There is zero chance I would have believed you last week if you told me that the Chiefs, with one of the most explosive and creative offenses in the NFL, and with one of the most talented arms the league has ever seen, would be kept out of the end zone in the Super Bowl. But that happened. The Buccaneers defense did something nobody was able to accomplish all season — hold Kansas City without a touchdown.
I had my concerns. I asked Patrick Mahomes last week how the team was preparing to face a very talented defensive front, knowing that the loss of left tackle Eric Fischer was a blow to their offensive line; the Chiefs entered Sunday with only one of their five presumptive starters on the line from the preseason. Mahomes knew it would be a battle. He said in part:
It’s going to be a great challenge for them, but we’re going to do what we can to get the ball out of my hands, and get it to the playmakers and let them make plays with it.
So let’s talk about that. Firstly, the Chiefs offensive line was overwhelmingly mismatched. While Mahomes was only sacked three times, he was under constant siege, oftentimes scrambling nearly twenty yards behind the line of scrimmage to avoid the pressure. While the optics showed that to be the case, the stats are worse. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Patrick Mahomes was pressured more in this game than any quarterback in Super Bowl History (29), passing the record of 25 set by Jim Kelly in SB XXVI. Brady faced his fewest pressures (4) in any Super Bowl of his career. The fact that he took only three sacks on 29 pressures is a Herculean effort.
According to NextGenStats, the Chiefs used a 5-man protection on 92.3 percent of their dropbacks. How the Chiefs didn’t gameplan to use additional blockers knowing their offensive line was vastly depleted is beyond me, and it cost them. Head Coach Andy Reid is notorious for making in-game adjustments. This is one that he missed.
While Mahomes was running for his life and trying to make otherworldly plays, his teammates didn’t help. On one of his seemingly endless scrambles last night, while falling to the ground, Mahomes flicked the ball on a rope 30 yards towards the end zone. In my opinion, this would have been the greatest Super Bowl touchdown pass of all time had Darrell Williams caught it instead of letting it hit him square in the facemask.
After the game, I asked Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis about covering the Chiefs skill players for so long in coverage as Mahomes was scrambling and trying to make plays happen. Carlton said:
I mean it’s something that we knew that they did a lot, and we knew that they had a lot of success with [Mahomes] getting out of the pocket, and creating more time for his receivers to get down field, so that was a big emphasis this whole week – to just plaster to the receivers, stay on top of him even when he’s outside the pocket, and just trust the D-line and trust that they would get him down.
Carlton was in coverage for 54 coverage snaps. He was targeted only four times, allowing two receptions for only 14 yards, and the Buccaneers defense held Mahomes to 270 passing yards, two interceptions, and zero touchdowns. There’s no chance the Buccaneers would have dreamed this game would go any better, on both sides of the ball.