5 Problems the Bucs have to solve to win

by Gary Shelton on January 31, 2021

in general

Bowles has a lot of offense to stop./TIM WIRT

Sunday, 3 a.m.

It was close. It was not a classic.

Look back on the first game between the Bucs and the Kansas City Chiefs, and you might fool yourself. It finished 27-24, Chiefs, which hints of a great game between great teams. It was not. It suggests there were moments when the game was in doubt, when the fans' knuckles turned white. They did not.

And if their next encounter is to be any different, then the Bucs must learn from it.

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If you can stand to replay that game, you will remember that the Chiefs ran off to a 17-0 first period lead. It was 27-10 going into the fourth quarter. Tyreek Hill ran free through the secondary, and Patrick Mahomes was excellent, and the Bucs were outmanned.

Yes, the Bucs came back to make the score close, but the Chiefs kept the ball the final 4:10 of the game to salt away the victory.

So what has to happen the time?

Problem No. 1: Stop Mahomes. Mahomes finished the first half of the first game against the Bucs with a perfect 158.3 rating, and he finished with a 124.7. He also ran for two first downs on the Chiefs' final drive, which suggests a dual problem: He's tough to stop in the air, and he's tough to stop on the ground.

The Bucs have hope, of course, in that they have stopped Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks in road upsets. Their pass rush was good last week, with Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combing for five sacks (they each had one against Mahomes earlier).

But Mahomes is a particularly vexing quarterback, one who owns his pocket. Stopping him will be a chore.

Problem No. 2: Make Hill mortal. Again, that's a chore. In the first game between the two, Hill roasted Carlton Davis III with 13 catches for 269 yards and three scores. Even more embarrassing, Hill caught seven for 209 in the first period alone.

Hill does that to a lot of teams. For the season, he caught 87 passes for 1,275 yards and 15 scores. But the Bucs have to give Davis some help or they won't have a chance.

Problem No. 3: Contain Travis Kelce. It seems that tight ends often have big games against the Bucs, and Kelce is high impact. In the first game between the two, he caught eight passes for 82 yards (for the regular season, he caught 105 passes for 1.416 yards and 11 scores).

Problem No. 4: Don't forget about Clyde Edwards-Helaire: There is so much explosion from the Chiefs that you might be tempted to forget about the running game. But in the regular season, Edwards-Helaire ran for 803 yards and averaged 4.6 yards to carry.

The Bucs weren't as solid against the run in December. Perhaps that's because of the absence of Vita Vea, who returned last week. But the Bucs can't afford to give up yardage on the ground.

Problem No. 5: Play chess with Andy Reid. Think the Eagles feel a little silly today? They gave Reid away after 14 seasons. He's been with the Chiefs for eight, and he's been even better. Reid likes to leave teams feeling foolish. His matchup against Todd Bowles will be interesting.

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