Super Bowl 55's matchup of Chiefs and Buccaneers now set, 32 things we learned from championship games
With the Super Bowl 55 matchup set, the 32 things we learned from the 2020 NFL season's championship games Sunday:
1. What a Super Bowl it should be. Kansas City Chiefs vs. (at?) Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1a. K.C. will try to become the first team to repeat in 16 years. The 2003-04 Patriots, led by Tom Brady, last pulled it off.
1b. The quarterback matchup between Tampa Bay's Brady, the GOAT, and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, the kid (?) and reigning Super Bowl MVP – and surely next face of the league – ought to be epic. The duo split four career meetings, though Brady prevailed in their only postseason matchup when New England won the 2018 AFC championship game.
1c. Super Bowl 55 will be the first to pit the quarterbacks who won the game in the two preceding seasons.
1d. Kansas City opens as a 3½-point favorite.
2. But for now, it mostly feels like a swashbuckling victory lap for Brady, who heads to his record 10th Super Bowl – no other quarterback has played in more than five – but his first without New England coach Bill Belichick in tow.
2a. Brady will become the first quarterback to participate in the Super Bowl in three different decades. Sunday, he became the first to play in conference championship games in three different decades during the Super Bowl era (since 1966).
3. Brady will also become the fourth quarterback to start a Super Bowl for multiple teams. He joins Craig Morton (Cowboys, Broncos), Kurt Warner (Rams, Cardinals) and Peyton Manning (Colts, Broncos). Only Manning led different franchises to Super Sunday wins.
4. This postseason is the first when Brady won three consecutive road games on his way to Super Sunday. This torrid stretch allowed Brady to tie Joe Flacco for the most road playoff wins (seven) by a quarterback in league history.
5. Tough Sunday for Flacco. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has now thrown multiple TD passes in nine consecutive postseason games, giving him sole possession of a record he shared with Joe Cool (he spent 2020 with the Jets) entering Sunday.
6. TB12 > AR12 ... Brady is now 1-0 against Rodgers in postseason.
7.The difference in this NFC championship game? The Buccaneers turned two Packers turnovers into 14 points, while Green Bay turned three Brady INTs into just six. The decisive moment seemed to come at the end of the second quarter, after Rodgers was picked off with 28 seconds until halftime. The Bucs eschewed a punt on fourth-and-4 from the Packers' 45-yard line, converted the first down ... and then Brady hit Scotty Miller for a 39-yard TD with 1 second on the clock. The sequence may not have provided the back-breaker, but the Packers never surmounted the Bucs' 21-10 lead at intermission.
7a. Brady is 3-1 in playoff games when he throws a trio of picks.
8. Rodgers, who will almost certainly be named league MVP for the third time, is the only player to win MVP honors multiple times but not appear in multiple Super Bowls. He was notably dejected Sunday after losing in the NFC title round for the second time in a year and even mused about the uncertainty of his future in Green Bay, even though he's expressed a desire to play into his 40s as Brady has.
9. Rodgers threw six interceptions this season – three in two games against Tampa Bay, and three in 16 games against everyone else.
10. This was the first conference championship game weekend when all four starting quarterbacks began the day having won at least their previous six starts.
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11. The Chiefs and Bills have now met four times in postseason. In the previous three instances, the winner of their matchup eventually lost the Super Bowl.
12. Rodgers ended the day with a 1-4 record in NFC title games, which includes a four-game losing streak. The only other quarterbacks with four championship game losses on their résumé are Donovan McNabb, Hall of Famer Ken Stabler ... and Brady.
12a. However, Brady has started a record 14 championship games, twice as many as the next man on the list (Joe Montana), and won 10.
13. Travis Kelce's 13 catches were a record for a conference championship game and tied Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow and Shannon Sharpe for most by a tight end in any playoff contest.
14. Kelce and teammate Tyreek Hill have both exceeded 100 receiving yards in each of the Chiefs' playoff games this season. Hill had a franchise record 172 on Sunday.
14a. Hill had 269 yards during the Chiefs' 27-24 win at Tampa in Week 12.
15. In seven postseason starts, Mahomes has thrown 17 TD passes (three Sunday) and two INTs. Remarkable.
16. Here's hoping Packers CB Kevin King stays off social media – it's already ugly out there – after getting burned for a pair of touchdowns and committing a lethal pass interference penalty in the final two minutes with Green Bay trying to get one more possession.
17. Buffalo QB Josh Allen took a quantum leap in his third season, earning MVP consideration. But as he further refines his game in 2021, he must learn to not try to make something out of nothing on every broken play. Allen's penchant for taking bad sacks continued Sunday, when he was taken down four times – and lost 53 yards in the process of trying to stymie pass rush.
18. One week after Baltimore's Lamar Jackson threw his first career red-zone interception, Allen suffered his first.
19. The Los Angeles Rams (1980, Rose Bowl) and San Francisco 49ers (1985, Stanford Stadium) have participated in Super Bowls staged in their home region, but the Buccaneers will be the first to host Super Sunday in their stadium.
19a. Ironic that the Bucs had to win three playoff road games to return to Raymond James Stadium.
20. Cool to see Tampa's Bruce Arians, a champion of transparency and diversity, reach Super Bowl as a head coach.
21. LSU guys sure love their school. Bucs RB Leonard Fournette and LB Devin White are among those whose purple-and-gold shoulder pads creep out of their jerseys.
22. The Packers missed injured All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari on a day when Rodgers was sacked five times, tied for a season high.
23. Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett (three) and Jason Pierre-Paul (two) combined for all five of Tampa Bay's sacks. Barrett, who played under the franchise tag this season, could cash in during free agency once again.
24. Tampa Bay's pass rush could also loom as a primary key to Super Bowl 55, especially since it appeared Chiefs LT Eric Fisher suffered a serious leg injury that prevented him from finishing Sunday's game.
25. Speaking of pending free agents, RB Aaron Jones may have played his final game as a Packer. If that was it, his final home game at Lambeau Field ended with a pair of fumbles (one lost), 34 yards from scrimmage and a chest injury.
26. Fournette, who will also be a free agent soon, sure is a pretty good playoff back. In six career postseason games, he has seven TDs (including one Sunday), averages 99.8 yards from scrimmage (including 74 Sunday), and his teams have gone a collective 5-1.
27. Packers TE Marcedes Lewis caught three passes Sunday, notable because he hadn't had that many receptions in a game since he was a member of the Jaguars in their 2017 playoff defeat of Buffalo.
28. Prior to Sunday, no one had ever kicked a field goal beyond 50 yards in a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. But Bills rookie Tyler Bass connected twice from 51 yards in defeat.
29. Buccaneers CB Sean Murphy-Bunting had one interception in the regular season but pilfered a pass in each of his first three playoff appearances – the first player to do so since Hall of Famer Ed Reed, whose streak spanned over three separate postseasons.
30. On the one hand, admittedly nice to have championship environments with fans on hand at Lambeau and Arrowhead ... let's just hope they socially distanced sufficiently.
31. A nod to the Fox and CBS broadcast producers in charge of music. We dad rockers approved of the Led Zeppelin, Rush and Pink Floyd ... though definitely more room for U2 and Pearl Jam moving forward (hint hint, CBS, which will carry Super Bowl 55).
31a. But this dad rocker does approve of The Weeknd's appointment to Super Bowl 55's halftime show. Can't wait to be blinded by the lights ... and also the quarterbacks and their teams.
32. Finally, the Chiefs will roll into Super Sunday on a five-game playoff winning streak. The last quarterback to beat them in postseason? Yep ... Brady.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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