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Countdown to Kickoff: Chiefs-Buccaneers, Week 4 2022

In a post-Tyreek Hill era, a look at the Chiefs new-look offense centered around cornerstones Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce…Key stats, lineup notes and more 

C2K Week 4 Chiefs

The rematch of Super Bowl LV has arrived, garnering league-wide attention. Over 19 months after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy inside Raymond James Stadium – making history under a cloud of confetti – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, October 2 at 8:20 p.m. ET. Considered consensus conference contenders with well-rounded rosters, the Bucs and Chiefs will take center stage in the prime-time spotlight. This marquee matchup features two prolific passers: a mature legend in Tom Brady and a young generational talent in Patrick Mahomes. In 2020, Todd Bowles' masterful scheme and the defensive production was largely responsible for sealing the club's victory on the biggest stage. The unit harassed Mahomes and took away the deep pass, while taking advantage of two missing offensive tackles by attacking the edges. Once again in 2022, the Buccaneers' defense is a main attributing factor to the team's 2-1 record and top-spot in the NFC South. After a week of preparation, here is what it comes down to:

4 Stats That Matter

  • 112.1. Even without big-play threat Tyreek Hill (Miami), Mahomes has a 112.1 passer rating and an 8-1 touchdown-interception ratio through the first three games of the season. The Chiefs' high-powered offense is scoring 29.3 points per game on average, headlined by the best receiving tight end in the league, Travis Kelce.
  • 9.0, or the number of points per game that the Buccaneers defense is allowing – best in the NFL. Todd Bowles' unit also grades among league leaders in sacks, takeaways and third-down defense. The attack-styled, aggressive defense has started off slow against opponent's opening scripts, but the unit has been impenetrable throughout the remainder of games in the 2022 slate.
  • 125.1, or Mahomes' passer rating against the blitz since 2021, which ranks second among quarterbacks on 250 total attempts. When opposing teams send blitzes, Mahomes is able to evade pressure with his elusiveness, making sensational throws while scrambling. However, when the Bucs' utilized a four-man rush in Super Bowl LV, Mahomes had a 15.1 passer rating when under pressure – the second-lowest mark he has ever had in a game.
  • 2.40. Brady has been releasing the ball quicker in 2022, with an average throw time of 2.40 seconds (league-high). With a revamped offensive line and a depleted receiver corps, the Buccaneers have employed a short passing attack to try and mitigate the opposition's pass rush.

3 Lineup Notes

  • Mike Evans will be back after serving a one-game suspension, and the Bucs are inching closer to the return of Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. Both Godwin (hamstring) and Jones (knee) have missed the last two games after suffering respective injuries in the season opener against the Cowboys. The determination will not be made until hours before kickoff on Sunday, with Bowles indicating both will be game-time decisions. Godwin and Jones did participate in a limited fashion at some point during the week of preparation for Kansas City.
  • Donovan Smith, the Bucs' starting left tackle, has missed two consecutive games after suffering an elbow injury in Week One at Dallas. It is still uncertain whether Smith will return to action against Kansas City, but he did practice on a limited basis this week. Logan Hall had been limited by a groin injury on Wednesday at practice at the Miami Dolphins' training facility, but Hall upgraded to a full participant on Friday. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks will not play against the Chiefs and Hall will have another increased workload on Sunday vs. Kansas City in Hicks' absence.
  • For the Chiefs, defensive end Mike Danna (calf) was ruled out of Sunday's matchup. Three players were listed as questionable, including kicker Harrison Butker (left ankle), defensive end Joshua Kaindoh (illness) and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (abdomen). Butker and Kaindoh were non-participants during Friday's practice, while Valdes-Scantling upgraded to a limited participant. If Valdes-Scantling is on a snap count during the Week Four matchup or is ruled out on Sunday, Justin Watson and Skyy Moore would receive added snaps for Kansas City to try and ignite the passing game.

2 Challenges Presented by the Chiefs

Since the departure of Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have restructured their offense to try and replace his contributions downfield. In 2022, Kansas City has placed more of an emphasis on running the football to complement the play-action game. The Chiefs have utilized a mixture of inside zone, outside zone and power featuring Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith and Joe Thuney in the interior of the line, the Chiefs are effective with movement up front to pave running lanes. Arguably the best interior in the NFL – the trio is proficient in employing a frontside blocker and backside seal to open up the screen game, edge runs, or designed rollouts for Mahomes. With a heavy-dose of misdirection, the Chiefs' have succeeded in getting playmakers to the perimeter. Mahomes is still the magician and architect, dissecting defenses. He can throw a side-arm pass off-balance with pinpoint accuracy and often steps up into the pocket after evading pressure, flicks the wrist, and releases the ball downfield. With the escape artist at the helm, the Chiefs are among the league's hierarchy. The Bucs' defense will have to be disciplined in setting the edge, in taking pursuit angles and wrapping up tackles.

The Chiefs may have a new-look offense, but let's not forget about one phenom in particular: Travis Kelce. Accumulating six-straight 1,000-yard seasons (2016-2021), Kelce is on his way to being enshrined in Canton, Ohio. With a tactical approach on routes and the ability to consistently find soft spot in zones to exploit defenses, Kelce is highly touted as the best at the position in the modern era. He possesses the body control and ball skills of a receiver, breaking stigmas surrounding the tight end position. No. 87 is a player that defensive coordinators gameplan around. On out-breaking routes, slants and even go routes, Kelce runs them with the precision that a receiver sets up a slant to bait a defensive back. Given his lethal stutter step, whichever Bucs defender is tasked with coverage responsibilities on Kelce, hip fluidity is crucial. Kelce consistently finds separation and is the focal point for the Chiefs' offense. Tampa Bay's defense will need to know where he is lined up on every snap.

1 Key Thought from Todd Bowles

On how the Chiefs' offense is different than in years past:

"The running game has picked up. They've got big offensive linemen down there. They've got bigger receivers – as opposed to smaller, quicker receivers – that can catch the ball very well. They've still got [Travis] Kelce, they've still got [Clyde Edwards-Helaire], they've still got a lot of pieces and [Patrick] Mahomes has only gotten better since we played them. He was great then, he's great now, he's gotten better. He's seeing a lot of things; he's running the offense well and they're clicking on all cylinders as far as a unit. It doesn't have to be an individual person; the unit is playing well."

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