Bettors experienced delays placing prop bets before kickoff.

Benjamin Hoffman headshot

Benjamin Hoffman Reporting from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Tampa Bay is now two points short of being the first N.F.L. team to score 30 or more points in four playoff games in a single season.

Feb. 7, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 9:01 p.m. ET

Well that was fast. The Bucs answer the field goal by going 74 yards in six plays — one of them a devastatingly easy Brady-to-Gronkowski completion right down the middle — and Leonard Fournette finishes it off with a 27-yard touchdown jaunt around right end.

Touchdown.

Just. Like. That.

7:45 | 3rd Quarter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers pile on with a rushing TD, lead 28-9.

The 27-yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette officially has the Chiefs on their heels.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:57 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:57 p.m. ET

The Weeknd began his halftime show in the stands, before taking the field with rows of dancers whose faces were hidden by bandages.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

When the Weeknd put out his first mixtape “House of Balloons” in 2011, his identity was largely shrouded in mystery. On Sunday, he took one of the biggest stages in pop, the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

The Weeknd, the 30-year-old Toronto singer and songwriter Abel Tesfaye, began his set in the stands, emerging in front of rows of lights to perform “Starboy” and “The Hills” with a choir, then he relocated into a hallway of lights and mirrors for “I Can’t Feel My Face” as dancers with bandaged faces swarmed him. With fireworks lighting up the sky, he returned to the open air for “I Feel It Coming,” a large moon rising over the cityscape projected behind him.

While a musician in a glittery mask strummed a guitar, the Weeknd turned toward the more optimistic “Save Your Tears” and “Earned It,” accompanied by strings and ending on a long, triumphant note. An army of performers outfitted like the Weeknd dance-marched down the field and the singer energetically sprinted beside them to herald his grand finale: his recent hit “Blinding Lights,” an ecstatic, driving disco-pop song.

The Weeknd has released four albums since 2013, including his breakthrough, “Beauty Behind the Madness” in 2015. While promoting his latest LP, “After Hours,” he has dressed in a black shirt and red jacket and sported an increasingly banged-up and bandaged face while spinning a narrative in appearances at the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards, as well as late-night shows and in music videos. (He has said the character he’s portraying “is having a really bad night,” and in music videos the plot involves possibly being overtaken by an evil spirit and committing murder.)

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The Weeknd’s halftime show faced a unique set of challenges because of the pandemic. About 1,050 people worked on the show, a much smaller group than most years, and preparations included frequent virus testing and social distancing in production trailers. This is the second Super Bowl halftime show produced in part by Jay-Z and Roc Nation: Last year, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira performed sets heavy on dancing and Latin pride for fans jammed elbow to elbow on the field — a scenario that was impossible in 2021.

Tiffany Hsu headshot

Tiffany Hsu

After a year that has bent us all out of shape, commercials are full of contorted celebrities. Doritos flattened Matthew McConaughey, Tide turned Jason Alexander into a face on a dirty hoodie, and Samuel L. Jackson became a virtual video game character for Verizon.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:54 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:54 p.m. ET

Just as fast as the offense raced upfield, the Chiefs’ drive stalls out. Butker, though, is there again: He kicks a 52-yard field goal, his third of the game. Is 3 points enough to get the Chiefs’ swagger back? It may depend on whether their defense can get a stop or two here.

11:26 | 3rd Quarter

Kansas City Chiefs

A 52-yard field goal narrows the Chiefs’ gap to 21-9.

Kansas City started the drive with a 26-yard run, but stalled out yet again.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:49 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:49 p.m. ET

Kansas City receives the second-half kickoff and goes to work from its 19.

Are they ready? Their first three plays are a 26-yard run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, an 8-yard Mahomes-to-Kelce connection and a 10-yard run by Edwards-Helaire.

Just like that, they’re in Tampa Bay territory.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:39 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:39 p.m. ET

Kevin Draper and

The Weeknd performing in the halftime show.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

As always, the halftime view looked different depending on your seat:

Kevin Draper, watching on TV: The Weeknd promised a different take on the halftime performance, and he delivered. With enforced social distancing and complicated logistics, he performed from the stands, not in the headliner’s normal spot on the field, on a stage that was not surrounded by hundreds of dancing fans the way it usually is.

He opened with “Starboy” on a stage in front of a neon mock city skyline set, accompanied by dozens in a choir, before the set parted and he entered a brightly lit gold hallway surrounded by masked look-alikes. He performed the entirety of “Starboy” before making his way onto the field to sing his mega-hit “Blinding Lights,” accompanied once again by the hundreds of masked look-alikes — all of them wearing sparkly red jackets and black pants and carefully socially distanced for much of the song — as a barrage of fireworks went off.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Ben Hoffman, inside Raymond James Stadium: The most striking thing about the performance inside the stadium was how few moving pieces there were. A typical halftime show involves the entire field’s being taken over by stages and fans. The Weeknd simply walked out onto a prebuilt stage in the end zone (only feet away from the stadium’s iconic pirate ship) and began singing. With the performance so confined — and with so much of the crowd on the opposite side of the stadium — most of it didn’t feel much different than if it had been played on a video screen. The crowd swayed around a little, but nothing like in past years where fans of the main performers were brought out specifically for the show. The upside, of course, is the relative lack of cleanup. Even with some dancers — dressed up like the Weeknd’s heavily-bandaged character — taking the field toward the end of the show, the field stayed pristine and was ready to go almost as soon as the performance ended.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:31 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:31 p.m. ET

Of all the things that contributed to the Chiefs’ first-half woes, skyscraper-high on the list is their self-inflicted mistakes. They committed eight penalties for 95 yards — to the Bucs’ one flag, for 5 yards — and many of them led directly to Tampa Bay points.

On the Bucs’ second scoring drive, a holding penalty nullified Tyrann Mathieu’s interception, and then an offside call on Ryan Succop’s field-goal attempt gave them a first down. On the very next play, Brady found Gronkowski for a 17-yard touchdown.

Then, just before Brady connected with Antonio Brown to push Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-6, Kansas City was flagged twice for pass interference — including a 34-yarder on Bashaud Breeland.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:20 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:20 p.m. ET

Coming up next — once those pesky football players exit the field, that is — is the Grammy-winning singer the Weeknd, this year’s halftime performer.

But his halftime performance won’t look like what you’re used to in the Super Bowl. It will take place in the stands, instead of on the field, and he will not be surrounded by hundreds of screaming fans.

The Weeknd’s 12-minute performance will probably feature some of his hits, like “Blinding Lights” and “Can’t Feel My Face,” and perhaps a surprise: He says he spent $7 million of his own money to enhance the performance in unspecified ways.

Halftime

Tampa Bay heads into the locker room with a lead.

The Buccaneers’ efficiency and Patrick Mahomes’s struggles defined the half.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

Patrick Mahomes has just 67 yards passing. The Chiefs defense has given up 73 yards on penalties alone.

Benjamin Hoffman headshot

Benjamin Hoffman Reporting from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Tampa Bay getting an extra score before halftime was eerily reminiscent of the N.F.C. championship game against Green Bay, when an interception set up a scoring drive for the Bucs in the final 30 seconds of the first half.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:13 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:13 p.m. ET

Leaving Brady a minute was, in hindsight, a big mistake.

But the Chiefs made a few of their own, too: They called timeout before a third-down play to try to force a punt but didn’t make a stop on the ensuing play, then got whistled for a 34-yard pass-interference penalty. A Leonard Fournette run and another penalty put the ball on the 1-yard line with 10 seconds left.

And from there, Brady dropped back and rocketed a pass to Brown. Touchdown. It’s 21-6 now, and that Chiefs momentum they just had is gone.

0:06 | 2nd Quarter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Brown’s 1-yard touchdown extends lead to 21-6.

A costly pass interference call took care of much of the yardage on the scoring drive.

Ken Belson headshot

Ken Belson

The penalty gap keeps growing: Kansas City with seven, Tampa Bay with one.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

Huge flag on a Tom Brady deep ball to Mike Evans, who was tackled by Bashaud Breeland before he could get to the ball. It’s a 34-yard pass interference penalty, and Tampa Bay has a chance to score before the half.

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:03 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 8:03 p.m. ET

Two field goals by Harrison Butker, of 49 and 34 yards, account for all of Kansas City’s scoring.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Those three plays out of the two-minute warning will disappoint Mahomes, Andy Reid and Chiefs fans everywhere. But they salvage something with a 34-yard field goal by Butker, his second of the game.

Of course, they’ve also left Brady a minute to do more damage.

1:01 | 2nd Quarter

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs settle for a field goal and trail, 14-6.

Intense pressure forced Patrick Mahomes to throw the ball away on a critical third down.

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:59 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:59 p.m. ET

Mahomes trots to the sideline for the two-minute warning and it’s a big moment. He has guided the Chiefs from their 25 to the Tampa Bay 18, but Kansas City badly wants a score here to carry some momentum into halftime.

Remember, they deferred after winning the coin toss, so they’ll get the ball back first in the third quarter.

Tiffany Hsu headshot

Tiffany Hsu

Ad whiplash from Rocket Mortgage (so many maskless people coming out of a movie theater!) to the oat drink company Oatly (chief executive Toni Petersson singing alone at a keyboard in the middle of a field).

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:48 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:48 p.m. ET

Rob Gronkowski celebrates touchdown No. 2.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Moments after a Ryan Succop field goal was taken off the board when a Chiefs penalty gave the Bucs a first down, Brady steps back and finds Gronkowski again. It’s 14-3 as we close in on halftime.

The Chiefs may be the defending Super Bowl champions but in the first half, in multiple ways, they have played like a fidgety team cowed by the weight of a Super Bowl appearance. The Buccaneers do not score their second touchdown without three Chiefs blunders. It began with a 29-yard punt by Kansas City’s rookie punter Tommy Townsend, who earlier had a 27-yard punt.

Townsend’s kick gave Tampa Bay possession at the Kansas City 38. The drive was extended twice by Chiefs errors: First, an interception of a deflected Brady pass was nullified by a defensive holding penalty, and then Kansas City lined up offside on the Succop field-goal attempt. That mistake gave the Buccaneers a first down and on the next play, Brady connected with Gronkowski for his second touchdown reception.

6:05 | 2nd Quarter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay leads 14-3 after another Gronkowski TD.

A penalty took a field goal off the board, and the Buccaneers scored a touchdown instead.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

The Chiefs are repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. They force a fourth-down field goal, but a player lined up in the neutral zone, giving the Bucs a first down deep in Kansas City territory.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

A Tyrann Mathieu interception is wiped out by a holding penalty against the Chiefs.

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ET

Tom Brady has excelled at the quarterback sneak throughout his career, but the Buccaneers handed the ball to Ronald Jones II on fourth-and-goal.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Tom Brady’s age may have finally been a factor as the Buccaneers opted to hand the ball off to Jones on fourth down at the goal line. Throughout his career, Brady has been arguably the best ever at the quarterback sneak. No one could burrow underneath, or over, or through a pile of huge linemen and come out unscathed like Brady. But over the last few years, the Patriots ran that kind of short-yardage play less frequently, perhaps as a way to preserve Brady’s health, and today the Buccaneers decided against it, too.

Benjamin Hoffman headshot

Benjamin Hoffman Reporting from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

The crowd has enough people that it can get fairly loud for big plays. But when play stops for commercials, it gets unusually quiet in the stadium.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

The Chiefs can’t even get punting right. Their first booming punt was called back because of a holding penalty, and then Tommy Townsend shanked the second off his foot. The Bucs will start at the Chiefs’ 38-yard-line.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

On third and long Mahomes is forced to scramble, but manages to find his favorite target, Travis Kelce. Kelce drops the ball, however, which is a pretty good summary of the Chiefs’ offense tonight.

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:31 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:31 p.m. ET

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

After narrowly missing on the Super Bowl dream — a lineman touchdown reception — the Bucs ram running back Ronald Jones II at the Chiefs on two straight runs at the goal line.

Kansas City stuffs the first and then, stunning the Tampa crowd, does the same on the next play. This could be a big early momentum shift.

The Bucs challenged the call, but the line was so jammed there wasn’t really a view to review, or reason to overturn the call on the field.

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ET

Tom Brady and the Bucs shifted strategy on their scoring drive, looking short and moving the ball.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A quick three-and-out series for Kansas City gave the ball back to Brady, and he picks up right where he left off on the touchdown drive.

The Bucs are on the front foot now, and the Chiefs are backing up. Brady, perhaps sensing that, goes for a big play — and finds Mike Evans on a deep route across the middle. The 33-yard gain sets up first and goal.

Kevin Draper headshot

Kevin Draper

The Chiefs still can’t get anything rolling, and are forced to punt. It’s not a great one, just 27 yards.

Benjamin Hoffman headshot

Benjamin Hoffman Reporting from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Officially fans are not allowed to roam around the stadium, but in practice there is plenty of movement in sections, at the very least. Some fans have moved into other rows to celebrate with others.

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:16 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 7:16 p.m. ET

Patrick Mahomes started the game 1 of 6 for 3 yards passing.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Patrick Mahomes completed only one of his first six passes, which isn’t surprising when you consider that he’s been throwing on the run from the start of the game. In fact, he’s been doing almost everything on the run.

Mahomes’s one completion was for three yards. But he has rushed three times for 24 yards. It all adds to a quarterback who is not being well protected. Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has thrown a variety of blitz looks at the Chiefs, including sending both cornerbacks on a third-and-8. Mahomes, as he often does, avoided the pressure but had to throw while sprinting, which led to another incompletion — a dart intended for Tyreek Hill that nailed Hill in the helmet. The pass, from the Tampa Bay 31-yard line was the Chiefs’ best shot at the end zone. The drive ended with a Kansas City Field goal.

Feb. 7, 2021, 6:59 p.m. ET

Feb. 7, 2021, 6:59 p.m. ET

Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan’s national anthem performance exceeded the time bookmakers set for the over/under. The Super Bowl anthem performance is one of the most popular prop bets.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The first ever national anthem duet at the Super Bowl lasted approximately 2 minutes 22 seconds, well over the amount of time casinos had set for the over/under for it.

The length of the song’s performance is one of the most popular prop bets for any Super Bowl, as is the winner of the coin toss (the Chiefs won). Fans described delays placing their bets ahead of kickoff, with two of the biggest online sports betting sites, DraftKings and FanDuel, experiencing tech problems.

The anthem performance was the subject of some scandal this weekend. On Friday, a reporter stationed across the street from the stadium — near the Yankees’ spring training site — recorded a rehearsal of the tune, sung by Jazmine Sullivan and Eric Church. After word of the recording got out, betting sites that had been taking action on the length of the performance stopped. That version was taped at 2:16, so the live version was even more plodding and slow. But it sounded nice.

Latest posts