On Friday night, as Super Bowl weekend kicked off, huge crowds gathered in Tampa’s Ybor City nightlife district to party late into the night. The festivities were marred by reports of at least one shooting incident.
A limited crowd of 22,000 fans – including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers who got free tickets from the NFL – will be in the stands for Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Another 2,700 fans will be watching from suites at Raymond James Stadium, which has a capacity of 65,000.
But plenty more have traveled to Tampa from across the country just to be part of the action, including many from lockdown states seeking relief from months of harsh restrictions on social activity.
‘It’s an escape from what’s going on. The last three nights, I’ve met a lot of people from California and other lockdown states who came here just to party. They are not even here to watch the football game,’ Tampa strip club owner Warren Colazzo told the Daily Beast.
Across the country, health officials are warning of the danger of large gatherings in homes and bars to watch the Super Bowl – but it’s unlikely any gatherings will compare with the parties taking place in Florida, which has taken a more relaxed approach to business restrictions.
Tampa officials and the NFL say they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the city.
In an executive order last week, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor required the wearing of face coverings outdoors in certain event and entertainment zones, including the area surrounding Raymond James Stadium and nightlife districts such as Ybor City.
Masks were already required in indoor public spaces such as bars and nightclubs in Tampa, though photos from this weekend show that compliance with the rule has been somewhat lax.
At the game itself, the NFL will give all fans a KN95 mask, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and a COVID-19 safety card.
Anyone at the game will also be required to wear face coverings, stay in their assigned seats and keep six feet distance from others.
Sunday’s game will be the first Super Bowl ever to be hosted at the stadium of one of the teams playing, and Buccaneers fans are expected to heavily outnumber Chiefs fans.
Still, some loyal Chiefs fans have made the trek, and the team has its own bragging rights as the fourth reigning Super Bowl champion to appear in a consecutive championship in 20 years.
‘I know the Kansas City fans – they travel, they travel well,’ Anthony Barnes, a lifelong Chiefs fan who traveled to Tampa, told Reuters. ‘We´re known to go to a city and almost take it over.’
The Chiefs rolled into Tampa after yet another blockbuster season, thanks in large part to reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, who finished second in the league in passing yards en route to a 14-2 record.
The team is angling to become the first to win back-to-back titles since the 2003-04 New England Patriots, who were led by the current Bucs’ quarterback Tom Brady.
By Friday night, Brady’s new hometown advantage was clear, as a packed crowd – overwhelmingly dressed in Bucs jerseys and apparel – came to watch the Gasparilla Pirate Ship set off a dazzling fireworks display on the Tampa waterfront, kicking off the Super Bowl weekend.
‘We feel like it´s Tampa Bay 60 percent then 30 percent everyone else and maybe 10 percent us,’ said Alex Vanderveen, a 26-year-old real estate agent who adopted the Chiefs after moving to Kansas City four years ago. ‘So we find our Chiefs fans, we get excited.
‘We’ve got to just be a little bit louder than everyone else.’
Kickoff for Super Bowl LV is scheduled for 6.30pm ET on Sunday. The game will air on CBS, and oddsmakers favor the Chiefs to win by three points.
Brady vs Mahomes: Top quarterbacks with very different styles to face off in ‘one of the great matchups in sports history’
Sunday’s game will feature two very different styles from two of the game’s very best quarterbacks, in a matchup that has fans of the game in eager anticipation.
‘This is going to be one of the great matchups in sports history,’ said CBS Sports analyst and former NFL quarterback Tony Romo, who will help to call the game. ‘This matchup right here is what you talk about with your friends.’
Sure, the two quarterbacks will never actually face each other, only the opposing defense. But just as fans will be keen to see whether Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has a better game than Patriots counterpart Rob Gronkowski, or Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill produces more yards than Tampa Bay counterpart Mike Evans, the performances from Brady and Mahomes will be scrutinized long after one of them hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night.
In boxing, they say that styles make fights. That might apply to quarterback, too.
Brady’s style is a throwback to yesteryear, when quarterbacks snugged up under center for the snap, carefully dropped back in the pocket to survey the field, then went through their progressions before zipping a pass to the open man. And if nobody is there, he’s perfectly happy flinging the ball into the stands and getting ready for the next play.
The old-school approach makes sense. Brady is 43 years old, after all.
‘For a pass rusher to not have to deal with a guy who can escape the pocket or run away from you while you’re chasing, that’s the easy part of it,’ Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said. ‘But it’s actually a little harder for Brady because he gets the ball out so fast. In 2 seconds, he’ll be getting off the ball – just do one move and the ball will be released.’
It’s a style that has worked well during a career certain to land Brady in the Hall of Fame. He already has a record six Super Bowl rings, and he would join Peyton Manning as the only QBs to win a championship with multiple franchises.
The longtime Patriot also will have a chance to add to his Super Bowl career records for yards passing, touchdowns passing, completions and just about every other metric by which a quarterback’s success can be measured.
‘The biggest thing is his competitive drive,’ Mahomes said. ‘He’s the same way I am. He’s going to leave everything on the field every single time. He’s out there to win. He doesn’t care if he has to throw for 400 yards or 100 yards. I have that same mentality. I just want to win no matter how it happens.’
Brady and Mahomes may be similar in that respect, but the 24-year-old Chiefs quarterback takes a different approach to it.
To start with, he is far more likely to operate out of the shotgun than under center, slapping his hands once to set his skill-position guys into crazy shifts and motions and again to call for the snap. He’ll survey his options just like Brady, but when things break down, Mahomes will use his legs to buy time and his keen intellect to improvise on the fly.
He’s brilliant at keeping his eyes downfield and making late throws. He’s also dangerous when he tucks it and runs.
‘They’re the best when it comes to going off script,’ Buccaneers defensive backs coach Kevin Ross said. ‘The only comp I would have to Mahomes is probably John Elway. He could sprint to his left or his right and throw back across the field, 70 yards on a rope. Patrick has that ability. You can’t sleep on him.’
The metrics when plays break down perhaps best demonstrate the difference between the quarterbacks. Mahomes was fifth among all NFL players who took a snap this season with 40 scrambles, averaging more than seven yards each time he took off. Brady ranked 39th with four – yes, four – scrambles that net the Buccaneers exactly four yards.
‘Pat likes to get around, be mobilized, get out of the pocket and extend plays. That works for him,’ Tampa Bay safety Mike Edwards said. ‘He’s got a lot of playmakers on his side of the ball and they like to run deep and extend plays.
‘Tom is kind of different,’ Edwards said. ‘He likes to stay in the pocket, pick apart the defense, exploit the safety and things like that. They’re kind of two different styles, but they’re two great quarterbacks. Two of the best in the league.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Keith Griffith