Road to Tampa: How Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers made it to Super Bowl LV
We look at each side’s journey to Super Bowl LV
After 256 regular season matchups, six Wild Card round matches, four Divisional round matches and two Conference Championship matches, we’re left with just two contenders for the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium, as they represent the NFC at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday 7th February.
Defending NFL champions Kansas City Chiefs head to their second successive Super Bowl after beating San Francisco 49ers at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami last year.
But how did both teams end up one game away from NFL glory? Ahead of the showpiece event, we’ve looked back at both side’s journey to Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Road to Super Bowl LV
Coming into the new season off the back of their third straight with a losing record, an appearance at Super Bowl LV in their home stadium was a shock target thanks to a hugely important roster move.
The acquisition of six-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady made headline news, while the team, owned by Manchester United owners, the Glazer family, tempted Brady’s former TE at the Patriots Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one last shot at another ring.
The Buccaneers started the 2020 campaign with the narrowest of defeats, going down 24-23 against New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But momentum slowly started to gather as they won seven of their next nine games, moving to 7-3 for the season.
Two home 27-24 defeats against Los Angeles Rams and Super Bowl LV opponents Kansas City Chiefs followed, leaving their hopes of the NFC South title on the brink heading into the bye week with a 7-5 record.
Head Coach Bruce Arians’ rejuvenated side claimed wins over Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons to keep their Divisional title hopes alive, but they were soon ended on Christmas Day following New Orleans Saints win over the Vikings.
The Buccaneers sealed their place in the playoffs just a day later, winning four matches in a row to end the regular season 11-5, ending the second-longest active playoff drought in NFL while recording more double-digit wins for the first time since 2010.
With the fifth seed in the NFC, Tampa headed to NFC East champions Washington Football Team in the Wild Card playoffs, where with a 31-23 win, they sealed their first playoff victory since 2002.
Next up, they faced the Saints for the third time this season in the Divisional round, but Arians’ side saved their best performance against New Orleans until last, beating them 30-20 to seal an NFC Championship game against number one seed Green Bay Packers.
In a battle of two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Brady and Co. came out on top, beating the Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers, 31-26 at a snowy Lambeau Field to seal their first Super Bowl appearance since winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002.
Kansas City Chiefs’ Road to Super Bowl LV
After ending their 50-year wait for a second Super Bowl title in Miami, the Kansas City Chiefs retained much of the same roster with expectations of mounting a second successive challenge.
The Chiefs’ only major off-season worry came after three stars of their roster opted-out of the season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, including first-choice RB Damien Williams, but that was to be settled in the 2020 NFL Draft.
With the final pick of the first round, the Chiefs selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire to fill their starting spot, while also signing three-time Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell from New York Jets midseason.
Their title defence started off with three convincing wins from their opening four matches, with overtime needed to beat Los Angeles Chargers in week two, before they faced their first major test.
AFC West rival Las Vegas Raiders headed to Arrowhead Stadium with a 2-2 record but put together the complete performance to confine the Chiefs to their first defeat of the campaign, ending their hopes of going 16-0.
But that was to be the only blip we were to see from the Chiefs during the regular season in their title defence, as they went on to win the next 10 games straight, getting revenge over the Raiders at their brand new stadium, while beating the Buccaneers and the highly-rated Saints too.
Head coach Andy Reid rested much of his starters in week 17, keeping QB Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill among others fresh for their run in the postseason. In their final regular season game, their 10-match winning streak ended, losing 38-21 to the Chargers.
The Chiefs qualified for the playoffs for a sixth straight season, tying their franchise record, while winning the AFC West for a fifth consecutive year. Ending the season 14-2, they finished with the best record in the NFL, while also setting a new franchise benchmark for wins in a season.
Thanks to securing the number one seed in the AFC, Kansas City gained a first-round playoff bye, meaning their first taste of postseason football this campaign would come in the Divisional round.
Cleveland Browns shock Wild Card win over Pittsburgh Steelers set up a meeting with the Chiefs, and they’d be tougher than expected for the Chiefs.
Leading 22-10 heading into the final quarter, the Chiefs lost QB Mahomes to concussion, and the Browns pounced, closing the lead to just five points before the Chiefs defence stepped up to make crucial stops to prevent Cleveland taking the lead, before replacement QB Chad Henne ran for safety to allow the clock to tick down and seal yet another Chiefs win.
Crucially, Mahomes would clear the NFL’s concussion protocol in time to return for the AFC Championship game against number two seed Buffalo Bills. A slow start would soon be overturned by a three TD second quarter, with game management key in the second half. Mahomes would throw for 325 yards and three TD’s as the Chiefs booked their spot in Super Bowl LV.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication.