This year’s Super Bowl matchup is brimming with storylines; the most notable has been the transition from the storied success of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady to the new, electrifying quarterback play of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
Sunday should give us an offensive spectacle. With Brady looking to longtime teammate tight end Rob Gronkowski and Buccaneers leading wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the six-time Super Bowl champion will be at home on the NFL’s biggest stage with solid targets. And then, there’s Mahomes, who averages 32 points as a starter and can dismantle opponents with an under-arm touchdown pass or a no-look throw across the field. The star power on Kansas City’s offense, including tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, make the team nearly unstoppable.
It’s going to take a strong defensive performance from whichever team hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy; it will be the game’s X-factor(s).
The Buccaneers have third-year defensive tackle Vita Vea back; Vea is a crucial player in the Buccaneers' top-tier run defense and, after missing all but five weeks of the regular season, returned for Tampa Bay’s NFC Championship Game victory. The big-bodied nose tackle will be at the front of a top defensive unit against a depleted Kansas City offensive line. This is Tampa Bay’s biggest opportunity to stifle the genius of head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. The Buccaneers will have to stay focused and cannot let Mahomes’ tricks and the offense’s pre-snap motion frazzle them.
“It's just going to take discipline,” inside linebacker Lavonte David said, via the team’s website. “Everybody just latching onto a man whenever we're in man-to-man or if we're in zone coverage just matching onto a guy, being able to take away his zones and his reads. At the end of the day, you've just got to get to him as quick as you can, as fast as you can, any way you can because he makes magic outside the pocket. That's definitely something that we have to look out for.”
The talk about Brady and Mahomes has been equally fascinating and exhausting; they are two of the best at their position and yet play very different styles of football. What Mahomes can do in and outside of the pocket, Brady can really only do inside of the pocket. Still, that’s where he’s most dangerous. As much as Kansas City will rely on do-it-all safety Tyrann Mathieu, who will always be an X-factor as long as he’s on the gridiron, its pass-rush will be the difference-maker here.
“For years, we’ve watched this man dominate games because he’s not pressured enough or he’s not forced off his spot,” defensive end Frank Clark said Wednesday during Media Day. “This is the best pocket passer of our era... When he’s allowed to stay in the pocket and be comfortable, he’s getting off about 65% completion percentage. When he’s forced to get out of the pocket a little bit — just a few yards — his completion percentage goes all the way down to 37 or 36%.”
Perhaps the biggest X-factors will be Tampa Bay’s and Kansas City’s defensive coordinators. Todd Bowles will have his toughest task yet in his two years with the Buccaneers while Steve Spagnuolo, also in his second season in Kansas City, faces an old foe in Brady. Both are extremely good at their job, and whoever adjusts better will be on the Super Bowl-winning team.
- Jun 28, 2022
- Jun 24, 2022