Updated: Feb 7, 2021
With the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set to face off in just a few days, so many storylines have emerged about Super Bowl LV. None of them seems to be bigger than Tom Brady taking his 6 Super Bowl rings to war versus the young Patrick Mahomes who seems set to dominate the next generation of the NFL. I need one thing to be clear before I continue: I am not trying to make this game about Brady vs Mahomes, I merely emphasizing the significance of this story in relation to Super Bowl LV. The torch is symbolically being passed from one generation to the next.
Tom Brady, as member of the New England Patriots, has gone on a historic run over the past two decades and has now taken his new team to the big game. He has played in 4 of the last 5 Super Bowls, as the twilight of his career has been all but a star fading. I’m not saying these have been his most brilliant seasons or best games, but he has outlasted all of his “peers” and is playing like he’s a decade younger than his 43-year-old body. Remarkable doesn’t even begin to describe the career in which he has gone 6-3 in the big game, as he gets ready to take on his 10th appearance in Super Bowl LV. What’s more, this one is without Bill Belichick, validating his individual greatness.
On the other side, Patrick Mahomes has already proved his brilliance in just the 4th year of his career. After spending his first season on the bench and learning from Alex Smith, Mahomes claimed the starting role in his second season as a pro. He rose to stardom overnight. In his first season as a starter, he won the NFL MVP and took his team to the AFC title game. If not for awful offsides by then-teammate Dee Ford, he would have played in his first Super Bowl. That did not discourage Mahomes, however, as he came back the very next season (last year) and won the Super Bowl versus the San Francisco 49ers. If he were to win again this year, Mahomes would become the youngest quarterback ever to win back to back, and the Chiefs dynasty would be in full effect.
Greatness collides as the past and the future square off in Super Bowl LV. Regardless of who wins, the torch shall be passed from one legend to the next.
Now that we have paid homage to these generational talents, let’s talk about the real game: Kansas City vs Tampa Bay. What will it take for them to win Super Bowl LV? Here are some of my thoughts below:
What the Buccaneers need in order to win Super Bowl LV:
Win the turnover battle
A large portion of the Buccaneers’ success this post-season has been a result of the timely big plays from their defense. The Packers game was blown wide open as a result of a Sean Murphy-Bunting and Devin White turnovers on opposite sides of halftime. The Saints game was literally won off of points after takeaway. as the Bucs D converted 4 turnovers into 21 points. Whether it was to establish large leads early or pull ahead late, Tampa has gained a huge advantage from the takeaway.
Late in the season, Mahomes showed some vulnerability to the interception, as he had a couple of multi-turnover games. Add that to the fact that Rodgers and the Packers turned the ball over 5 fewer times than the Chiefs in the regular season, and one can easily argue the Bucs D performing this feat.
White and Murphy-Bunting have been exceptionally stellar in the playoffs, as both have led the charge for Tampa Bay. Murphy-Bunting has intercepted a pass in each of the three playoff games. White has forced a fumble, recovered two others and intercepted a pass. Both will need to continue their strong play versus Kansas City.
With that said, the goal isn’t to just turn the Chiefs over, its to win the turnover battle. Brady has shown weakness a few times this post-season, especially versus the Packers, when he threw interceptions on three consecutive drives. In order to win the war, the Bucs OL is going to have to really protect Brady, and he has to not force passes into a Chiefs’ secondary that has performed well versus wide receivers.
Prevent the Chiefs from going on a scoring run
Over their past two trips through the playoffs, the Chiefs have gone on many scoring runs, that have either gotten them back into the game or helped them seize control of it. Just in their past matchup versus the Bills, they had two such runs. A 21-0 stretch helped them take the lead early, and a 14-0 run secured the lead late. The craziest of these streaks was when they put up 41 consecutive points to overcame a 24-0 deficit against the Texans in the divisional round last year. These stretches of in-game dominance have helped to define these Chiefs.
The Buccaneers need to prevent this from happening if they plan on winning the game. Though there is no exact formula on how to make that happen, I can think of three things that would help:
Control the clock and stop the momentum. Leonard Fournette has enjoyed a good post-season in the Bucs backfield. If he can grind out the clock after a Chiefs score and help Tampa secure first downs, it will go a long way towards keeping the Chiefs in check the next series.
Timely sacks. Time and time again, Shaq Barrett, JPP, Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Tampa Bay pass rush have come up with big sacks on 3rd down to force punts. If somehow the Buccaneer offense isn’t able to answer a Chiefs score than the defense needs one of these interruptions. And luckily for them, they produced a play like that versus Rodgers and the Packers just last week.
Score. Haha, very funny, scoring will obviously stop a run. If it’s so obvious, however, then why are so many teams not able to interrupt a Kansas City onslaught with a simple field goal? When the momentum gets going too many teams try to force the issue and keep up with the Chiefs, rather than just try to stop the bleeding with a kick. I wonder how many games might have ended differently if the opposing team just calmed down and went on a 50-yard field goal drive.
Hit the Big Play
I know a lot of people are going to tell you that the Buccaneers D is going to have to contain and hit Mahomes. Many more will tell you that they need to control the clock and keep the Chiefs offense off the field. While both of these recommendations are excellent, I just feel like they are too hard to accomplish for a full 60 minutes versus this Kansas City team. Tampa Bay is going to need to score points in order to win this game.
Now, I’m not saying they should enter a shootout versus KC, that would end disastrously, but I am saying that they cannot forsake their identity if they want to win. The Buccaneers throw downfield passes, they score on the big play. They did it versus the Packers, they did it versus the Saints, they did it versus Washington. They got to this game because they were able to stretch the field with the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, etc.
Yes, they can try to control the clock with the likes of Cameron Brate, Rob Gronkowski and Fournette, but in the end, they need to take a shot downfield when the moment ins appropriate.
If the Buccaneers are able to swarm on defense and answer the Chiefs with the big play on offense they can emerge victorious in Super Bowl LV.
Follow all of the Tampa Bay Buccaneer storylines heading into the game: https://www.buccaneers.com/
What the Chiefs need in order to win Super Bowl LV:
Play 60 minutes
I know this is going to sound awful, but I’m just going to say it: sometimes it doesn’t feel like the Chiefs are trying. I get how awful it is to say that. They are professional players and coaches who try hard every play. Andy Reid, Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, etc…they are a model franchise. I just can’t shake the feeling, however, that they just rely on their second gear too much. I watched Kansas City a lot the last three years, and the truth is that this year just wasn’t as exciting for me because they often seemed to play down to the level of the opposing team. Whether its falling down early to the Texans, 49ers or most recently the Bills, this trend needs to stop.
This style of play will not work versus Tampa Bay. They have a quarterback that is used to winning. They have an offense that can score from anywhere on the field. They have a defense that swarms the quarterback and forces the turnover of elite players. And they have a defensive leader in Devin White, who I feel is already among the elite in the game.
The good news for Kansas City is that they have shown urgency early in recent games. Against Cleveland, they started the game off with two touchdowns, and fortunately for them, they did. KC had no clue they would be playing without Mahomes in the 4th, and how different the offense would look without him. Maybe winning that game the way they did is enough to show them nothing is guaranteed.
Get pressure on Brady
If Tom Brady is allowed to pass the football in a clean pocket, the Bucs defense will do enough for them to keep this a game and potentially win. Kansas City wants no part of allowing Brady to keep the confidence that has won him 6 Super Bowl rings. They need to put him on his back and force him into mistakes.
Brady has been proven vulnerable when he gets roughed up this season. Just last week the Packers D got them back into the game because Za’Darius and Preston Smith hounded him in the second half. This version of Brady does turn the ball over when the pass rush starts getting to him. Add this to the fact that the Chiefs have players like Tyrann Mathieu and L’Jarius Sneed who take advantage of the chaos, and the time pressure could be enough to give KC the turnover advantage.
Fortunately for Kansas City, Chris Jones, Frank Clark and many others have shown that they could bring the pressure most of this season, versus both the pass and run. Just their past game, the Chiefs rush was able to bring down the incredibly mobile Josh Allen 4 times. They should be able to produce against a much less agile Brady.
Respect the Buccaneers defense
I know that Kansas City knows that Tampa Bay has a great defense and that they will take their opponent seriously in Super Bowl LV, but there are small things that I have seen from Mahomes that I don’t love against Tampa’s D. Mahomes often uses his legs to extend plays versus the opponent’s defense. This tactic often leads to great results because how to pinpoint his accuracy is in those moments and how great his receivers are at getting open. He has every reason to try to make something out of nothing.
Against Tampa, however, I don’t like this tactic. Their line is great in pursuit, with the likes of JPP and Barrett forcing fumbles off the edge. Their linebackers, White and Lavonte David are great at reading plays, filling in the gaps and aiding where needed. And their secondary is incredibly opportunistic with Murphy-Bunting, Antoine Winfield Jr and Whitehead. The Bucs D is just really good at collecting turnovers off of extended plays.
The good news is, Mahomes clearly watches a video and learns from his opponent. I believe he is respectful enough of this opponent to where he will throw the incomplete and save the play, rather than end up with a sack or interception. As long as he does that and “settles” for what the defense gives him he will be able to keep the Kansas City offense running like the well-oiled machine they are. Afterall, Tyreek Hill or another one of their speedsters will eventually get in behind the defense.
If the Chiefs give their full effort, are able to limit Brady and avoid mistakes that should triumph in Super Bowl LV.
Follow all of the Kansas City Chiefs storylines heading into the game: https://www.chiefs.com/
For more on Super Bowl LV and the Buccaneers and Chiefs paths to get there, check out these other great articles from World in Sport:
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