If Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles could point to one game this season where he wishes he’d had done things differently, it would undoubtedly be the week 12 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Right out of the gate, the defensive gameplan for Tampa Bay was to get pressure on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The problem? The Kansas City pass protection held strong, leaving Mahomes to expose constant 1 on 1 mismatches, namely Carlton Davis on speedy wideout Tyreek Hill.
Hill torched Davis for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first quarter alone. As a result, the Buccaneers were left trying to close a 17 point deficit that ultimately proved insurmountable.
However, looking back at this loss (Tampa Bay’s last) can provide some hope for the Bucs. Adjustments were made to dial back on blitz packages and provide Davis with help over the top on Tyreek Hill. Hill was limited to just 66 yards after the first quarter. What began as a nightmare ended in a respectable 27-24 defeat to the eventual AFC Champions.
Bucs offense has come a long way since week 12
While it is easy to point fingers at Todd Bowles and the defense for the week 12 loss to Kansas City, there is another factor that must be considered. The Buccaneers entered this game having lost 2 of their last 3 games. This stretch of the season was, without question, the most challenging for Tampa Bay’s offense. They were still showing signs of a unit trying to figure out how to work together and build chemistry and consistency. Tom Brady was in a tough stretch of misfiring on deep passes. Much like the matchup with the New Orleans Saints a few weeks earlier, the Bucs struggled to get first downs early against Kansas City. That combined with Mahomes and Hill exposing the flaws in Tampa Bay’s game plan was a recipe for disaster.
Keys to a different outcome in the rematch
Now, ahead of Super Bowl LV on Sunday, expect things to look different this time around. Todd Bowles knows that playing man coverage on Tyreek Hill simply won’t get the job done. There is not a defensive back on the Buccaneers roster that can keep up with Hill’s speed alone. It will be necessary to put another man on him, even if it means limiting the blitz. With a Chiefs’ offensive line missing its 2 starting tackles, the Bucs’ best shot at slowing down the Kansas City offense could mean just rushing 4 guys. This creates the opportunity to double team Tyreek Hill and give adequate coverage to tight end Travis Kelce over the middle.
The Tampa Bay offense must do its part as well. Time of possession and field position will be crucial. Simply put, the Bucs need to sustain long drives and move the chains. This should be possible with a Chiefs defense ranked 21st against the run and 14th against the pass.
The task may be daunting and the football world may have crowned the Chiefs already. But the Buccaneers learned a hard lesson in week 12. Adjustments will be made and they will be ready for the big stage on Sunday evening.
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