KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The enduring image of Super Bowl LV for Chiefs fans will be a frenetic Patrick Mahomes, retreating from an onslaught of pass rushers and hurling a pass toward the end zone as he dove forward off an injured toe likely to require offseason surgery.
The fourth-down heave early in the fourth quarter found Darrel Williams in the end zone, where the Chiefs’ running back whiffed on the catch as it clanged off his facemask for a turnover on downs.
With it, Kansas City’s fading hopes to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since the 2003-04 New England Patriots also crashed to the ground in a 31-9 loss Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The Chiefs needed a minor miracle in the second half, hoping against hope that a depleted offensive line would figure out how to pass block and a frazzled, penalty-prone defense would be able to stop the run.
It didn’t happen against a Tampa Bay squad playing a Super Bowl in its home stadium for the first time in NFL history.
A mistake-filled first half put the Chiefs in a 15-point halftime hole before a field-goal drive to open the second half provided a moment of hope — but it was short-lived.
Mahomes spent the game scrambling wildly from the Bucs’ pressure behind an offensive line that was missing four starters — right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out before the season, along with left guard Kelechi Osemele, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and left tackle Eric Fisher, who were lost to injuries.
Lucas Niang, a third-round offensive line draft pick from TCU, also opted out before the season.
Coupled with a penalty-filled first half by the defense, it proved too much for even Mahomes — who finished 26 of 49 for 270 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions — to overcome.
Penalties — eight for 95 yards, the most penalty yards in the first half against any team in the NFL this season — were largely responsible for the disastrous first half, but the Chiefs’ mistakes weren’t limited to penalties.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who wound up with seven catches for 73 yards, dropped a possible touchdown pass, which went through his hands and hit his facemask in the first quarter.
Tight end Travis Kelce, who finished with 10 catches for 133 yards, added a critical third-down drop in the second quarter.
An offensive line in flux after Fisher’s ruptured Achilles in the AFC Championship Game also struggled in pass protection, especially right guard-turned-right tackle Andrew Wylie.
After the Chiefs had pulled in front with a 49-yard Harrison Butker field goal, cornerback Bashaud Breeland was flagged for holding on the Buccaneers’ next drive, which ended with an 8-yard touchdown from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski.
Brady, who won his record fifth Super Bowl MVP, finished 21 of 29 for 201 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while Gronkowski led the Bucs with 67 yards and six receptions.
Kansas City’s offense, which struggled to pass protect with a patchwork offensive line, went three-and-out before another long, penalty-aided Tampa Bay drive.
Defensive end Chris Jones’ unnecessary roughness penalty helped the Bucs reach the Chiefs’ goal line before a key goal-line stand.
Damien Wilson, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Ben Niemann stuffed Ronald Jones inside the 2-yard line to force a turnover on downs, but Kelce’s drop short-circuited Kansas City’s ensuing drive.
Tommy Townsend then shanked a punt — but only after another penalty negated a 56-yard bomb from the rookie punter and terrific open-field tackle by Byron Pringle — to set up Tampa Bay with a short field.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu picked off a tipped pass from Brady only to have it negated by a Charvarius Ward holding penalty.
The defense forced a field goal try, but Mecole Hardman Jr. lined up offside and the Bucs’ drive continued.
Brady found Gronkowski for a 17-yard touchdown on the next play and a 14-3 lead.
The Chiefs responded with a field-goal drive, cutting the lead to 14-6 with 1:01 remaining in the half.
Coach Andy Reid’s decision to use his timeout to stop the clock, hoping to get the ball back one more time for Kansas City’s offense backfired when Breeland was flagged for pass interference on a deep shot and Mathieu was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
Brady’s third touchdown, a 1-yard bullet to wide receiver Antonio Brown with 6 seconds left before halftime, pushed the lead to 21-6.
Britt Reid admitted to drinking before the crash, according to a search warrant, and also was hospitalized. He did not travel to Tampa for Super Bowl LV.