Will the Super Bowl Be Decided by Penalties?

Super Bowl LV could be decided by penalties. And if that happens, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a distinct, unsurprising and perhaps unfortunate (for the Kansas City Chiefs) advantage.

Buccaneers’ opponents were charged with 24 pass interference penalties during the regular season, the highest total since Football Outsiders began tracking the statistic in 1985. The Buccaneers benefited from 395 yards on those infractions. If pass interference were a person, it would be the Buccaneers’ sixth most productive receiver, contributing more yardage to their passing game than tight end Cameron Brate.

Now, suggesting that Brady gets reputation-based “superstar calls” would be as sacrilegious as insinuating that Michael Jordan got away with traveling now and then or that Alex Rodriguez benefited from a narrower strike zone than the average slugger’s. Perish the thought.

A less sinister explanation of the Buccaneers’ pass interference record is that an experienced quarterback like Brady can spot defenders jostling his receivers and throw passes in their direction knowing he will get either a catch or a flag. In fact, the league-leading beneficiaries of pass interference penalties in recent seasons have indeed been wily (read: old) veterans — Philip Rivers in 2019 and 2017, Drew Brees in 2018.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



On Sunday, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the 55th Super Bowl.

Here are some interesting stats for the game from Sportradar, a leading data and technology company in sports

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Chiefs dwarf the Bucs in Super Bowl experience. Kansas City’s active roster has 33 players with a combined 34 appearances. Tampa Bay has six players with 17 total Super Bowl trips — nine of which came from Brady.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Bucs are trying to become just the fifth team to win the Super Bowl a year after finishing with a sub-.500 record (7-9). The previous four were the 2017 Eagles (above), the 2001 Patriots, the 1999 Rams and the 1981 49ers.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Chiefs hope to be the ninth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls — a feat last accomplished by Brady and the Patriots after the ’03 and ’04 seasons. This is the longest drought without repeat winners in the Super Bowl era.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Bucs are the fifth team seeded No. 5 or lower to reach the Super Bowl. The last three No. 5 seeds to reach the title game — a group that includes the 2010 Green Bay Packers (above) — have each posted upset victories.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Chiefs’ 38-24 victory over Buffalo in the A.F.C. championship game was their fourth straight playoff win in which they trailed by at least 9 points, matching the 2014-17 Patriots for the longest such postseason winning streak.

Super Bowl LV by the Numbers



The Bucs have scored at least 30 points in each of their last six games, including all three of their playoff games. They can become the first team in N.F.L. history with four 30-plus point games in a single postseason.

Check out more Super Bowl coverage: The teams, the ads, the recipes



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