever to appear in a Super Bowl
Brady's latest Super Bowl appearance follows nine — including six wins — with New England. If that isn't astounding enough, consider that Steve Young, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, and Otto Graham were inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 43, while Brady will be starting his 10th Super Bowl at that age. Want more age-related, logic-defying proof of Brady's sustained greatness? Peyton Manning — who played in four Super Bowls, winning two — is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. When Brady takes the field on Sunday, he will have played in four Super Bowls... since Manning's retirement.
97: Solo tackles by Devin White in the regular season, third-most among defensive players
Of the six players with 90 or more solo tackles this season, only Roquan Smith had more tackles for a loss (18) than White's 15. White made plays left and right in Week 12 at Atlanta, notching 10 solo tackles — one of four games in which he registered double digits in the category, and the first of three such games in a row — while setting a career high in tackles for a loss (four) and tying his career-high mark for quarterback hits with three. White has remained a terror in the playoffs with 26 tackles (19 solo), two fumble recoveries, and an interception in two games.
134.9: Receiving yards per game in the regular season allowed by the Chiefs, second-fewest total in the NFL
Only the Rams (130) surrendered a lower per-game receiving yardage total to wide receivers in 2020. Kansas City surrendered just 131 yards to Cleveland's wide receivers in the Divisional Round before Buffalo's corps, led by All-Pro Stefon Diggs, tallied 195 in the AFC Championship Game. That strength will be critical against a Tampa Bay offense — led by Tom Brady — that thrives on targeting a number of different receivers, with Scotty Miller's 15.3 yards per reception the high mark on the team and rendering him a serious threat in the slot. Certainly Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and maybe even Antonio Brown (if healthy) will be heard from as well.
BONUS: The Buccaneers will be wearing white jerseys with pewter pants, a combination in which they have won all five games this season
Tampa Bay picked its uniform combination first and went with a look that brought nothing but wins, a trend the home team will look to continue on Sunday. Kansas City, meanwhile, will be wearing red jerseys with white pants, a pairing that hasn't produced an undefeated record, but has helped the Chiefs go 8-2 thus far compared to 7-0 when wearing white jerseys.
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.