The Kansas City Chiefs' 31-9 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spiraled in the first half as a trove of penalty flags rained down.
K.C. was flagged eight times for 95 yards in the first two quarters of play, the most penalty yards against any team in the first half of a game this season, per NFL Research.
"You can't have that," coach Andy Reid said after the contest. You can't have penalties, not that many. I think we had 10 of them total. You're taking space away from yourself. Either defensively or offensively. It is uncharacteristic, and it's too bad it happened today."
The Chiefs finished with 11 penalties for 120 yards. The Bucs were called for four penalties totaling 39 yards.
The pivotal penalty filled sequence came after the Chiefs D stuffed the Bucs at the 1-yard-line early in the second quarter. After Patrick Mahomes and the offense stalled, a holding penalty on a punt required a re-boot. Tommy Townsend shanked the second kick just 29 yards. The sequence cost the Chiefs 42 yards.
On the ensuing drive, a Tyrann Mathieu interception was nullified by a holding call on Charvarius Ward.
"Penalties can change the game," defensive tackle Chris Jones said after the loss. "That interception could've changed the game."
The potential game-changing calls weren't done.
Three plays later, Mecole Hardman lined up offsides on a field goal attempt, keeping the Bucs drive alive. Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a TD as Tampa took a two-score lead on the next play.
On the final drive of the first half, the Chiefs were penalized twice for pass interference. The first was on Bashaud Breeland, a 34-yarder versus Mike Evans. Then Mathieu was penalized two plays later.
"Usually, you let the guys play," Jones said of the tight game called by the referee crew.
After the Bucs punched it in for a TD to take a 21-6 halftime lead, Mathieu was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct while jawing with Brady.
Some of the 11 penalties against the Chiefs could be considered ticky-tack, but Chiefs defenders did not place the 22-point loss on the refs.
"I'm not going to say penalties is why we lost," defensive end Frank Clark said, via McKenzie Nelson of 41 Action News K.C. "You can play the ref part if you want... it's a fair win man, Tampa Bay won."
Added Clark: "You understand who the refs are, you understand what's not going to get called. ... It's multiple things. It's execution, you have to make tackles."