Tom Brady was awarded the hardware as the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl LV on Sunday night in Tampa.
As he always does, Brady gets the accolades and the superstar-treatment hero worship.
But Brady — and anyone else who watched the Buccaneers’ dominant 31-9 win over the defending-champion Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium — knows who the true MVP of the game was.
It was Todd Bowles.
Yes, Jets fans, that Todd Bowles.
Of course, the players play the game. And the Buccaneers players were brilliant on defense all night, bottling up the Chiefs potent offense and throttling their otherworldly quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
But it was the positions that Bowles, the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator and former Jets head coach of four seasons, put his players in that allowed them to do what they did to Mahomes, receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Jason Kelce.
It was the plan Bowles implemented that put those players in position to deal Mahomes the worst loss of his professional career.
“Todd had a good plan,’’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He played zone first and second down and mixed it up on third down and we weren’t able to handle that too well. Give credit to Todd for the job he did. He got us.’’
Bowles got the Buccaneers the Lombardi Trophy. And for that, he should have been the one who was handed the MVP trophy.
No disrespect to Brady, who completed 21 of 29 for a modest 201 yards and three TDs, but the quarterback almost always gets credit, the headlines, the hardware and the supermodel wife, doesn’t he?
How good was Bowles’ plan?
If you didn’t know any better, you’d have assumed he’d been sitting in on the Chiefs offensive meetings for the past two weeks, eating dinner at Mahomes’ house and discussing the Kansas City offensive game plan for Sunday.
In the teams’ previous meeting, a 27-24 Kansas City win on Nov. 29, the Chiefs offense boat-raced Bowles’ Buccaneers’ defense. It was an embarrassing day for Tampa Bay. The Chiefs led 17-0 in the first quarter and 27-10 in the fourth quarter before the Bucs scored a couple of garbage-time TDs in the fourth quarter.
Mahomes completed 37 of 49 for 462 yards and three TDs that day. Hill, who finished that game with 13 catches for 269 yards and three TD receptions, had 203 of those receiving yards in the first quarter.
Mahomes finished Super Bowl LV 26 of 49 for 270 empty yards, two INTs and a passer rating of 49.9. In the first half, when the game was truly decided, Mahomes was 9 of 19 for 67 yards.
Hill, who finished the game with seven catches for the quietest, most irrelevant 73 yards you’ll ever see, had two catches for 13 yards in the first half.
“I can’t give him enough credit,’’ Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said of Bowles. “I think he got a little tired of hearing how unstoppable they were. I thought he came up with a fantastic plan — just to keep them in front of us and tackle real well. Patrick wasn’t going to beat us running. We’ll let him run all day.’’
Bowles said the “biggest thing was to try to take away the first read’’ from Mahomes.
“You take away the first read, you know [Mahomes] is going to drift and hold [the ball],’’ he said. “We know that’s a dangerous thing, because he can make so much happen with his feet, but we didn’t want him sitting in the pocket just zinging dimes on us all day. So, the D-line got some pressure on him, making him run and a little bit uncomfortable. I thought that was key for us.’’
The Chiefs were uncharacteristically inept on third down, converting only 3 of 13.
“We mixed up some coverages, trying to show some disguises and make one thing look like another, and if we could make him hold [the ball] and pause and look at it for a little bit, those guys up front were allowed to hunt and they were getting him off the spot,’’ Bowles said.
Sunday’s win was an exclamation point to a Buccaneers postseason run on defense that shut down the Saints’ Drew Brees, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes.
Brees and Rodgers will be headed to the Hall of Fame “on roller skates,’’ to borrow from the great Bill Parcells. And Mahomes will have to be kidnapped by aliens not to end up in Canton with them after his career is finished.
“They stepped up to the challenge,’’ Brady said of the defense. “When you go up against Patrick, an incredible player, and Aaron, the [NFL] MVP two weeks ago, and against Drew they played great. They rose to the occasion.’’
Bowles rose to the occasion.