Super Bowl 55 might go down as one of the most important in NFL history. At least, it has been billed that way over the last two weeks, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the first true “home” Super Bowl against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, putting a bow on the 2020 season the league navigated under the circumstances and challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
USA TODAY Sports is here to bring you the latest updates and analysis from our reporters and columnists at the game and across the country.
With kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS, check out these stories ahead of the big game:
Buccaneers answer to jump out front
And here come the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay had gains of 16, 15 and 11 on the drive before the most prolific postseason tandem – Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who joined Brady in Tampa this offseason – connected on a play-action pass. It was Brady’s first first-quarter touchdown in his 10th Super Bowl, with 37 seconds to spare, as the Buccaneers took a 7-3 lead. The duo passed the legendary combination of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for most touchdowns between a quarterback-receiver pairing (13).
Chiefs take 3-0 lead
Aided by comfortable field position after the Buccaneers’ second punt of the game, the Chiefs strolled into Tampa Bay territory. Tampa Bay defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting saved a touchdown after his team jumped offside and Mahomes took a shot to the end zone on a free play from the 35-yard line.
Mahomes and Tyreek Hill nearly connected for what would have been an incredible touchdown play, but the ball fell through Hill’s hands. The first points of the game came on a Harrison Butker 49-yard field goal with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
End of the 1st quarter
Buccaneers 7, Chiefs 3: The Buccaneers carry a four-point lead into the second quarter and have the ball back.
Mahomes threw for 229 yards during the Chiefs’ win over the Bucs earlier this season. He had nine on Sunday.
Tiger Woods is at the Super Bowl
Tiger Woods made an appearance at Super Bowl 55, posing with NFL Hall of Famer and former Buccaneers great Derrick Brooks.
Two punts open game
Kickoff, officially, was at 6:39 p.m. ET. Hardly two minutes later, the Buccaneers had punted the ball back to the Chiefs and Mahomes, who was able to gain a first down with his legs before he and the Chiefs punted. The Chiefs missed on two downfield shots near midfield. Tampa Bay will take over at its own 20 after a touchback by punter Tommy Townsend, who kicked for only the second time this postseason.
KC Chiefs win Super Bowl 55 coin toss
It was heads! One of the most intriguing prop bets for the Super Bowl – heads or tails – swung plenty of dollars at the sportsbooks. The Chiefs deferred and the Buccaneers will receive the ball first.
Amanda Gorman preceded the coin toss with an emotional reading of an original poem she penned, honoring the frontline workers who went to work every day during the pandemic.
Before that, There was a “trifecta flyover” following the national anthem: one B-521, one B-1 and one B-2. Add those numbers up: 55.
Alicia Keys sings ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’
Both teams lined their respective end zones while a video of Alicia Keys performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem, played. The NFL began playing the song before each game in 2020.
Sarah Thomas: First female official in Super Bowl
Sarah Thomas is making history on Sunday. Never before has a female official worked a Super Bowl. Thomas became the league’s first full-time female official in 2015 and has four playoff games under her belt.
No notable inactives
The big names – like Chiefs RB Le’Veon Bell, Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins, Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr., Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate and Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown – are active. Here’s the full inactive list:
Chiefs: RB Darwin Thompson, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, DE Tim Ward, DT Khalen Saunders, QB Matt Moore, CB Chris Lammons
Buccaneers: QB Drew Stanton, QB Ryan Griffin, RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, WR Justin Watson, TE Antony Auclair, DL Jeremiah Ledbetter, DL Khalil Davis
Fans attend Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium
The smallest crowd in Super Bowl history will be on hand in Tampa due to pandemic restrictions. All fans will wear masks and of the approximately 25,000 in attendance, 7,500 will be vaccinated healthcare workers.
The numbers may be limited, but the prices sure aren’t — beers are going for $13-15.
KC Chiefs will be without Britt Reid
Britt Reid, the Chiefs’ outside linebackers coach and son of head coach Andy Reid, did not travel with the team after he was involved in a multi-vehicle accident Thursday night. Kansas City TV station 41 Action News reported that Reid told police two or three drinks.
Reid, 35, has been on the Chiefs staff since 2013.
Joe Biden wants to catch a pass from Patrick Mahomes
The 46th president has been preaching unity during his first weeks in office, and he struck a conciliatory tone when asked whether he’d go with Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes (Biden played wide receiver growing up).
“Obviously, Brady is a great quarterback,” Biden told CBS. “Mahomes seems like he’s got a lot of potential and so I’d probably take a shot with the young guy.”
When pressed if his pick of Mahomes reflected who he thought would win the game, the president demurred.
“I don’t know who’s going to win,” Biden said. “I think they’re both great quarterbacks.”