For world champion Bucs, confetti flies where flags do not

Continuing their trend of minimal mistakes, the Bucs were whistled for only four penalties Sunday.
Bucs strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates victory with teammates after the Super Bowl 55 win over Kansas City.
Bucs strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates victory with teammates after the Super Bowl 55 win over Kansas City. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 8, 2021|Updated Feb. 9, 2021

TAMPA — It’s a Super Bowl championship story line, critical if not terribly conspicuous.

Today, it’s nestled somewhere behind Tom Brady, tucked somewhere beneath Todd Bowles’ resurgent defense, lurking in the shadows of Leonard Fournette’s postseason breakthrough. But it’s there to be sure, a telling factor in a title season.

In 2020, the Bucs’ penalty total fell steady, almost like ... well...confetti from an evening sky. Flagged an NFL-most 133 times in 2019, Tampa Bay finished with only 100 this season — including four playoff games.

“No turnovers, very, very few penalties — you’re going to be hard to beat,” coach Bruce Arians said Monday morning, a few hours after the team celebration of Sunday night’s 31-9 triumph against the Chiefs had dissipated. “We realized that after that (Chicago) game and it’s been an easy job coaching ever since.”

After bottoming out against the Bears (11 penalties, 109 yards) in Week 5, Tampa Bay averaged only 3.9 penalties for 29.2 yards in their last 15 contests. In Sunday’s 31-9 embarrassment of the Chiefs, they were whistled four times for 39 yards.

By comparison, Kansas City had twice as many penalties by halftime, finishing with 11 for 120 yards. Additionally, the Bucs committed zero turnovers, finishing the playoffs with only four in four games.

“Penalties, I’d say they were (less) penalized than us by damn near 100 yards,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said.

“I think our guys coming back on the plane from Chicago made a commitment to each other that we’re going to stop beating ourselves,” Arians added. “And what a great, great job they have done all the way through.”

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