Super Bowl LV has the makings to be one of the best Super Bowl games in a while. We have the electric quarterback matchup of Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. However, the depth of these two squads is what makes this even more exciting. The playmakers on each offense, the do it all defenders and the aggressive minded coaching staffs will present a matchup that all NFL fans should enjoy. Especially after a season surrounded by COVID-19, football fans should not take this Chiefs and Buccaneers meeting for granted.
Yesterday, we focused on key matchups to watch for between the Kansas City offense and the Tampa Bay defense. We will flip the script today. Just like the defending Super Bowl champions, the Bucs have quite the arsenal of weapons themselves. Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin steal the headlines. But, don’t forget about players like Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, Leonard Fournette or even Tyler Johnson. Here are three key matchups to watch for in the Super Bowl between the Chiefs defense and the Buccaneers offense.
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Tyrann Mathieu vs Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski has not been quite the same tight end we consistently saw play in a New England Patriots uniform. He would simply go into Hulk mode and dominate opponents with ease. And his lack of production was probably to be expected. He did not play in the NFL at all the year before. Meanwhile, Gronkowski joined the team with very little time before the regular season. Not to mention in an offseason that was turned upside down, as far as workouts and the preseason goes.
Ironically, the tight end had one of his best games of the season against the Chiefs in Week Twelve. His seven targets were tied for his second highest of the 2020 regular season. Gronkowski’s six receptions were tied for his most in a single game during the year. Most of all, it was his only game with more than 100 receiving yards with 106. Tampa Bay was picking up chunk yardage every time Brady threw the ball his way. He finished the day with 17.67 yards per reception and 15.14 yards per target. Quite simply, Kansas City struggled with how they wanted to cover him.
Daniel Sorensen struggled on a couple of reps with the strength of Gronkowski. Tyrann Mathieu was a touch late to getting on the tight end’s body a couple of times before the pass hit his hands. One would imagine the Chiefs would alter their game plan against Gronk this time around.
The guy likely most well suited to get the job done is Mathieu. We could see some mixing and matching with Sorensen or Juan Thornhill getting some matchups against him as well. However, Mathieu is physical enough at the catch point to counteract the superhuman power of Gronkowski. There have been a fair share of passes that have led to tips off of the tight end’s hands as well. Mathieu’s instincts and nose for the football could possibly net a turnover. Look for the Chiefs to stay on top of Gronkowski’s routes more this time around, instead of letting him get a free release up field.
Chris Jones vs Buccaneers Interior Offensive Line
In yesterday’s key matchups article, we hit on the Chiefs interior offensive line’s tall task of battling Vita Vea. The same kind of impact game wrecker lies on the Kansas City defensive line. Chris Jones is coming off one of the top playoff performances of his young career. Double teams from the Buffalo Bills blockers stood no chance, as Jones was able to clog throwing lanes. His swift punches allows him to get under the opposing blockers and push them to the side with ease.
Furthermore, the Chiefs defensive tackle has been a force in past meetings with Brady. Everyone remembers when he got in the face of the quarterback in the last two games against him. He also brings pressure from a key area when playing someone like Brady. His ability to navigate in the pocket to evade pressure is well documented. For one, Brady has a knack of knowing when to take quick sidesteps to the right or left. Then, he is extremely dangerous if he can step up in the pocket.
That is where Jones comes in. Having him provide interior pressure and not allowing Brady to climb the pocket could lead to hurried throws. We have seen this lead to Tom’s interceptions throughout the season. Moreover, Jones has been one of the more notorious pass rushers for being able to bat passes down at the line of scrimmage.
Chiefs Front Seven vs Leonard Fournette
Last time the Chiefs and Buccaneers faced off, we largely saw Ronald Jones used as the primary running back. Since then, injuries and up and down production has limited Jones. This has opened the door for Leonard Fournette. A former fourth overall pick, Fournette has resurfaced from mediocrity to instant playmaker. A late summer release from the Jacksonville Jaguars opened the door for him to come to Tampa. A slow start mixed with drops and wasted run calls worsened his playing time. But then, the calendar switched to the playoffs.
Aptly nicknamed “Playoff Lenny”, the former LSU rusher has been one of the best running backs during this postseason. In three playoff games, Fournette’s 48 carries have combined to produce 211 rushing yards. That’s good for roughly a healthy dose of 4.4 yards per carry. Additionally, he has made opponents look silly. Fournette can make defenders miss tackles with his short area quickness or stiff arm them with power.
All things considered, the Chiefs defense has done fairly well against the run this postseason. Other than a handful of carries, they bottled up Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt against Cleveland. Then, Devin Singletary never really got going in the AFC title game. To a great extent, Kansas City has been doing this with a light box. Running their dime package nearly 75% of the time, they usually stick with one linebacker being on the field (Anthony Hitchens). He has done well to diagnose runs and fill gaps. Will the Chiefs be able to do that consistently when Fournette totes the rock?
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs Super Bowl articles to end the 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.