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Installment #9: First One of 2021

It is the beginning of the last week of the first month of a brand new year, and this is my first post of 2021. No excuses. I wanted to write a first-of-the-year post sooner, but I didn't get around to it until now. Simple as that.

It has been a real struggle getting this one out. So much has happened in my country, all over the world, and in my life, that it would take more than one blog post to talk about. But without a doubt, I have had ample time to soak it all in, as well as celebrating the holidays. So now, Calvin's Commentary is officially back in publication. Better later than never right?

I am still celebrating sports when I can. Us hardcore sports fans had to go through something last year that I never thought we would. Months without live games. But the sports industry has found a way to keep moving forward in spite of COVID. So, I'm enjoying the up-and-down roller coaster that is American sports.

Currently, my North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball team continues to win in the ACC. The Charlotte Hornets beat the Orlando Magic on Sunday night, snapping a four-game loosing streak. But then last night, they lost to the Magic. I hope that the loss is not the beginning of another loosing skid. And, the 2021 Super Bowl is set. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs in two weeks in Florida for all the glory.

I was thinking that I would be able to enjoy two close, spectacularly-played football games on Championship Sunday. A lot of people, including myself, felt like the National Football League's best four teams had emerged for two of the 2020 season's last three games. The first game fit the bill a little bit. It was a pretty good game, despite a lot of mistakes mainly on the part of the Packers. The second game, not so much.

In the first game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outlasted the Green Bay Packers 31-26 to win the NFC championship. Tom brady went 20-of-36 for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Brady also threw three interceptions and the Buccaneers almost squandered a 28-10 second half lead. Not usually a recipe for victory.

But the Buccaneers defense was solid. They held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to just seven points off the three TB turnovers, and linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for five quarterback sacks. Offensively, Brady got a lot of help from guys like Scotty Miller, who caught a 39-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to give the Buccaneers a 21-10 lead at the break. Then in the beginning of the second half during a Packers possession, running back Aaron Jones caught a short third-down pass and was absolutely clobbered by Buccs safety Jordan Whitehead. The hit knocked the ball loose and it was recovered by linebacker Devin White, who ran 21 yards to the Green Bay 8. A play later, Brady found his wide open tight end Cameron Brate for the touchdown that put the Buccs up by eighteen points.

The Packers rallied as Tom Brady threw interceptions on three-straight drives for only the second time in his Hall of Fame career. They cut the lead to 28-23 and Tampa Bay got a field goal making the score 31-23 in the fourth quarter.

After three consecutive incompletions, the Packers elected to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown and possible tying two-point conversion. With just over two minutes left, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense would get the ball back with the score 31-26. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense would not see the football again as the Buccs and their highly experienced quarterback just ran out the clock.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing in their first super bowl since their 2002 championship season. They got there by winning a franchise record eight-straight road games, including three-straight away from home in the 2020 playoffs. Now, they will be returning home to Tampa to be the first team in 54 previous super bowls to host the big game. Pretty good for an organization that has had only one winning season in the last nine years.

For Tom Brady, he will be starting in his tenth super bowl. This is the first with Tampa Bay after reaching football's ultimate stage nine times with the New England Patriots. Say what you want and feel what you will about Tom Brady. His ten super bowl appearances demonstrate that he is one of the greatest of all times, if not the greatest. And, he's been a part of some great teams.

The team that will be meeting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl 55 will be the Kansas City Chiefs. That's because Patrick Mahomes and the defending super bowl champions handled the Buffalo Bills 38-24 to win the AFC championship. I had picked the Chiefs to end the Bills' amazing run in 2020, but I thought the game would be a little more competitive.

The Chiefs punted on their first possession. Then Buffalo's Tyler Bass made good on a 51-yard field goal and Bills quarterback Josh Allen found tight end Dawson Knox for a 6-yard touchdown pass. Kansas City was down 9-0 with just over six minutes left in the first quarter and it looked like my wish for a competitive AFC title game would come true. But then came the second quarter.

The Chiefs scored 21 points on three touchdowns in quarter No. 2. The first was a 3-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Mecole Hardman which made the score 9-7 Bills. Then two rushing TD's by running backs Darrel Williams and Clyde Edwards-Helaire made it a 21-9 score in favor of Kansas City. A 20-yard Tyler Bass field goal with eleven seconds left in the first half made it 21-12 at intermission.

The Chiefs would get a 45-yard Harrison Butker field goal with 10:48 to go in the third quarter, putting them up by twelve again. Then the all-pro tight end Travis Kelce scored two touchdowns, a 1-yard catch from Mahomes with 3:29 left in the third, and a 5-yarder with 7:36 to go in the fourth. Buffalo got another Tyler Bass field goal early in the third and then a 6-yard connection from Josh Allen to wideout Isaiah McKenzie with 4:08 to go in the game. But the Bills magical 2020 season would come to an end at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO.

Patrick Mahomes went 29-of-38 for 325 yards and three touchdowns. All-pro wide receiver Tyreke Hill caught the ball nine times for 172 yards, a franchise record for receiving yards in the playoffs. The statistics of these two outstanding athletes, along with the presence of guys like Kelce, Williams, and Edwards-Helaire, proved to be too much for the young Buffalo Bills on this mega stage. The Kansas City Chiefs will be heading to their second consecutive super bowl and looking to repeat as champions.

But, I don't know if they will be able to repeat. Wins are hard to come by in the NFL, especially in the playoffs and very few teams, excluding the Cowboys of the 1990's and the Patriots of the 2000's, have been able to win back-to-back super bowls. But it will be the high-flying KC offense against a Tampa Bay defense that seems as though it is poised to carry Tom Brady to his seventh super bowl victory.

Kansas City will also be missing some key starters on their offensive line. Guys like offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz will miss the big game due to injuries. Meanwhile on the other side, guys like Shaquil Barrett and all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be ready to go. But it should still be a great game and maybe a classic super bowl matchup. I just hate we have to wait two weeks for it.

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