After a year defined by immense change, instability and adaptation, the 2021 Super Bowl is set to deliver a dose of normalcy and familiarity to households across the country Sunday.
In a game kicking off at 6:30 p.m. in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to determine who will be crowned NFL champions.
It is the first time in NFL history a team playing in the game will host the Super Bowl.
For Brady, the day marks his 10th Super Bowl appearance as a starting quarterback — extending his own NFL record. As for the Chiefs, they’ll look to become the first team since Brady’s Patriots in 2003-04 to win back-to-back championships.
Last year, Mahomes led a furious fourth-quarter comeback against the San Francisco 49ers, allowing Kansas City to capture its first Lombardi Trophy since 1970.
With a pair of familiar faces and household names squaring off, Sunday’s championship tilt will either expand the legend of the greatest quarterback to suit up in the NFL or mark the beginning of a new dynasty.
Here are two things to watch as the Chiefs and Bucs take the field:
Brady may bolster his legacy
NFL fans were shocked to see the news in 2020 that Brady, who won a league-record six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, was heading to Florida to join head coach Bruce Arians as a member of the Buccaneers.
Taking former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski with him, Brady left the AFC for the first time in his career to join the NFC South.
After leading Tampa Bay to an 11-5 regular season record, Brady entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed, playing all three playoff games on the road.
By doing so, Brady, who spent his childhood in San Mateo, boosted his playoff win total to 33 games. The second most playoff victories from an NFL quarterback belong to Joe Montana, who won 16 during his tenure as the signal caller for the 49ers and Chiefs in the 1980s and 1990s.
It’s also worth noting that Brady’s path to the Super Bowl included wins over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round as well as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
But Brady’s quest for more records this season isn’t over.
The 43-year-old quarterback will attempt to become the second player to win a championship with multiple teams. The only other starting QB to achieve this feat was Peyton Manning, who won rings with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
As the oldest quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, Brady not only will have a shot at bringing championship glory back to Tampa Bay for the first time since 2003, he’ll also have the opportunity to further cement his legacy as a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
New dynasty on the horizon?
It was a quarter of football that will make 49ers fans grimace for decades to come.
Last year’s Super Bowl was taken over by Mahomes and the Chiefs, who scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth and final frame in Miami to overtake San Francisco in shocking fashion.
But one Lombardi isn’t enough to declare Kansas City a dynasty. Back-to-back rings may ignite that conversation. And with Mahomes — who is just 25 — at the helm, anything is possible for the Chiefs.
It’s been nearly 20 years since an NFL team has won consecutive titles. After winning 14 games as well as securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, Kansas City looks primed to repeat.
With a top-tier offense headlined by wide receiver Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Le’Veon Bell, the Chiefs are listed as 3-point favorites according to DraftKings.com.
In the divisional round against the Cleveland Browns, Mahomes was sidelined after suffering a concussion. But after clearing the NFL’s concussion protocol, the Texas Tech product was able to start against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship game.
Throwing for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns, Mahomes appeared to be back to normal, helping the Chiefs lay 38 points on Buffalo — which hadn’t allowed a team to score more than 26 points since Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals.
With a healthy quarterback, an offensive genius in head coach Andy Reid and the momentum coming off a championship season in 2020, Kansas City could become what Brady helped build in New England: A dynastic franchise without a ceiling.