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The Super Bowl has arrived, and we are going to get a potential matchup for the ages as Tom Brady, the current goat, and his Bucs will face off against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs and their QB, who is the goat in waiting.
Week 12 Matchup Review
The Chiefs topped the Bucs in week 12, 27-24, and the final score is not indicative of how the Chiefs were able to dominate the Bucs through the air. The Chiefs jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead, and Tyreek Hill had a monster game. Hill finished with 13 grabs, 269 yards, and 3 TD's. Mahomes threw for 462 yards and 3 TD's with zero picks. Tom Brady on the other side, threw for 342 yards and 3TD's but had 2 INT's.
Bucs Failed to Contain Tyreek
The Bucs tried to play man to man with Tyreek Hill in week 12; that was a big mistake, and Hill made them pay as Carlton Davis (a very good defensive back) was targeted in coverage of Tyreek Hill 12 times, giving up 240 yards, and all three Tyreek Hills TD's. Todd Bowles cannot go into game prep for the Super Bowl asking Carlton Davis or any other corner on the team to do what no man has successfully done, stop Tyreek man to man. You cannot expect any of your corners to be able to stop a man who reaches a 10.19 MPH speed in 1 second. According to Next Gen Stats, the average wideout reaches an average top speed of 8.76 mph within one second of a route. Tyreek Hill possesses an elite burst off of the line of scrimmage. Hill is arguably the best WR in the NFL at getting a free release, so expecting a DB to get hands-on him to slow him down consistently is a big task, and in the moments where you don't give the DB help over the top, it is like saying, "here have six points on us."
Patrick Mahomes, who was the primary beneficiary of Bowles’ generosity, certainly knew better. This is what he said right after the game:
“I don’t think it was necessarily a match-up. It was man coverage with no one over the top and so we don’t get that a lot especially with that guy and [Hill’s] ability, and whenever we do, we try to take advantage of it.”
Both Pass Offenses Are Equally Difficult to Defend For Different Reasons
Patrick Mahomes is complicated to defend. His combination of arm talent and athleticism makes it harder to blitz him too often. He can beat you with his athleticism by buying time before slinging it 50 yards with seemingly no effort. Opposite of Mahomes, we have Tampa Tom Brady, a tactician, a student of the game who sees it before it happens, taking advantage of defenses showing their hand pre-snap. Both QB's are excellent; they take care of the football and play smart, making me believe that the game will come down to which one of these two players can avoid the critical mistake in critical moments.
Bucs Pass Rush vs. The Chiefs Banged Up Offensive Line
I am not going to focus on the Chief's offensive line injuries. Still, it is important to note that LT Eric Fisher is out, and two other offensive linemen, RT Andrew Wylie, has an ankle, and LT Mike Remmers (Eric Fisher replacement) has a groin. Both have registered full practice participation at some point this week and are expected to go. We also should keep in mind that Patrick Mahomes has a toe that has been listed for a few games now but has not been a major factor.
Here are some notes I took earlier in the week.
Bucs combo of elite pass rush and athletic LB's make it tempting to be business as usual for Todd Bowles, but do not be fooled.
Bucs cannot get greedy, try to pressure with four.
Try to protect the back end of the defense. Devote a deep safety at all times bracket Tyreek Hill.
Force the Chiefs to go the distance, don't give up the big play (limit Explosive plays).
Limit the Chiefs Explosive Plays
Of note, in the last matchup, the Chiefs were successful at hitting the explosive plays. Mahomes hit 4 out of 7 attempts for 160 yards, and two TD's o throws of 20 plus air yards down the field.
Mahomes when the Bucs were able to get home (pressure)- 48% completion rate, 7.2 yards per att, and a TD.
No pressure, 88% completion rate, 10.6 yards per attempt, and two TD's.
When the Bucs sent 5 or more defenders (blitz), Mahomes completed 67.0%, averaged 12 yards per attempt.
The %'s- The Bucs got pressure on 31% of Chiefs' pass attempts and blitzed at an 18% rate.
The lesson learned here, do not send more than 4 rushers.
The Chiefs vs. Bucs Pass Defense In the Super Bowl, How Might It Look?
The Bucs offensive line has become one of the better lines in the NFL, even with a rookie starter at RT (Tristen Wirfs). Wirfs has been great for a rookie allowing only eight pressures and one sack on the season. The area and player to keep an eye on is RG Aaron Stinnie. He has played well since replacing Alex Cappa but has been shaky at times in pass protection. He has given up a sack and six pressures on 164 snaps since replacing Cappa (not terrible). I can see this being an area where the chiefs try to overwhelm Stinnie with some twists and stunts. Stinnie will also have to line up with Chris Jones either over or shading him at times throughout the game. The key will be the Chief's ability to apply pressure through the middle of the Bucs offensive line, collapsing Brady's pocket. Anytime you can move Brady or make him uncomfortable, it's a win, win.
Speaking of Pressuring Tom Brady, let's Take a Look At Brady's WK 12 Numbers vs. The Chiefs Pass Rush.
When under pressure, Brady's numbers are significantly different than when not under pressure. For most players that is the case, and Mahomes has the advantage in this area because of his mobility. Above, we discussed how Mahomes successfully threw against the blitz, hitting 67% of his throws at a 12 yards per att average. On the other hand, Tom Brady, under pressure in the week 12 Bucs vs. Chiefs matchup, completed 74% of his passes, averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, yet while facing pressure, Brady completed 40% and threw 2 Ints. Brady did average 9 yards per attempt while under pressure, but the drop in his efficiency vs. the Chiefs in week 12 was apparent. Tom's two interceptions happened with five or more rushers getting pressure on him.
Bucs, Like the Chiefs, Can Force Defenses Into The Personnel They Want.
Back in week 12 against the Chiefs, the Bucs found success in the run game when the Chiefs were in dime personnel. The advantage for the Bucs offense is that they have many weapons to work with and can force a defense into the personnel they prefer. We broke down how Tampa Bay exploited the Chiefs defense when they were in dime personnel. They essentially overpowered the CHiefs, who like to use smaller personnel groupings. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Chiefs run a dime package at the third-highest rate in the NFL, trailing the Packers and the Panthers.
I can see this game going a lot of different ways based on situational football. The plan in this game for both teams on defense will be to limit explosive plays and force each opposing offense to drive the field's length. I believe the game will come down to a single possession. So far, I like the Bucs regardless of the numbers telling me a different story, yet I am a little worried that the lack of playoff experience for key players on both sides of the football for Tampa might hurt them. The moment is big, and many of these Bucs players have not experienced the level of success Tom has been able to lead them to. But at the end of the day, Tampa is at home, the pressure of a packed stadium will not be a factor, the pregame hype and the week leading up is not as a big of a spotlight as it is in non-pandemic times. One way or the other, we have one game left in the season before seven months of no football and a lot of offseason analysis, so let's end this season on the best note possible with a hell of a game.
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