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Super Bowl LV Recap: Defense Can Still Win Championships

On a night where most people expected both offenses to be great, the Tampa Bay defense stepped up to the challenge. The Bucs learned many lessons after their 27-24 week 12 regular-season loss to the Chiefs. The biggest lesson, don't try to cover Tyreek man to man and if you do, give help over the top. They failed to keep Tyreek in check back in week 12, allowing him to go off for 269 yards and three TD's. The Tampa Bay defense had a hard time defending Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 462 yards back in week 12, but the Bucs defensive gameplan on the Super Bowl would yield a very different result.

The Todd Bowles MVP Gameplan

What the Bucs did differently in Super Bowl LV, they gave help over the top. According to Next Gen Stats, the Bucs defense played a two-high defense 87% of the night, their highest season rate by far with two high safeties. The Bucs also benefited from a great pass rush that kept Mahomes on the run all night. The defensive gameplan was a masterpiece keeping Mahomes on his heels, holding him to 5.5 yards per pass attempt nearly three yards below his season average. In the week 12 matchup, Mahomes threw 49 times, completing 37 of those attempts for 462 yards with a 124.7 QBR. Mahomes had 3 TD's and 0 INT's. Mahomes threw 49 passes in the Super Bowl, and the Bucs held him to 11 fewer completions and turned him over two times.

Patrick Mahomes Worst Performance Of Career

Todd Bowles's gameplan was a masterpiece that held Mahomes to his lowest career passer rating (52.3). There is now a verifiable blueprint on how to stop the Chiefs. It starts up front, get pressure with 4, play a two-high shell, and let your LB's read and react to the plays at the 2nd level. According to Next Gen Stats, the Bucs defense forced ten tight-window throws. Mahomes completed 1 out of 10 for 5 yards and 2 INT's. The Bucs defense allowed nothing easy for Patrick Mahomes.

Getting Pressure With Four

The Buccaneers defense pressured Patrick Mahomes a Super Bowl record 29 times. The Bucs would only send more than four on a pass rush two times. When defending the Chiefs, it was important for the Bucs to get pressure with four and use their LB's in pass coverage. Todd Bowles loves to blitz and bring extra defenders, but against arguably the most potent offense in the history of football, trusting your athletes upfront to get home is a must. Bowles broke his tendency to blitz and played a lot of cover two to protect against explosive plays. His brilliant game plan was simple in theory, and because of the simplicity of the scheme, it allowed his athletes on defense to do less thinking and play faster.

Locking Down The Cheetah And Travis Kelce

They contained Tyreek Hill holding him to 7 catches on ten targets for 73 yards. Travis Kelce was able to snag 10 for 133 but was contained as the field shrunk and kept out of the endzone. The Bucs' ability to get pressure with their front four and dropping seven into coverage allowed them to protect the back half of their defense and prevent explosive plays. The LB's on the 2nd level would do their job in coverage of Kelce.

The Buccaneers Offensive Plan

On the offensive side, Brady did what Tampa Bay brought him in to do. Brady completed 21-29 passes for 201 yards and 3 TDs. The key stat, zero INT's. The plan was simple, get the ball out quick, avoid tight windows, and use play-action.

Brady was amazing off of play-action, completing 10-13 throws for 135 yards and all three of his TD's. Brady's use of the quick pass game allowed him to avoid the Chief's pass rush. Brady's snap to throw time was 2.26 seconds, which is a big reason the Chiefs came away with only four total pressures. Brady threw two tight window throws on the night. The stat that sticks out is the difference between the play-action and no play-action yards per attempt. Brady averaged 10.0 yards per attempt off of play-action and 4.0 yards without play-action.

"Super Bowl" Lenny

It is hard to believe that the Bucs acquired Leonard Fournette off of waivers. The former top 5 NFL Draft pick earned his pay in the Super Bowl and a potential extension with the Bucs. Fournette had some punishing runs, including an explosive 27 yard TD run with 7:45 to go in the third QTR that put the Bucs up 28-9. Fournette said he received a text from Tom Brady the night before the game telling him what he needed to do as a runner. Brady called out what he had observed on film mentioning the Chiefs bad tackling on run plays.

“All week, he made us believe we were going to win. He was texting us at 11 p.m., ‘we will win this game,’” running back Leonard Fournette said of Brady after the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win Sunday night. “We believe in him. ... We just ran with it.” -Leonard Fournette

Brady Winning MVP Goes Much Deeper Than The Super Bowl Itself

Tom Brady's efficiency combined with his leadership changed a .500 franchise into a Super Bowl Champion in one season. What's insane about the Buc's remarkable one-year turnaround is that Brady believed they hadn't peaked before the Super Bowl. On Super Bowl Sunday, we heard the pregame conversations about Tom's leadership ability and what it meant to the Tampa Bay franchise. Tampa Bay had all the pieces but needed a QB, and they could have added a guy like Teddy Bridgewater or kept Jameis Winston, but they instead added the greatest QB of all time, handing him the keys to a Ferrari.

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