Past vs Present. GOAT vs eventual GOAT. Legacies on the line. Super Bowl LV has the makings to be remembered as one for the ages.
There’s no question that the spotlight falls on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense against Tampa Bay’s defense. Despite 3 turnovers late in the game against Green Bay, the Bucs defense was up to the task and held the Packers to just 7 pts off those turnovers. Tampa’s defensive line led the charge in critical moments, continually getting after Aaron Rodgers, forcing him to have to move off his spot, limiting the amount of time he had to operate from within the pocket. What truly held Green Bay back in that game was their inability to capitalize in the red zone, and consistently beat TB’s pass rush by getting the ball out and taking what the defense was giving them.
It will be key for Kansas City to refrain from making these mistakes and play to their strengths. Tampa Bay’s biggest advantage in this game is their defensive line against KC’s offensive line. Especially with Kansas City’s left-tackle Eric Fisher out for the game, TB will be looking to capitalize on it by getting pressure off the edge keeping Mahomes in the pocket. Moreover, The Bucs defense has shown the ability to consistently stop the run and win on the interior. With that being said, KC’s advantage is without a doubt the speed they have with guys like Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. Pairing the speed with Travis Kelce’s prowess in route running and his intuitive connection with Mahomes, needless to say, KC can create numerous matchup nightmares for TB. There’s no need to look any further than the week 12 matchup between these two teams: The following play is a perfect example of what KC can do to a defense if they come out in single high thinking their corners can hold up 1 on 1 on the outside. TB took this approach in the 1st quarter and learned this lesson the hard way, giving up 7 catches for 203 yards and 2 TDs to Tyreek Hill all in just the first 15 minutes of the game.
Given this, it’s pretty clear that the only way the Bucs can have any kind of success on defense is by giving their DBs help with 2 deep safeties at all times and getting to the quarterback with their front 4, not giving Mahomes time to make magic happen down the field. On the bright side for TB, they understood this and going back to watch the film from that week 12 game it was clear that they made adjustments and realized that they needed help on the back end in order to defend KC. It’s not conservative football, it’s smart football and quite honestly making KC go 15 plays, 75 yards down the field is your best shot at getting off the field. It’s going to be frustrating for DC Todd Bowles as Andy Reid is going to have answers and they are more than capable of orchestrating long drives down the field, but Bowles and this defense are going to have to be patient and force KC into being aggressive and making mistakes.
Now looking at the flip side, although the matchup between the Bucs offense and Kansas City’s defense might not be getting a lot of attention it might ultimately decide the outcome of this game. The Raiders are the only team that’s beaten Kansas City all year and their offense had to put up 40 points to do so. With this in mind, Tampa Bay is going to have to score at least 30 at the bare minimum to win. So the question is how do they get there?
Kansas City and DC Steve Spagnulo are notorious for their exotic blitzes and chaotic defensive rotations making it incredibly complicated for opposing quarterbacks to diagnose and find answers against their coverages. But it’s very possible that their aggressive nature could backfire in this game. It’s in their best interest to find a balance between the blitz and playing coverage but knowing KC there’s going to be several moments in this game where they double down and come after Brady and these are going to be the plays that really decide this game.
As for the Bucs offense, they are going to have to make an effort to run the ball in this game as their ground game has actually been a silent strength despite the embarrassment of riches they have in the passing attack. TB’s best way to defend Patrick Mahomes is to keep him off the field and win the time of possession battle. But make no mistake, the Chiefs defense is more than capable of shutting down this Buccaneer rushing attack with Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi on the interior defensive line. The Bucs are going to have to be efficient in the passing game.
The key word is efficient, NOT explosive. TB has shown that they have the ability to make the big plays that hasn’t been the problem. What they lack is efficiency. All season they haven’t been able to consistently move the ball down the field and have been plagued by pass-pro issues, miscommunication, not having high percentage outlets open in the passing game and even just drops by their receivers or missed throws by Brady. These issues manifested into a plethora of 3 and outs inhibiting the offense from getting into any kind of rhythm. Although Tampa might hold Arians’ “No Risk It, No Biscuit” philosophy near and dear to their hearts it has led to a fair share of problems. Despite Brady’s success this season, at times he has made uncharacteristic mistakes that simply don’t meet the standard he has set throughout his career.
This is a play from the NFC Championship, it’s 2nd and 10 with 8:00 left in the 3rd quarter. The Bucs are up 28-17 and have an opportunity to put more points on the board here. There is simply no reason at all to force the ball down the field. By doing so, Brady gave Green Bay a chance to get back in the game and they took advantage, scoring on their ensuing possession making it a 5 point game.
The more concerning thing for TB is that this wasn’t just a one off, they have been hit or miss all season attacking down the field. This is something that could really wreck the game for them if it rears its ugly head. On that play in particular, Brady left the ball inside and that allowed the safety to make a play on it. But even considering the fact that Brady doesn’t miss that throw 9 out of 10 times its still a low percentage pass and even a perfect ball likely would have been incomplete setting up 3rd and long. These are the kinds of situations Tampa really needs to avoid and stay ahead of the chains.
In short, Tampa needs to play for first downs not touchdowns. The big plays will come naturally. When KC gets aggressive and brings the blitz TB can take advantage and take shots down the field, but forcing the deep ball isn’t going to bring them consistent success. If they can make the quick game their bread and butter and get the running game going along with incorporating elements of the play action that will really allow them to play the game on their terms and give them a real shot at winning.
In the end, regardless of what Tampa Bay can do offensively it’s hard to pick against Kansas City in this game. Tampa’s defense may be able to slow KC down as they were able to after that first quarter in week 12, holding the Chiefs to just 10 points for the rest of the game. But even then, no lead is safe for Tampa Bay, if at all they have one. On the other hand the Chiefs defense has proven time and time again that they can make the big plays that have to be made and even with Brady at the helm, the Bucs offense has shown many concerns on tape and it’s likely that they are bound to make mistakes. No team is better equipped to take advantage of those mistakes than Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes.