When the Kansas City Chiefs take the field, their offense will be looking to outdo themselves from the first matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And they are coming off a mostly dominant showing in the AFC Championship Game. Whether it was on the ground or through the air, Kansas City made it look easy. Patrick Mahomes was no worse for wear following an awkward injury the week before. Both Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill continue to set new career highs for single game playoff appearances.
However, the Tampa Bay defense enters the Super Bowl playing as red hot as they have arguably been all season. And quite frankly, they may be one of the units built to actually handle Kansas City. Now if you go back to their meeting in November, that would sound somewhat laughable. But when you watch the tape, the Buccaneers are dangerous at all three levels of the defense.
How can the Chiefs offense counteract this difficult matchup? What should Andy Reid‘s unit expect? Let’s dive into some of the tendencies that Tampa Bay could show from all three levels.
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Teven Jenkins
- This Or That: Draft Wide Receiver Round 1 Or Later?
- 2021 Chiefs Draft Prospect: Kadarius Toney
- This Or That: Eric Fisher Or Mitchell Schwartz?
- Staying Or Going: Chiefs 2021 Pending Free Agents
Pressuring With Four
The Chiefs are likely to be down to four backup offensive linemen starting in the Super Bowl. On one hand, that is quite the accomplishment for Mahomes and Reid to handle that pressure fairly well this season. Most other teams with that same problem are longing for that same possibility at landing a franchise passer to hide some of that weakness. Nonetheless, this Bucs pass rush is creating a heavy dose of pressure fairly easily by rushing four.
In the NFC Championship Game, all five of the Buccaneers sacks on Aaron Rodgers came on four man rushes. With pressuring Green Bay with four, nearly a third of Rodgers’ drop backs were affected (10 of 32 snaps). The duo of Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett have completely controlled opposing blockers in the playoffs. For Pierre-Paul, he accumulated two sacks last game. He also has five quarterbacks hits and four tackles for loss in his last five games. Meanwhile, Barrett had three sacks last game. He registered nine quarterback hits and seven tackles for loss in his last six games.
Yet, the return of defensive tackle Vita Vea in the NFC title game seemed to spark that pass rush even further. His ability to affect the pocket from the interior was used in obvious passing downs quite often against Green Bay. And thus, the Packers were completely unprepared or incapable of being able to handle that extra factor.
What Could The Chiefs Expect?
And without bringing extra pressure, that may be the best course of action against Mahomes. He has been lethal against the blitz throughout his career. And Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles understood this in the first meeting against the Chiefs. They blitzed at the sixth highest rate in the NFL during the 2020 regular season (38%). But against Mahomes and KC, they only brought extra rushers on 17.6% of his drop backs. There is a difference between blitzing and landing pressure. The Buccaneers feel more comfortable with dropping seven into coverage. They have been able to get home. And with the Chiefs passer, that kind of game plan has often led to more mistakes or bad reads when they occur. Kansas City should expect to see a lot of the same style from Tampa Bay’s recent games and their first matchup.
Do It All Linebackers
Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David has long been one of the bigger unsung heroes on defense across the NFL. His prowess has seemed to come to light more so, after the draft selection of Devin White a couple of years ago. But, why? Because both players do a lot of the same things extremely well and at a high rate.
Simply looking at the numbers, both David and White have made their presence felt in more ways than one. Tackles are a tacky way to view players as. There is a particular category under tackles where both have been a force. Each player had the most or second most tackles for loss on the Buccaneers defense (White had 15, David had 12). That is pretty substantial, given the depth on the Tampa Bay defensive line. White also got to the quarterback often, registering nine sacks in 2020. To boot, each of White and David can cover as well as any linebackers in the league. They can sit and hang over the middle and read and react with astounding instincts. Or, they can run down the field with highly athletic playmakers. Finally, White and David have a tremendous nose for the football.
Can Chiefs Take Care Of Football?
Above anything, the Chiefs offense has to take care of the football. Being aware of ball security will be paramount against this linebacker duo. Them, along with the entire Bucs defensive unit, was frequently tomahawking, punching or ripping at the football against Green Bay. It was not as surprising to see the Packers eventually fumble when Aaron Jones took a big hit. During the regular season, Tampa Bay also had the fourth best turnover differential in the league (+8). Their 25 takeaways was good for 1.56 per game.
Both David and White can fly sideline to sideline, downhill or drop back. The Chiefs best plan of action is to keep the ball moving to the outside frequently. Do not allow the linebackers to become comfortable on plays in the open field. The Chiefs may also look to fool their eyes or feet with a strong dose of play action or RPO passing opportunities.
Ball Hawking Secondary
This secondary was flat out torched in their first meeting with the Chiefs. Carlton Davis does not want to revisit seeing Hill race past him countless times. Elsewhere, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. had one of his worst games of the year. One would argue though, that much of those struggles was on the Buccaneers coaches.
They left defensive backs out on an island too often. Playing press man coverage at the line of the scrimmage is routinely one of the easiest coverages for Mahomes to read. Looking back on the first game in Tampa, he passed for 462 yards, three touchdowns to no interceptions and set a single game career high in completions with 37. The Buccaneers secondary made it simple for him to dictate where he wanted to go with the football. Throws were open and separation was a plenty. Mahomes identified indicators in pre-snap calmly and the Chiefs were not forced to adjust.
The Buccaneers are likely to throw in more zone coverage looks in the Super Bowl. Rodgers and Drew Brees struggled to find open throwing lanes and held on to the ball too long in their playoff games. Moreover, they were able to create havoc at the catch point, which led to interceptions.
Will Chiefs See One On One Opportunities?
A big question, is will Tampa Bay attempt to double Kelce or Hill? Both are extremely difficult to double cover. For one, their routes are crisp. Add in the possibility of a missed tackle after the catch, and the Chiefs playmakers can make you pay in a flash. Whether we see double coverage or not, the rest of Kansas City’s weapons must be aware of the opportunistic style of the Buccaneers defensive backs. They are physical, have technically sound footwork and understand how to use their leverage. The Chiefs showed they were willing to settle for quicker and shorter throws against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. They proved going that route was just as comfortable for them. Will they be able to create more open looks that way in the Super Bowl?
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs Super Bowl articles this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.