A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Chiefs.
On Sunday, the 4-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. It will be the 12th meeting between the two teams in the regular season and a chance for the Buccaneers to extend their 2016 road record to 4-1 (more on that series history). Tampa Bay is also trying to keep alive a four-game winning streak in the head-to-head battle with the Chiefs.
To get back to .500 on the season, the Buccaneers will need to keep from padding the Chiefs' league-leading total of 22 takeaways. Tampa Bay's defense will need to keep an eye on emerging rookie WR Tyreek Hill, who is also a threat on special teams. Here's a closer look at the challenges the Buccaneers will face on Sunday when they visit the Chiefs, who have won their last 10 games at Arrowhead.
Andy Reid has been walking NFL sidelines as a head coach for the last 18 years, since the Philadelphia Eagles tabbed the former Green Bay quarterbacks coach as their new leader in 1999. In that time, he has compiled an outstanding .600 regular-season winning percentage (168-112-1) as well as an 11-11 mark in the playoffs. His 168 victories are second among active head coaches to New England's Bill Belichick, and Reid also joins Belichick as one of only seven coaches who have beaten all 32 teams in the NFL.
Reid's teams in Philly made the playoffs nine times in 14 years, reaching four straight conference championship games and one Super Bowl. So when the Eagles moved on from Reid after the 2012 season, the Chiefs immediately pounced and have reaped the benefits for the past four seasons. Reid inherited a team that had finished 2014 in 2012 and led them back to the playoffs with an 11-5 mark in 2013, the best season-over-season improvement in franchise annals. Kansas City also made the playoffs last year despite a 1-5 start, winning their last 10 games to affect the greatest in-season turnaround in NFL history.
Pictures of the Chiefs' starting offense and defense, according to the team's depth chart.
Reid's teams have always been considered excellently prepared for games, and they rarely hurt themselves with costly mistakes. As will be noted in greater detail below, the 2016 Chiefs lead the league in turnover ratio and are one of the NFLs' fewest-penalized squads. Reid's quarterbacks through the years have always taken care of the football well, which is definitely a strength of current Kansas City starter Alex Smith. One of the first personnel moves Reid made upon arriving in Kansas City was to send a pair of second-round picks to the 49ers to get Smith and install him as the starter.
Reid began his coaching career in the college ranks in 1982, starting out at his alma mater of Brigham Young University. He played offensive line at BYU and has long been considered a good judge of OL talent in the pro ranks. His coaching path actually crossed paths very early with the Bucs' Dirk Koetter; those two were part of a three-man staff at San Francisco State in 1985. After additional stops at Northern Arizona, UTEP and Missouri, Reed got his first NFL job with the Packers in 1982, eventually working his way from coaching tight ends to the offensive line to the quarterbacks. That last assignment, of course, gave him two years (1997-98) in the ear of Brett Favre before Reid moved on to the Eagles.
Alex Smith missed the Chiefs' Week Nine win over Jacksonville for precautionary reasons due to the possibility of a concussion, but he returned last Sunday to help Kansas City upend the Panthers in Charlotte. Smith was picked off once in that game, but that was an aberration, just his third interception thrown this season and his first in four outings.
In fact, Smith has been leading an efficient, low-risk offense for four years in Kansas City. His 1.3% interception rate since 2013 is the best in the NFL and one of the key reasons he has a 92.2 passer rating in that span and a 90.3 mark this year. Generally that is seen as a tradeoff with explosive downfield plays, and indeed Smith is 29th in that same span with an average of 6.90 yards per pass attempt. However, while the Chiefs are tied for 25th in completions of 20+ yards this year, they are only five below the NFL team average of 30 such plays.
Part of that has been due to the emergence of swift rookie receiver Tyreek Hill, who had a 38-yard touchdown catch against the Saints, a 49-yard grab at Indy and a 27-yard reception against the Panthers, all in the last five weeks. Hill's role in the offense has been growing steadily of late, especially with Jeremy Maclin sidelined by an injury, and he caught a career-high 10 passes for 89 yards last Sunday. K.C. passers – mostly Smith but also Nick Foles in Week Nine – have an 81.9 passer rating on passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air, which is 24th in the league. However, their pass-catchers, including running back Spencer Ware, have helped tremendously after the catch. The Chiefs have the sixth-highest percentage of their passing game output tied up in YAC, or yards after catch.
Maclin, who was the Chiefs' leading wideout before he got hurt, has missed most of the last two games due to a groin injury. Without him, Kansas City started Albert Wilson and Chris Conley at wide receiver against Carolina, but those two have combined for just a 46-527-1 line this year. Again, Hill has been emerging as the new weapon for Smith, with 13 targets in that game compared to a combined 10 for Wilson and Conley.
Of course, the Chiefs do have another dynamic weapon in their passing game at the tight end spot: Travis Kelce, who went to the Pro Bowl last year after catching 72 passes. Kelce's per-catch average is down a bit this year to 11.1 yards but he's on pace for a third straight season of approximately 70 receptions, 800 yards and five touchdowns. He has been the most targeted player in the Chiefs' passing attack.
The Chiefs do tend to throw the ball more than the league average, which has long been a hallmark of an Andy Reid team. They rank 25th in the league in percentage of snaps that are passing plays in the first half (63.4%) and only two teams have thrown more often on first-and-10, where the Chiefs drop back 56.8% of the time. Of course, that does involve the backfield, as Kansas City running backs have combined for 43 receptions for 422 yards and a touchdown. Much of that belongs to Ware, whose average of 16.2 yards per catch is by far the best mark among NFL quarterbacks.
Ware has been the Chiefs' primary ballcarrier this year thanks to injuries that limited Jamaal Charles to three games and 12 carries before he hit injured reserve. Ware has taken the job and run with it, recording 896 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. In addition to his dynamic work in the passing game, he has averaged 4.97 yards per carry, seventh-best among all qualifying running backs in the NFL. However, Kansas City's rushing attack hasn't been particularly effective on first down; the team ranks 28th in the league in percentage of first-down carries that gain for or more yards.
That likely has contributed to third-down struggles, as Kansas City's conversion rate of 34.7 is 29th in the NFL. It's clear that the Chiefs need to win first down in order to get better third-down opportunities; they rank fourth when going for it on third-and-one but dead last when it's a four to six-yard try and 26th when it's more than six.
Kansas City ranks right in the middle of the NFL's pack in sacks allowed per pass play and yards per carry, indicating a solid performance from the offensive line. That front line has come together through the steady development of 2013 first-overall draft pick Eric Fisher and the offseason signing of veteran Mitchell Schwartz. Fisher has settled in at the left tackle spot and Schwartz has solidified a right tackle position that had been trouble for the Chiefs in recent years. According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs have had their best success on the ground running towards the left end of the defensive line (5.39 yards per carry), indicating good work by Schwartz and right guard Laurent Duvarney-Tardif, the latter a sixth-round pick in 2014. The Chiefs invested a second-round pick in center Mitch Morse in 2015 and he has settled in as a good anchor up front.
As noted above, the Chiefs do not often hurt themselves with penalties and turnovers. Their eight giveaways are tied for seventh-fewest in the league and have led to just 25 points for the opposition. Their 56 penalties are the league's fifth-lowest. However, Kansas City has not been particularly strong in scoring territory this season. The Chiefs rank 31st in touchdown efficiency on drives that breach the opposing 30-yard line (33.3%), tied for 30th in that category after hitting the red zone (40.0%) and dead last in goal-to-go situations (46.2%).
What the Chiefs do best on defense is take the football away.
In a specific and recent sense, that was true last Sunday when two fourth-quarter turnovers – an Eric Berry pick-six and a last-minute takeaway in which Marcus Peters simply ripped the ball out of Kelvin Benjamin's hands – led to a 17-point rally in a 20-17 Kansas City win. Those were the only takeaways of that game for the Chiefs' defense, but they lead the NFL with 22 of them on the season, leading to a league-best +14 ratio. Those takeaways have led to a whopping 72 points, second-best in the NFL.
What's particularly amazing about those takeaways is that six of them have taken place in the red zone, four of them on snaps from inside the 10 and three of them on snaps from inside the five. All of those totals are the best in the league and they help explain why the Chiefs rank 22nd in yards but seventh in points allowed per game.
The Chiefs do this damage out of a 3-4 base defense, though they actually show a multitude of looks during any given game. The defensive line is anchored by Dontari Poe, the 350-pound two-time Pro Bowler who was drafted 11th overall back in 2012. Poe has just 15 tackles and half a sack on the season, but the Kansas City down linemen are clearly asked to clog up the front to allow the team's other aggressive defenders to make plays. Five of Kansas City's top six tacklers are defensive backs.
The pressure in the Chiefs' defense comes mostly off the edge, and mostly from third-year linebacker Dee Ford, a former first-round pick who had to listen to whispers of "bust" during his first two seasons. Now Ford is tied for the league lead with 10 sacks, and he's doing it despite extra attention from opposing blockers because nobody else on the team has more than two sacks. That would probably be different if linebacker Justin Houston – he of the 56.0 sacks in 70 career games – had been available. Houston, who has been on the PUP list, recently started practicing and could be activated for Sunday's game. If so, the Chiefs would have a very dangerous pass-rush trio in Ford, Houston and veteran Tamba Hali.
That said, Houston is only 21st in the league in sacking opposing quarterbacks, and they've also had some problems against the run. Kansas City ranks 27th in the league in that category, allowing 118.3 yards per game, and that's due more to a down-to-down susceptibility to the run rather than a number of big plays allowed. In fact, Kansas City has allowed 52.8% of opponents' rushes to gain four or more yards, the worst mark in the entire league. They're 29th in that category when applied just to first downs, and last overall in allowing four-plus yards on all first-down plays.
Ballcarriers who do break through the line most often meet inside linebacker Derrick Johnson who is headed towards his sixth straight season as the Chiefs' leading tackler. He is the franchise's all-time leader in stops, too, and he has 66 of them this year to go with a 55-yard pick-six that's one of three defensive touchdowns the team has scored. Johnson is an experienced and sure tackler, and in fact the entire Chiefs defense wraps up well. Kansas City has allowed the eighth-lowest percentage of yards-after-the-catch in the league.
There are two stars in the secondary, one who has made an incredible comeback from hardship and one who has been taking the league by storm the last two years. The first is safety Eric Berry, an NFL first-team All-Pro in 2013 who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014 but was somehow able to overcome that and go right back to All-Pro status in 2015. Berry is a true two-way star at safety, a hitter and a disruptor in the passing game; so far this year he has combined 45 tackles with two interceptions and seven passes defensed. The second is cornerback Marcus Peters, a first-round pick in 2015 who had eight interceptions as a rookie and already has five again this year. Those 13 picks are the most by any player in the NFL the past two seasons, with the next closest cornerback coming in at eight.
Ron Parker gives the Chiefs another playmaker in the secondary, starting at safety next to Berry. Parker came into the league as an undrafted free agent and was cut eight different times by four teams before finally finding a home in Kansas City in 2013. Last year, after getting a lucrative new contract, he picked off three passes, added 12 passes defensed and 78 tackles and even recorded five sacks. He doesn't have a pick or a sack yet this year but has forced two fumbles.
Defensive backs Steven Nelson and Daniel Sorenson also play a lot. In fact, the Chiefs' most common 11-man crew on defense this year has featured both of those players on the field, with defensive end Chris Jones and/or linebacker Ramik Wilson coming off.
The Chiefs are getting strong work from their kicking duo of Cairo Santos and Dustin Colquitt, and the aforementioned Tyreek Hill is putting his speed to good use in the return game, as well.
Santos is having a strong season, with 22 successful field goals in 25 attempts and one missed extra point in 18 tries. He has been a fabulous long-range weapon for the Chiefs, making both of his tries from 50 or more yards out and eight of nine from 40 and out. Santos also handles the kickoffs, though he ranks 20th with a touchback rate of 59.6% and the Chiefs are 28th as a team in average opponent drive start following a kickoff. Overall, Santos has been an 83.7% field goal kicker in his three years in Kansas City, with a 7-of-12 mark from 50 and beyond.
The Chiefs boldly used a third-round pick on punter Dustin Colquitt back in 2005 and have yet to regret it. He's played every game since and recorded a career gross punting average of 44.9 per attempt. Colquitt currently ranks ninth in the NFL with a net average of 41.3, which would stand as the best of his career if it holds through the end of the season. He has been particularly adept at dropping punts inside the 20; he has 21 such kicks this year, has been over 30 each of the last four years and just missed the NFL single-season record in that category by one in 2013 when he had 45.
Though they haven't yet found the end zone, the Chiefs have been very dangerous in the punt return game, leading the league with five runbacks of 20 or more yards. That's all due to the rookie Hill, who is averaging 15.6 yards per punt return to rank second in the NFL. Hill appears to err on the side of aggression, with 21 returns against just five fair catches. That's a 4.2-to-1 ratio; in contrast, the other nine players in the top 10 in punt return average have a 1.7-to-1 return-to-fair catch ratio.
Hill also leads the Chiefs in kickoff returns, with 10 for 235 yards, though the team has yet to break one longer than 33 yards. Kansas City's cover teams have been excellent on punts, allowing a return average of just 5.6 per, with none longer than 12. They've been a little more vulnerable on kickoff returns, ranking 30th with an average of 26.7 yards per attempt.