The 'GOAT' vs. the 'Kid' is how this Super Bowl LV matchup is being billed. Two great quarterbacks in their own right and for different reasons. Tom Brady is the most decorated and accomplished where Patrick Mahomes represents the bright, shiny future of the position.
But in football, these two aren't going head to head, actually. It's the Buccaneer defense that is going to have to deal with Mahomes directly. They have the task of shutting down one of the most versatile and explosive signal callers and in turn, shutting down a very potent and productive Kansas City offense.
The first time these two teams met in Week 12, the defense didn't get the fast start they wanted and the Bucs found themselves in a 17-0 hole heading into the second quarter. But by the second half, the Tampa Bay defense had figured some things out and held Mahomes to just 10 points as the offense attempted to mount a comeback. They'd fall three points short but it added to the familiarity between these two teams. And that's not nothing.
Now that they have this familiarity and with an extra week to prepare, this is what the Buccaneers are saying about going against Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense.
-Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles remembers scouting Mahomes as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2017.
"I remember him having a great arm," said Bowles. "Obviously, he had a great arm, he was a baseball player. I really like that because I was a baseball player. I knew he could throw the ball and knew he was going to be a good player. He was athletic at the time and that's what I remember about him."
Defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers, whose unit will be the first level to try and pressure or contain Mahomes, knows that not only is Mahomes himself a great talent, but he has weapons on his side, too.
"He's such a dynamic quarterback and he can make all the throws from different arm angles and he's a tremendous athlete so he can get out and run for first downs but he really moves around well to buy time for his receivers," said Rodgers. "You got Tyreek Hill, you have Sammy Watkins, you have [Travis] Kelce, you have all these guys running around and he buys time for them to get open. It breaks the integrity of the zone defense or the man coverage behind you if you let him move around and break contain so we're really working hard to see if we can keep him in the pocket. The problem is, everybody we watch, no one has kept him in the pocket so that poses a big task for us heading into Sunday's game."
Rodgers' defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is also one of those that will benefit, at least to some degree, from seeing this team before. Kansas City's offensive line has shuffled a bit due to injury but the Chiefs are still putting up numbers.
"It's good film for us to review and we understand they have a very high-powered offense and a lot of speed on the football field," Suh says of reviewing Week 12 game tape. "I think big plays is what hurt us the most throughout that game, especially downfield. Really allowing the quarterback to get out of the pocket and make big plays. He did that both in the run game and in the pass game. In short yardage gains, he was able to use his feet to get the first down which is unacceptable for us on the defensive side of the ball so we have a lot of things to take from that game and hone in on as well as watch previous film that they've played in their playoff games against 3-4 teams and understanding how they're potentially going to come out against us."
So what's it going to take to shut down this top-ranked offense that's averaging over 30 points a game?
"It's just going to take discipline," said inside linebacker Lavonte David. "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."
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