Pierre-Paul, Barrett need to be an edge for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on February 4, 2021

in general

Pierre-Paul hopes the Bucs have the advantage./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

You can keep talking about all the things that the Chiefs offense possesses. They are fast, they are talented, and together, they're one of the best Super Bowl offenses of them all. Up there with the Greatest Show on Turf, with the Giants, with the 49ers. With anyone.

You can argue about the best player the Chiefs have.Is it quarterback Patrick Mahomes? Is it tight end Travis Kelce? Is it receiver Tyreek Hill?

Or, if you are into analysis, you can debate who the Chiefs don't have.

As in, much of their offensive line.

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The Chiefs will line up Sunday minus three players who's started in week one. That doesn't count guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of the season to treat COVID patients (he's a doctor). Both Kelechi Osemele and All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz were injured earlier in the season, and the team lost Pro Bowl tackle Eric Fisher. The remaining line has been shuffled.

But can the Bucs take advantage of it?

Remember, the Chiefs won 14 games this year no matter who was blocking. But you could make an argument that the Bucs' biggest edge in the game in their fierce-again pass rush against the Chiefs' taped-together offensive line.

In other words, can we continue with the race to the quarterback between Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett?

For two years, they have been terrors. Last year, they combined for 28 sacks (19.4 by Barrett). This year, they had 17.5. In the post season, they have five in three games.

Sunday, against Mahomes, a good pass rush will be vital. They need to get Mahomes on the move, uncomfortable even if they aren't sacking him.

For Piere-Paul, it will be another step in his journey away from blowing up a hand with fireworks and having a serious car accident.

"The guy is the epitome of perseverance for the car wreck and the fireworks," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "JPP, he plays with a heart that is as big as a lion and high, high energy. Guys just love playing with him. He doesn't speak a lot because he lets his play do the talking, but when he speaks, everybody listens.

"I thought he was playing well (in New York). He has just done everything he can to become an outside linebacker. He's been a defensive end most of his career. I think the two best plays he's made all year were the two interceptions. To hell with the sacks – those interceptions are still amazing me, reading that screen against the Rams and dropping into coverage against the Panthers, and that smile on his face when he held onto the ball for that interception. He is playing lights out and I expect a great game out of him."

Pierre-Paul, the only Buc elected to the Pro Bowl this year (the Chiefs had seven players) will compete against Barrett.

"Me and Shaq are just playing, man," said Pierre-Paul. "Shaq goes out there and he plays, and if he gets a sack, I want two. If I get two, he wants three. That's just how it goes. We try to talk to each other – 'Let's get to the ball. This down, I've got it.' Stuff like that. Me and him are a great duo together and that's all I can really say. We're both relentless to the ball and we try to get to the QB.

"I think I'm just being myself. I can't speak for others. I'm just being myself, really. With all the things that I've been through, I'm overachieving. I'm letting everybody know that no matter what you go through, you can do whatever."

Barrett, too, has enjoyed playing well.

"It's good to know we're living up to the expectations," said Barrett. "It's important to be able to get to the quarterback with a four-man rush, and that's what we've been able to do so we can have more guys on the back end because they do have some dangerous receivers. It's been nice knowing we can get it done with the four-man rush and even with the blitz."

Pierre-Paul still draws respect.

"I've obviously played against JPP quite a bit," said Bucs' quarterback Tom Brady. "Absolutely loved getting the chance to know him and be his teammate. He's absolutely everything you look for in a competitor, in a teammate, his leadership – not only his playstyle in the game, but how he practices, his work ethic, he's a relentless guy, he's a relentless competitor. He's got incredible mental toughness.

"When you look over at that defense and you see him out there – everyone loves seeing JPP out there making plays because when he's making plays, the whole defense is making plays. Shaq, Ndamukong is making plays, Vita, Lavonte, Devin making plays, guys in the secondary making plays. JPP is absolutely like a ringleader in that group. When he's going, everyone is going. He brings a lot of juice, so we love seeing him out there. Again, love playing with the guy, love getting to know him. He's an amazing guy, an amazing player."

Can he be amazing on Sunday? Can the Bucs' front beat the Chiefs' line thoroughly enough to limit Mahomes?

For the Bucs, it's a key element to the game.

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