Buccaneers defense rises to occasion again in Super Bowl win

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Devin White (45) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams, right, during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay’s defense finished its redemption tour with a Super Bowl championship.

Overwhelmed by Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill during a loss to Kansas City in Week 12 of the regular season, a young Buccaneers secondary flipped the script in Sunday night’s NFL championship game by shutting down the Chiefs’ electric duo in a 31-9 victory.

Rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr., and second-year linebacker Devin White had the team’s sixth and seventh interceptions of a postseason run that also included wins over future Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, and the Bucs limited Kansas City’s high-scoring offense to 350 yards and no touchdowns, quite the turnaround from a poor performance in what wound up being Tampa Bay’s final loss of the season.

Coach Bruce Arians credited defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ game plan, which mixed and tried to disguise coverages and force Mahomes to hold the ball long enough for Tampa Bay’s pass rushers to make the Chiefs' quarterback uncomfortable.

“I think he got a little tired hearing how unstoppable they were,” Arians said.

“He had a great plan to keep them in front of us and give the guys up front time to hunt,” Arians added. “They chased him around pretty good.”

Hill had 13 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the regular-season matchup, including seven catches for 203 yards and two TDs in the first quarter alone, when the speedy receiver took advantage of single coverage to help Kansas City build a 17-point lead.

Mahomes went 26 of 49 for 270 yards and was sacked three times Sunday night after throwing for 462 yards without an interception in the first meeting. The 2019 league MVP failed to throw for at least one TD for the first time in 31 games, including playoffs.