BY Art Thiel 11:08PM 02/07/2021

Thiel: At the NFL pinnacle, it’s all about defense

Strong defense, shorter passes and ball-control running. Sound familiar, Seahawks fans? The features Pete Carroll loves just won a Super Bowl for Tampa Bay.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians, here in his Arizona days, are twin sons from different mothers. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

If the panicky desperation of Patrick Mahomes Sunday didn’t remind you of Russell Wilson in recent years barely running ahead of the bulls of the NFL, you may have just moved to the area in the past month.

But the biggest local takeaway in Tampa Bay’s surprising 31-9 evisceration of Kansas City (box) in Super Bowl LV was the echo from 2014 and Super Bowl XLVIII: In pinnacle NFL games, a great defense pops off rivets of a good offense.

Hardly a revelation, but easily lost hereabouts after the shock surrounding the second-half decay of Seattle’s offense.

The playoff loss to the Rams was so inept that the offensive coordinator was fired, and exposed a polite public disagreement between Wilson and coach Pete Carroll about the reasons for failure in a season for which the club pushed many chips in the pot.

It has always been Carroll’s vision to have a strong defense to permit on offense a run-pass balance that avoids turnovers to keep games close, then out-last opponents in the late going with a few explosive plays.

He didn’t invent the plan. But he mastered it sufficiently to get to two Super Bowls and win one. The same plan was indirectly complimented Sunday when when Bucs coach Bruce Arians ripped it off.

The Bucs made no turnovers, QB Tom Brady went short and intermediate for 195 yards on 21 of 29 (longest completion 31 yards) and three TDs for a passer rating of 125.2, and controlled the clock with 145 yards rushing on 33 carries.

The defense shredded the Chiefs by using two-high safeties to thwart WR Tyreek Hill, who had 200 yards receiving in the first quarter of the teams’ regular-season meeting — the same tactic defenses used to slow down Wilson and WR DK Metcalf after the Seahawks’ 5-0 start. Hill had seven catches on 10 targets for 73 yards, the longest 23 yards.

Since the Chiefs, due to injuries, had backups at both tackle spots, Bucs coordinator Todd Bowles figured his four-man front, which included former Washington Huskies all-conference tackle Vita Vea, could pressure Mahomes on its own. He was right.

Playing on an injured big toe that will need surgery, Mahomes was sacked three times, hit eight times, pressured 29 times and threw two interceptions. He was 26 for 49 for 270 yards and a passer rating of 52.3.

“It’s the worst I’ve been beaten in a long time,” he said.

Much in the way that the Seahawks manhandled Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl — the Broncos entered the game with the highest-scoring offense in NFL history — the Bucs rarely let Mahomes set his feet. In almost perpetual backup, he and the Chiefs offense failed to score a touchdown for the first time since Mahomes became a starter. It was his biggest defeat since 2016 at Texas A&M.

The KC collapse, which also included 11 penalties for 120 yards and numerous dropped passes, also has to be seen through a pall of tragedy.

Thursday in Kansas City, Chiefs outside linebackers coach Britt Reid, Andy’s 35-year-old son, was involved in a three-car accident in which a five-year-old girl was critically injured. The police report stated Reid, whose truck struck two cars stopped on a freeway on-ramp, admitted to having two or three drinks, and using Adderall.

“My heart goes out to all those that were involved in the accident, in particular the family with the little girl who is fighting for her life,” Reid said post-game in his first remarks about the accident. “From a human standpoint, my heart bleeds for everybody involved.”

Neither Reid nor his players are likely to say, or even know, how the tragedy impacted performance, but common sense says the distraction was significant. The mistake-pickled game looked nothing like the high efficiency of a typical KC game.

On the other side, the transplanting of the winningest quarterback of all time into the NFL’s losingest franchise seems have been an unqualified success. Brady, named the most valuable player although the entire defense deserved it, won at 43 his seventh Super Bowl in an incredible 10 appearances over his 21-year career.

Arians, in his second year in Tampa and at 68 the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl, described Brady’s impact using terms often heard about Wilson.

“His confidence rubs off on everyone, including the defense,” he said. “His leadership is off the charts. He brought a winning mentality to a team that didn’t know how.”

The winning mentality permeates the town. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in September. The Tampa Bay Rays in October won the American League title and met, and lost to, the Los Angeles Dodgers in November in the World Series played in Texas.

Now, the Bucs won their second NFL championship and the first one by a host city’s team. In a year in which the pandemic struck Florida in a scandalously hard way, folks there are getting to have nearly all the sports fun.

In a time rich in analytics that say passing early and often is the better way, the Bucs also offered a solid for another group — a day of validation for old style, old quarterbacks and old coaches.


  • Mark Stratton

    Old guys rule!

    • art thiel

      Yes, we do.

    • Kristafarian

      thank you.

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  • Kevin Lynch

    Like you, I got more than a whiff of the Seattle-Denver Super Bowl. KC’s line was shredded start to finish, perhaps due partially to injury but partially to an impassioned Buc’s charge. Denver was way too tight to start that Super Bowl though they still would have lost it if they played lights out. Last night, KC’s defense late in the second half really did them in. Way too manic. You can’t gift Brady a touchdown seconds before intermission (see Bay, Green). Incredibly deflating.

    • art thiel

      A clear scheme victory by Arians and staff over Reid and staff. I do think the Britt Reid tragedy upset the the Chiefs in many ways. They never had a game like that this season, with so many unforced errors.

  • jafabian

    Didn’t watch the game or check in on it. I had no interest in watching a super spreader event being played during a pandemic. Or contributing to the ratings. Did like CNN reporting that the Seahawks were the only team not to report any players having COVID19 and applauded them for it.

    • 1coolguy

      PULEEZE – 1/10th of 1% of people under SEVENTY (70) have died from covid.

      • art thiel

        We’ve been missing your update on the Trump-era stat that the “the only valid COVID victim is a dead covid victim.” I’ll remember to pass it on to my health-care worker friends.

        • 1coolguy

          Just be honest and remember your pathetic brain-dead boy Biden called out Trump for being racist and xenophobic when he banned flights from China January 30th. The earliest any country in the world banned flights.
          Fauci estimated deaths would have been 2.2 MILLION plus if they hadn’t done that.
          You are completely out of your league here Art – stick to what you do best.
          Oh, and BTW, two months later dumb-ass Biden said the China flight ban was a good idea, BUT your MSM didn’t cover that, as it was a positive FOR Trump!
          The GOOD thing about your continually letting Trump live in your head is it opens the door WIDE for me to torch Biden for the next 4 years, presuming his brain lives that long. Turnabout is fair play, and it will be fun.

          • Obi-jonKenobi

            Remember when the Trumptard visited the CDC and said there were only 15 cases and soon there would be none?

            Yeah, good times.

          • Husky73

            Trump lost the White House, the House and the Senate. The NRA went bankrupt. Trump is banned on social media. Parler is shut down. Hundreds have been arrested from January 6th. There are billion dollar lawsuits against Fox News and Giuliani. Dobbs is cancelled. Henry, Ailes, Kelly and O’Reilly were fired. Limbaugh is no longer on the radio. MTG has been stripped of all committee assignments Two GOP Representatives have been fined $5,000 each. Trump has been impeached TWICE, and his lawyers quit. Trump has been stripped of daily briefings…..BUT, you had truck convoys, MAGA hats, flags, boat parades and Nuremberg-like rallies! That’s your “league,” 1cool. Those were good times, weren’t they?

          • tor5

            You’d think the Trumpees would be tired of winning.

          • Kristafarian

            Nuremberg Rallies: YEAH!
            Nuremberg Trials?

          • art thiel

            Commendable list. Don’t stop the count.

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            “Just be honest” Okay. Let’s do this with facts and I doubt a certain poster will return and acknowledge ERROR–ever:
            “. . . Trump . . . racist and xenophobic . . . banned flights from China January 30th.”
            The FACT here is Drumpfh banned flights the day AFTER 4 major carriers cut off their own flights.
            The other FACT here is they/he did nothing about connecting flights in/out of Korea, for example. So it was a de facto whiff.

            The racist part was when he included some African countries in the ban, which had precisely zero (0) to do with the virus. He just couldn’t resist it.

            The 2.2 million thing had to do with a comparison to the U.S. population versus 100 years ago with the earlier virus. So it’s a truly worthless comparison. Another whiff.

            Finally, the “torch Joe Biden for the next 4 years, presuming his brain lives that long . . . .”
            I defy you to take the written transcript of Drumpfh and Biden speaking off the cuff and compare both. Any reasonable, 3rd party, impartial observer would be horrified at the former President’s brain. Another whiff.

            Good day, and I defy you to respond to what I shot down using easy, elementary facts.

          • Husky73

            Trump decisively lost both debates to a “pathetic brain-dead boy.” What does that make Trump? Trump also lost the popular vote by 7 million and the electoral college 306-232 to the same above-said boy. Enjoy the “fun” of the next four years. Somewhere, James Buchanan is celebrating.

          • art thiel

            Have the feds made out your face at the insurrection?

      • jafabian

        The 2.32 million people who have died in the past year from the disease deserve better than to be classified as a minor statistic.

      • Husky73

        It’s a a hoax. I’ll be there with you.

      • tor5

        Yeah, my risk of dying is so low, it’s dumb to worry about getting it… and unknowingly giving it to someone else… who gives it to their grandma… who goes to a maxed out hospital… cared for by exhausted nurses… and then dies alone. After all, it’s all about ME!

    • art thiel

      You’re strict. But standards are good.

      The CNN story came from this NY Times story:

      • jafabian

        I’m disappointed at how the NFL basically gave in. I don’t even if you can say they if it was to corporate sponsors when some of the usual suspects didn’t advertise and the ones who did used their time to make a statement. So I’m a bit confused at what having 25,000 fans in attendance accomplishes. And since it’s been recently shown how Florida does not believe in the seriousness of the pandemic hosting a game event in the Sunshine State with people numbering in the tens of thousands will only have a result much like at the Sturgis bike rally. And with people traveling across the state and country for the event that makes it even more irresponsible on the NFL’s part.

        • Chris Alexander

          To be fair, it was less a case of the NFL caving and more a case of what they’ve done all season which is “follow the guidance of the local authorities.”

          Tampa Bay officials approved the # of people for the game, not the NFL. And, yeah, it’s because Florida has NOT taken the pandemic seriously.

          Had the game been here in Seattle, there would have been ZERO fans in the stands.

          My 2¢

          • Kirkland

            I saw that after the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, in a bubble none the less, they still scheduled a public victory celebration. One of the Bolts told the cheering throng of multiple thousands, “I want to thank Governor DeSantis for allowing all you to this party!” I wanted to retch.

          • art thiel

            The maskless street parade/riot/party was out of control for the NHL and NFL. But I don’t now how to prevent that kind of situation short of water cannons.

          • jafabian

            The Bucs policy at midseason was no more that 25% capacity of their stadium once they began to allow fans access to games according to CNBCcom. And by and large they followed that never having a crowd more than 16K+. So allowing the crowd to go to 25K as well as having more that 30K cutouts of fans leads me to believe that the NFL wanted to craft the image of a typical Super Bowl experience as much as they could. But considering that we are in the middle of a pandemic and there were roughly another 7500 miscellaneous personnel in attendance I find it irresponsible on the NFL’s part if that’s what they were trying to accomplish. The NFL easily could have set the policy. The Bucs can’t override the League. It’s not like they’d tell the NFL to find another host city.

          • Kirkland

            I could plausibly see the NFL allowing, say,10,000 medical workers into the game, and nobody else, as a show of gratitude. But that would mean finding front-line workers willing to travel to a pandemic hotspot, and even for the Super Bowl that could be an ask too far.

          • art thiel

            As I wrote above, 7,500 vaxxed health-care workers from around the nation were given free tickets, and as far as I know, were thrilled with the gift and took the trip.

          • art thiel

            The NFL agreed to abide by local protocols. Why local officials agreed to go to a higher number — which included 7,500 health care workers from around the country who attended for free and were vaxxed — I don’t know. But the number seems to have been manageable.

          • Kirkland

            Yup. An empty Lumens Field also would’ve hosted MLS Cup if the Sounders held home-field advantage.

          • art thiel

            I agree with the standard of no fans, if that is what local officials required. And even though it was FLA, I would say what Tampa decided for ther SB was not unreasonable.

          • art thiel

            Chris is right that the call was made by local public health officials. Given that it was FLA, we were fortunate it wasn’t a mask-free sellout. John, I don’t think the analogy to Sturgis is accurate, because that was hundreds of thousands of people, and not a bit of effort by govt officials to stop the spread.

            The NFL took all the testing protocols to the game that worked well enough to get all 269 scheduled games played. I haven’t read yet that a tightly regulated NFL game that allowed fans has been a spreader event.

        • TimJoFred

          The cardboard people had me fooled for awhile. There were less people there than you think.

          • art thiel

            25K, according to the league.

  • Husky73

    Before halftime, I was thinking (always dangerous), “It’s 2014. KC is Denver and TB is Seattle.” The Bucs had every answer to the vaunted quarterback and dominated the Chiefs’ offensive line.

    • art thiel

      You were not alone in the analogy.

  • Will Ganschow

    Tom Brady has been successful because in order for him to win it has been necessary to provide him adequate pass protection. He has never been a scrambler. he has been hit so much less aand is playing championship football at age 43. Mahomes like Wilson provides the illusion that you can win with less protection because each can to one degree or another scramble. Even though in Wilson’s case he has never missed a game, he is already less a scramble, more a take a hit/sack guy as the game takes its toll on him, as I believe you are starting to see with Mahomes. Seahawks should consider offers for Wilson while he is at peak value. Go ahead, hate me. its just a game.

    • art thiel

      There is a small case for your argument. But as with nearly all lawyers in America regarding defending Trump, I politely decline to take your case.

      • 1coolguy

        Can’t wait till you get over your TDS Art – he’s living in your brain and it’s not healthy.

        • Obi-jonKenobi

          The good news is the mofo will soon be living in a jail cell instead of Art’s brain. And for that we can all be grateful.

          Say, you aren’t a lawyer by any chance, I hear the ol’ conman is having a hard time finding one and he’s going to need lots, this may be your big break.

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          Neither is your man crush on the great pumpkin.

        • Husky73

          TDS = Trump Disinfectant Syndrome…Did you have your injection today, under a bright light?

        • Kristafarian

          it’s a whole new
          Ballgame now!

          (what happens to all the
          leftover Kool-Aide when
          the Twitters run out?)

        • art thiel

          He’s a gigantic, racist stain upon American history. Neither I nor others who recognize the same thing will ever get over it, nor should we. Vigilance is mandatory.

    • Husky73

      The next quarterback (yet to play a down) is always the most future-popular guy on the team.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Missed the game. Gee–good choice?
    When possible, I always listen to Kevin Harlan do the radio broadcast in place of 100% of the tv announcer genius class. He is superior.
    So yesterday, with about 5:00 remaining somebody ran onto the field and Kevin Harlan incorporated the guy’s “run” via play-by-play including this part: “Pull up your pants, take off the bra and be a man!”

    Please google Kevin Harlan and Super Bowl and you’ll howl.

    The tv producers always cut away from the field when somebody runs on, but there are enough videos on line courtesy of folks who spliced Harlan with the runner video. Get busy.

    • art thiel

      Harlan is among the best, and his call is hilarious. But his description was off a bit. If he had said the interloper was wearing a Borat onesie, I would have figured out it wasn’t a bra. But then, one would have to know who Borat is. Best to heap it on the pop-culture fakery pile marked Milli Vanilli.

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  • 1coolguy

    Brady is clearly the G.O.A.T. for me now. Mine had always been Montana, but what he accomplished this year simply cannot be denied. As Arians stated, Brady made a team that didn’t know how to win, win.
    He left the Patriots and showed one and all, by winning with another team, it wasn’t simply Belichicks coaching or system – Brady clearly can now be seen as the person who made it work. A la Reggie Jackson, Brady is clearly the straw that stirs the drink.
    Players – Gronk, Antonio Brown, Fournette, Succup, etc, ALL came to play for TB this year because Brady contacted them and got them there. Why? Because he has such a commanding persona that causes people to follow him.
    QB is generally regarded as the most demanding position in sports, and watching Brady’s command of the game was impressive: They say, like they did with Manning, he can recognize most defenses pre-snap, calling audibles as needed. THEN, the guy makes his O-line look like superstars (as he did in NE) by dumping he ball off in 2-3 seconds, EVERY TIME, except when he sees a mismatch and throws long.
    He demands perfection, and as Arians said, it raises the entire teams performance, not just the offense.
    Oh, and BTW – did you notice the guys I mentioned above that Brady brought on board, scored ALL Tampa’s points? Hmmm – yes, case closed. Brady is the G.O.A.T.

    • art thiel

      Brady’s ability to draw talent to his team was a key to this single-season success, but he did it for NE too. Wilson, in a lesser way, is also attractive. He and Brown both wanted Brown in SEA.

      As far as quick release, Wilson would ask you to provide him the same protection Brady had, then see what happens.

      • 1coolguy

        I propose his quick release begat the O-line. Can anyone name more than 1 or 2 O-linemen from the Patriots (can’t include Gronk)? In 19 years, Moss was his only long ball threat – Every other one – Welker, Edelman, Amendola, etc, where surehanded receivers who rarely caught passes beyond 15 yards.
        Another thing a quick release does is demoralize the D-line – they expend the same initial energy, but rarely get to the QB.

    • Chris Alexander

      Just as importantly (for some of us), Brady put an exclamation point on the question of whether the coach or the quarterback was more responsible for New England’s dynasty.

      As of Sunday, it’s Brady 1, Belichick 0.

      Of course we already sort of had our answer since New England finished 5 games worse than last year (from 12-4 to 7-9) while Tampa Bay finished 4 games better (from 7-9 to 11-5). But the Super Bowl victory – and in dominant fashion – HAD TO FEEL GOOD for Mr. Brady.

      • art thiel

        I believe you seek to quote Rick Neuheisel: Scorevboard, baby.

  • Howard Hart

    “…and using Adderall.”

    My youngest daughter divorced an NFL coach because of his Adderall use and the unfavorable changes in him due to said use. It is apparently common among coaching staff to (mis)use that shyte because they think it heightens their awareness and mental acumen.

    • Obi-jonKenobi

      It was/is(?) one of the Trumptard’s drugs of choice.

      • woofer

        In that out-of-control first TV debate with Biden, it sure looked like El Trumpo was speeding on something.

  • woofer

    “Since the Chiefs, due to injuries, had backups at both tackle spots…”

    If you have a really good defense and the opponent’s O-line is decimated, you should be able to get pressure on any QB and win the game. Even with an old GOAT running the offensive show. Heck, Brian Billick even did it with a Walmart greeter at QB.

    But if you have a good but not great defense, then you are in the very same bag as lots of other teams and the ability of your offense to occasionally step up and win a close game will make the difference between success and failure. Which brings us back to actual life with the Seahawks.

    If the only way Carroll can grab the brass ring is by building the best defense in the NFL, he is probably wasting valuable cap money on a luxury model QB that he doesn’t quite know how to drive.

  • Chris Alexander

    The game certainly lends itself to comparisons of the Seattle v. Denver Super Bowl with a very good defense dismantling an exceptional offense. Except that Denver wasn’t shorthanded on the offensive line.

    Kansas City had a starting o-line whose 2020 cap hit barely topped the $6M mark while two o-linemen making more than $25M watched from their IR list with a 3rd starter joining them.

    I think the game was much more akin to the Hawks in the 2019 playoffs, trotting out a recently un-retired Marshawn Lynch, a signed-off-the-street Robert Turbin and a youngster named Travis Homer after Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny went down the last couple weeks of the regular season. Teams didn’t have to even pretend to respect the run against us then and Tampa Bay didn’t have to pretend to respect the Chiefs’ O-line in the Super Bowl.

    The result was pretty predictable.

    • Kirkland

      — I’ve always wondered, if the Broncos’ center hadn’t snapped the ball over Manning’s head on the first drive, is that game a lot closer? It seemed like once that safety happened, the entire team discombobulated, and that was all she wrote.

      — On another what-if, how much time was left when Jermaine Kearse caught that on-his-back catch the next Super Bowl? If the Patriot DB hadn’t made that game-saving tackle, Kearse scores what would be the greatest Super Bowl touchdown of all time, we never hear about Malcolm Butler, and even Brady might not overcome a short clock. (Yeah, I could look up the game log, but I’m too haunted to try that.)

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Great summary of a combination of events that we’d not ever guessed would happen. Hoping for the best for those injured in that accident.

    Amen to old school football! It’s gotta be frustrating for Carroll to not be able to repeat the formula to its peak strength for all of these years, then see it come together quickly in Tampa. Then again, he’s never one to envy, and it may instead be heartwarming to him to see his favorite formula win out.

    Funny how, with the influx from the new innovative Rams offense, Carroll goes New to once again get Old.

  • Kirkland

    The excesses of the NFL annoy me so much that unless the Seahawks are playing or there are compelling opposing storylines (how wild would a Browns-Lions Super Bowl next year be?), I ignore the game. If I had to run errands during the game I might have checked in on the radio, as I like Kevin Harlan as much as Archangel Spumoni does. This year, though, I watched 6 Nations rugby, solved crossword puzzles, etc Didn’t mind the decision, particularly with a big upset in the rugby (Scotland won in England for the first time in almost 40 years).

    It does seem eerie how similar the careers of Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson have started. Unheralded draft picks making a big splash as rookies, winning the championship as sophomores, and failing to repeat in year 3 at the hands of Tom Brady. The only difference is that Mahomes lost in a rout, while Wilson ‘s failure didn’t happen until the last minute of the game.

    • art thiel

      No need to justify ignoring the game. We have a big tent here.

      Mahomes was taken 10th in the first round, His potential success was seen by many. Wilson less so, falling to third round, but I like the rest of your parallel construction.

  • ll9956

    This game showed that it’s not easy to win two SB’s in a row. Now we’ll see whether TB can do it.

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    Curious if Russell phoned Mahomes after the loss with his condolences? If he did, I’m sure he would have mentioned the fact that he runs for his life every Sunday. With only 4 draft picks and little cap space, Russell best be looking for some new, Run Russell Run shoes.