Super Bowl LV: Tale of the Tape

Patrick Mahomes (left) and Tom Brady (right) – Credits: Justin Edmonds and Mike Ehrmann (People)

Surprisingly, we made it through a full season of professional football in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Super Bowl LV may be a dream matchup for casual and hardcore football fans. The defending champions, Kansas City Chiefs, face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a star-laden matchup. This game is highlighted by two quarterbacks destined for greatness.

Icon Vs Icon: The Young Buck Against The Savvy Veteran

We are seeing a generational matchup between two football icons. Essentially, this is a matchup between the past and future.

On one side we have Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs with an already stacked resume in his young career. Winning the Season MVP award, holding the Lombardi Trophy, a Super Bowl MVP nod, and passing over 50 touchdowns in a single season are some accolades he has already achieved. Most players in the NFL dream of achieving at least one of those feats in a 15 year career – Mahomes has done all of them in 4.

On the other hand, there is Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A household name that your mom probably knows – and many other casual fans. 21 seasons in the NFL, Brady doesn’t seem to slow down at the ripe age of 43. Most NFL players would have retired around this age (hence, Phillip Rivers and possibly Drew Brees), as their bodies naturally slow down. But for Brady still dominating the league is completely unheard of – especially someone in the late stages of his career. This being his 10th trip to the Super Bowl, Brady cements himself as the winningest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.

Any comparisons you want to make between these two: Ali versus Frazier, Pacquiao versus Mayweather, The Rock versus John Cena, Lebron James versus Kobe Bryant – the list goes on. We’ve seen an icon versus icon matchup before in sports, but the stakes have never been higher. They are playing for the most prestigious prize in American sports – The Super Bowl, baby!

All I’m saying is, expect an offensive slugfest between these two juggernauts.

The Narratives: Silencing the Critics

Of course, the media will heavily focus on these two NFL superstars until the game is conceded. Not only is the chip on the line but legacy as well.

Tony Romo, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and CBS sports analyst, puts it best: “The fact that Mahomes is somehow in this discussion as the GOAT shows you how amazing this guy is. There’s a chance for Mahomes playing this game, to climb the ladder. If Mahomes wins, he keeps that door open. If Brady wins, I don’t know how anyone can top him.”

A win here from the Chiefs will assert their dominance over the league for many years to come – as we witness one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NFL. But not only that, this outcome will be one of those “passing of the torch” moments in sports. Brady, a living legend, hands the keys over to Mahomes as the face of the NFL. Said best by Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”

Credit: Steven Senne – AP Photo (MassLive)

If Brady wins, he proves his critics wrong about his time in New England. Scrutinized as a “system quarterback” throughout his career, people heralded Bill Belichick for creating a formidable team in the past two decades. Since 2001, Brady has achieved: 9 Super Bowl trips, a NFL Season MVP, over 74,000 yards passing, and 14 Pro Bowl nods all under Bill Belichick.

Even though Belichick may be responsible for Brady’s successes, this year has already proven otherwise for The Patriots who finished 7-9 for the season and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

No stranger to critics, Brady has proved time and time again to shut them up. He is already the winningest quarterback in NFL history, but a win here cements him as the greatest football player of all time.

Legacy is on the line for both sides, so expect a great show on February 7th in Tampa Bay.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting

Ravens fall to Patriots in AFC Divisional Round

A season that started in controversy for the Baltimore Ravens came to a disappointing end against a bitter playoff rival.

The Ravens twice gave up a two- touchdown lead and fell to the New England Patriots 35-31 in the AFC Divisional Round when Joe Flacco’s Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game was batted down. The Patriots went on to defeat the Colts in the AFC Championship game and will face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1.

The Ravens got to Foxborough by beating the archrival Steelers 30-17 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 3. Baltimore forced three turnovers to overcome 334 passing yards from Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown’s 117 yards receiving. Baltimore sacked Roethlisberger five times, and linebacker Terrell Suggs caught one of the Ravens’ two interceptions between his legs. On Baltimore’s next play, Flacco connected with tight end Crockett Gilmore for a 21- yard touchdown pass where Gilmore ran into the end zone untouched to give the Ravens a 30-15 lead. Torrey Smith also caught a touchdown, and Steve Smith, Sr. had 101 yards receiving.

Against the Patriots, the Ravens easily drove down the field and scored touchdowns on their first two possessions. Joe Flacco hit Kamar Aiken and Smith, Sr. for touchdown passes on those two drives. New England responded with two unanswered touchdowns of their own on a four-yard run by Tom Brady, and then a 15-yard scoring pass from Brady to Danny Amendola. However, after Brady through an interception to Daryl Smith, Flacco made the Patriots pay. He capped a six-play, 57-yard drive by connecting with tight end Owen Daniels on an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Ravens a 21-14 lead at halftime.

The Ravens built on that momentum when Justin Forsett caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Flacco for a 28-14 lead just over three and a half minutes into the third quarter. However, the Patriots once again rallied back. With the ball on the Baltimore 24, Patriots running back Shane Vereen reported to the referee that he was lining up as an ineligible receiver. The referee informed the Ravens that Vereen was ineligible. The Ravens were confused by the formation, and Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui caught a 14-yard pass. Ravens coach John Harbaugh ran out onto the field to get the officials’ attention, and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, Harbaugh said he took the penalty because he felt the officials didn’t understand what was happening. On the next play, Rob Gronkowski caught a five-yard touchdown pass to cut the Ravens’ lead to 28-21. After Baltimore went three-and-out, New England got the ball out close to midfield. Wide receiver Julian Edelman went in motion to the left, caught a lateral from Brady, and then hit Amendola in stride for a 51-yard touchdown that stunned the Ravens and tied the game at 28.

In the fourth quarter, Justin Tucker hit a 25-yard field goal to put the Ravens back on top, 31-28. On New England’s next drive, Vereen was hit by Darian Smith, who knocked the ball out and recovered it. However, the fumble ruling was overturned, and New England kept possession. Six plays later, Brady connected with Brandon LaFell for a 23-yard touchdown pass to give New England its first lead, 35-31 with 5:13 left. The touchdown pass broke Joe Montana’s record of 45 career postseason touchdown passes. On Baltimore’s next possession, Flacco was intercepted in the end zone by Patriots safety Duron Harmon. New England wasn’t able to run out the clock, and Jacoby Jones returned the punt to Baltimore’s 48 with four second left. That’s when Flacco’s heave into the end zone was knocked down to end the Ravens’ season. Flacco’s two interceptions ended his streak of five straight playoff games without throwing an interception. Forsett ran for 129 yards, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Brady’s 367 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception, along with a touchdown run.

In other Ravens’ news, two days before the game, former FBI Director Robert Mueller submitted his report to the NFL about how the league handled the Ray Rice case. The report found that the Ravens should have submitted the evidence they had without the league having to ask, and that no one in the league office had seen the in-elevator tape prior to its public release in September. However, Mueller concluded in his report that the league could’ve done more to investigate the charges properly. The report says the league never tried to get in touch with the Atlantic City Police officers who investigated the case, or tried to get the in-elevator video from the Revel Casino, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, or Rice’s lawyers. The report also found that the league never tried to follow up with the Ravens to find out if they had any additional information.