The ultimate single-day event in American sports lingers just days away, with the Kansas City Chiefs looking to repeat as Super Bowl Champions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite being the face of the NFL and reigning Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes faces the most decorated player in NFL history, Tom Brady. The Chiefs must lock down two specific aspects of the game to retain the title of Super Bowl Champions.
Make Tom Move
43-year-old Tom Brady reaped the benefits of a strong offensive line for most of his career. This not only explains the longevity of his career, but also makes him the league’s biggest threat when given a clean pocket. However, when teams collapse Brady’s protection, he is reduced to a more defensible level of play.
Tampa Bay lost five games in 2020, and in three of those contests, defenses sacked Brady three or more times. Brady’s worst game came against the New Orleans Saints in week 9. He threw three interceptions while the Saints sacked him three times. In that game, Brady posted his worst quarterback rating at 40.4, and the Buccaneers scored their lowest points of the season with just one meager field goal.
In another loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense applied enough pressure to force two Brady interceptions.
In the regular season, Brady threw two or more interceptions in four different matchups, and the Buccaneers lost all four games.
In the AFC Championship against the Buffalo Bills, the Chiefs defense forced Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen to run for his life for most of the contest. Frank Clark led the way with two sacks while Tanoh Kpassagnon and rookie L’Jarius Sneed recorded one each.
The Chiefs will need to continue this trend in Super Bowl LV to ensure Brady and the Buccaneers struggle to advance the football.
Put the ball in the hands of the playmakers
The worst kept secret in the league is that no matter what happens in the game, Patrick Mahomes will continue to throw the ball to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Kelce and Hill combine to make one of the most terrifying receiving duos in all of football.
Kelce kept up with the league’s receiving leaders all season and finished second in receiving yards with 1,416 yards. This season, Kelce set multiple records at his position, including most receiving yards in a single season by a tight end in NFL history.
Even though everyone in the world knows about Kelce, it still seems impossible still for defenses to guard him. As a tight end, he led the entire NFL in receiving plays of 20+ yards.
Kelce is an advantage to Mahomes, and one the offense must exploit. Once Kelce begins blowing up the middle of the field, opposing defenses must take notice, and that opens the outside for Tyreek Hill.
Hill finished eighth in receiving yards with 1,276 and tied for fifth most 20+ yard receiving plays with 20. He also tied for third most touchdowns from scrimmage with 17.
The best news for Hill is that the best game of his career happened only about two months ago against Tampa Bay. Hill reduced the Buccaneers’ secondary to dust on his way to a performance of 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
Head Coach Andy Reid finds ways to put his players in positions to succeed, even if they struggle early.
Against the Bills, Hill and young receiver Mecole Hardman struggled with their initial opportunities, but Reid refuses to shy away from guys he knows can make plays.
Hill dropped a deep third-down pass from Mahomes on the Chiefs’ first drive of the game, but Hill and the Chiefs shrugged it off and kept moving as Hill racked up nine catches for 172 yards.
Hardman faced a more devastating start to his night. The Chiefs’ defense forced Buffalo to punt on their second drive of the night, and while attempting to receive the punt, Hardman fumbled the ball which set up a Bills’ touchdown just moments later, making the score 9-0 in the first quarter.
A common practice for coaches around the league would be to remove the at-fault player from the game’s scheme to limit further damage, but Reid chose otherwise.
On the ensuing Chiefs possession, Mahomes threw a dart to Hardman on a wide receiver screen for a 4-yard touchdown, and the drive after that saw Hardman hold a track meet with a 50-yard dash down the field.
Reid, Mahomes and the offense know exactly how to put the ball in the hands of the right player at the right time, and if they hold true to that strategy, the Buccaneers could be in trouble.