The Kansas City Chiefs are well aware of the challenges presented by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive front. Back in Week 12, when the Chiefs’ offensive line was closer to full strength, they allowed a total of 16 pressures to the Bucs. The offensive line was also called for five penalties, which stalled drives late in the game for Kansas City.
“Yeah, they’re impressive, and again, that group is playing at a very high level,” Chiefs HC Andy Reid said of the Bucs defensive front. “You saw that with their front against Green Bay. They had constant pressure there on Aaron (Rodgers).”
One thing that the Chiefs have in common with the Packers team that Tampa Bay dispatched a week ago in the NFC title game is that they’ll also be without their starting left tackle. Kansas City will be without Eric Fisher, who suffered a torn Achilles in the AFC title game against the Buffalo Bills. It’s a tough loss to handle, but Reid is making sure that his players are focused on the little things that can help them perform better.
“So, our guys are working hard and making sure fundamentally we’re sound and schematically we’re sound,” Reid continued. “You’re right, we just have to make sure we keep it tight there and good protection, run the ball well—those things are important. Fundamentals right now, though.”
The Buccaneers will likely try to see how much pressure they can get early on by rushing just four players, as they did against the Packers. Meanwhile, the Chiefs can do a few things schematically to work around some of the offensive line deficiencies. Establishing the run can help, having the running back chip defenders and some quick passes dialed up will be important too.
Most of all, it’s going to be about trusting the coaching staff and players for Kansas City. They’ve been faced with challenges along the offensive line from the moment this season started and every step of the way they’ve been able to adjust.
“Yeah I think they have a really good defense in general,” Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes said. “I mean obviously the front is special at every single position, but the whole entire defense they make a lot of plays. So, for us, you have to have trust in those guys up front. They work their tail off just like everybody else and so I’ve felt like they’ve done a great job all year of going up against a lot of good defensive fronts.”
Beyond having trust, the biggest thing for Mahomes will be making quick and decisive reads. The longer that he holds onto the football, the tougher things will be for his offensive line.
This season, Mahomes averaged 2.6 seconds in the pocket before throwing the ball, it’s one of the highest numbers in the league. He’s been one of the better quarterbacks against pressure this season but let’s not forget that he’s dealing with a turf toe injury. Mahomes won’t be as nimble as he’s been in the pocket or when it comes to extending plays.
“For me I just have to get the ball out of my hand in whatever way possible and not let those guys destroy the game,” Mahomes continued. “You want to make sure you get it to our playmakers in space and try to see if we can make some plays happen.”
Mahomes faced enormous pressure and a dominant defensive front in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers too. He was able to get the ball out and to his playmakers when it mattered most in that game. There’s little reason to believe that he won’t be able to make some more magic happen this time around.
Potential Chiefs offensive line combinations for Super Bowl LV