Tampa, FL – The biggest game of the football season, Super 55 will be a rematch of a regular-season contest between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chief. A rematch where the Bucs looked like two different teams getting scorched in the first half by Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill in the first half then slowing the Chief train to a slow roll in the second half.
This is an OPINION. Not right or wrong. So disagreements with the following statements are welcomed.
The Bucs secondary, youthful and talented…improving. Carlton Davis has become everything as advertised when the Bucs drafted him. Solid in man coverage, able to match up with elite NFL receivers, and a solid tackler on the perimeter. Antoine Winfield Jr., though his status is questionable for the big game, has emerged as the attitude and the face of the Tampa secondary. The physical presence the back end of the defense has been missing since the John Lynch days. Along with the rest of the secondary, the Bucs are an improving unit. But, again will have a tall task to complete in slowing down the elite receiver unit of the Chiefs.
The Bucs secondary does not match up with the talented Chief receivers. To be fair, there is not a secondary in the league that does. The latent level of the Chiefs is arguably one of the best groups of receivers we have seen in a while. The Kurt Warner Rams group was really good. The Manning Colts with Marvin Harrison was phenomenal and even The Super Bowl 51 Matt Ryan Falcons unit. These dudes might be better.
We urge young high school football players to watch the Bucs the secondary in space. As the season progressed this unit got better and better. Being great in space starts with preparation and awareness. Understanding how the offense can attack based on down/distance, alignment, and personnel.
Defending in the zone coverage called, understanding each player’s responsibility within the coverage, Bucs players are playing faster and faster in zone coverages. They tackle well, seldom do receivers break tackles versus secondary players and gallop for big yards.
Without researching statistics and posting accurate numbers, the Bucs secondary has been really good in Red Zone coverage. No panic and there is a good reason why. Young players, as the field decreases…the offense moves closer to the end zone, the offensive playbook also decreases giving the advantage to the defense. There are only so many plays to be called as space is limited. Offenses in any sport always try to create space and mismatches. This is a strength of the defending champion Chiefs. However the pass coverage, not just the secondary, but the linebackers included have done a great job stiffening as the ball gets closer to the end zone.
The Bucs benefit from a really good defensive front. An above-average defensive line can make a below-average secondary look great. Pressure on the quarterback is the name of the game. The Bucs are great in this category and the pass coverage benefits.
The Bucs are not particularly great in man to man coverage. That goes for the linebackers also. It’s not just the secondary. Obviously, when you see a QB throwing for 300 plus yards versus any given defense, you think “the secondary sucked that day.” A more accurate statement would be “The pass coverage sucked that day.”
Carlton Davis is the Buc’s most talented cover corner. Sean Murphy-Bunting has been inconsistent and Jamel Dean flashes at times. In wholes, they thrive off the pressure from the defensive front but are not an elite unit. The Chiefs will attack Dean. Bigger corner, stiffer in the hips, light in twitch, and faster than quick. I expect in man coverage the Bucs will situationally bracket Tyreek Hill. Gotta play lean a safety in his direction and force the Chiefs to win with someone other than their main guy. Mecole Hardman will play a bigger role as Murphy-Bunting will likely match-up with him. Murphy-Bunting will lose some. But, he’ll win some and will likely come up with a big play at the perfect time. Then Travis Kelce will have to be contained. Hard ask for any safety or larger corner.
The Bucs pass coverage does not need to be better individually versus the Chiefs. They need to better as a unit.
The Bucs secondary will be at a disadvantage in man coverage in the field versus the talented Chiefs. Expect more man coverage towards the red zone with a variety of pressures called by Bucs Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles. Take a slow death; make the Chiefs put together 8-12 play drives, not giving up chunk plays by playing multiple zone coverage with timely pressures.
Turn up the heat in the red zone and attempt to win possessions by forcing 3-pointers not touchdowns. The Bucs must win first downs and consistently force 3rd down and more than 7. A similar game plan to Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, keep Mahomes in the pocket and neutralize the team speed with indecision by the passer.