TAMPA — For more than 19½ months, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs endured the bitter memory of their loss to the Bucs in Super Bowl 55.
When given a chance for some revenge Sunday night, they settled an old score with a lopsided one.
Mahomes outsmarted the Bucs defense and outplayed Tom Brady in the Chiefs’ 41-31 win at Raymond James Stadium.
Mahomes passed for 249 yards and three touchdowns in handing the Bucs (2-2) their second straight loss at home.
Unlike the NFL title game, when they were kept out of the end zone in a 31-9 defeat, the Chiefs ripped the Bucs defense Sunday. Tampa Bay entered the game having allowed only 27 points this season but gave up 28 in the first half alone.
“I’m going to be honest with you. I’m sitting here still trying to figure out what just happened,” said Bucs defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches after the Chiefs rushed for 189 yards and two scores. “That’s not who we are. That’s not what we do. Seeing 180-something yards rushing is just mind-boggling. We don’t do that. It’s not our identity, and we know better than that. Definitely we’re not doing that again this season if not ever.”
Bucs coach Todd Bowles didn’t mince words after the game. Sure, rookie running back Richaad White fumbled the opening kickoff at the Tampa Bay 21.
Two plays later, the Chiefs were in the end zone, with Mahomes throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Travis Kelce. But Bowles pinned the loss on the defense he coaches.
“We didn’t play well. They did a good job, and they kicked our butts all over the field,” Bowles said. “Turnovers had nothing to do with it. We’ve got to play good situational football if they do get it down there and hold them to three at least. Our red-zone defense was poor. Our run defense was poor. Our pass defense was poor. Our third-down defense was poor, and we played a poor game and that falls on me. I’ll take that.
“That’s why you play defense. Your back is always against the wall. Your job is to do your job whenever you’re out there. Whether it’s the red zone, whether it’s backed up, whether it’s midfield. Our job is to hold them to three or get a turnover.”
Like they did against the Packers a week earlier, the Bucs fell behind 14-3 in the first quarter.
They couldn’t stop Mahomes and Kelce, who finished with nine catches on 10 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown and did his biggest damage on third down.
Mahomes, who was sacked three times and intercepted twice in the Super Bowl, was crafty and creative Sunday.
Flushed to his right, he avoided a sack by Devin White, spun and shoveled a 2-yard TD pass to Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a touchdown in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Bucs were forced to abandon the ground game early and finished with only 3 yards rushing on six attempts, only two yards off the franchise-worst in a game.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
In a strange way, the Bucs may have finally gotten some rhythm back in their passing game.
Brady passed for a season-high 385 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Mike Evans coming off his one-game suspension. Evans had eight receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Chris Godwin, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, had seven catches for 59 yards. But Julio Jones, who is battling a knee injury, played sparingly and caught one pass for seven yards.
“Give thjem a lot of credit. They made a lot of good plays. Patrick played great,” Brady said of Mahomes. “They ran the ball great. They did well on third down and in the red area. Because we didn’t do much on offense, we left our defense out there.
“I think (we were) a little bit better than the way we’ve been playing. but obviously not good enough. We’re here for one reason, not to move the ball, but to score more points than the other team.”
The loss ended an emotional week for the Bucs, who relocated 300 players, coaches, staff and their families, including 18 pet dogs and a rabbit, to south Florida to prepare for the game away from the path of Hurricane Ian.
“I feel like there were a lot of distractions, but I feel like guys handled it really well during our time in Miami,” tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “I think we tried to keep the schedule as normal as possible. But, you know, it’s a lot different when you’ve got little kids running around the hotel. Everyone was dealing with their dog, their baby. It was a lot, but I feel like guys were pretty locked in during these pretty strange times. We did the best we could in a short amount of time and made the best of it.”
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.