‘Twas a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay, particularly for reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes who, along with Tyreke Hill, treated the Buccaneers secondary like his own personal pincushion.
For the other former MVP on the field that day, the outcome was considerably less favorable.
The still-struggling-to-put-it-all-together Tampa Bay Buccaneers played host to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, looking to see just how close they could come to beating what most consider to be the most talented team in the league.
Having been manhandled by both the Saints and Rams in previous weeks, the Bucs looked to right their ship against the Chiefs, which is really not the best team to right your ship against. They expose weaknesses.
To say the game was over before it started would only be partially accurate as the Buccaneers did make it close late. Just not close enough.
Before the sun had set on the NFL’s premiere game of the week, Kansas City’s speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill had tallied 203 yards receiving… in the first quarter! On one deep yet underthrown football, I literally saw Tyreek Hill slow down to catch it and still outrun his defender for one of his three touchdowns on the day. His last touchdown accompanied a back flip into the end zone, which some observers felt was out of line, however, I’ve always felt if you want your opponent to stop doing back flips, stop allowing him to do things that show you up.
Mahomes matched Hill’s Tecmo Bowl-like numbers with 359 passing yards in the first half, which is the most a quarterback has had in a single half of NFL football… IN FORTY YEARS!!! I know the modern game has gone more vertical but when your secondary is setting records for futility, it’s probably time to review some game film.
As a Buccaneers fan, the most upsetting thing about the game is that (despite the gorgeous weather and company), for a half at least, the Buccaneers allowed the Chiefs to do pretty much whatever they wanted which, to be fair, they do against most teams. Kansas City is a tough cover. Rare is the team that can stop Mahomes from finding his way to paydirt. But the Bucs’ inability to counter offensively kept deflating the momentum in the stadium. With Raymond James at 25% capacity thanks to COVID, at least the shorter beer lines helped tolerate the outcome.
KC was relatively quiet in the second half but the question remains, was that because the Bucs made the proper adjustments or because the Chiefs chose to take their foot off the gas? The Chiefs possessed the ball for 36 minutes to the Bucs’ 23. The Chiefs were also 6-of-12 on third down conversions while the Bucs were a lowly 3-for-9. It seemed like the Chiefs always had the ball… and the open man.
Only losing by three, the Buccaneers proved they’re still, probably, a top ten team in the league. The problem is that they can’t seem to beat the nine above them. Defensively, they are tops in the league at stopping the run yet 24th in defending the pass. Furthermore, their offense fails to piece together drives, stalling at the most inopportune moments if they can even get one started. They rank 24th in the league in time of possession.
Head coach Bruce Arians has been put in charge of this Tampa Bay experiment whose parts are still far greater than their sum. They probably have more career Pro Bowl appearances than any other team in the league yet for a variety of reasons can’t string together a consistent effort game after game.
Arians is not a fan of running the football despite having the league’s 4th leading rusher; Ronald Jones is averaging over five yards a carry. Instead, the Bucs rank 5th in pass-to-run play percentage calls. The teams ranked one through four, Chicago, Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Philadelphia, are not playoff teams. As it stands right now, Tampa barely looks like one either, while their quarterback continues to play not-so-Secret Santa by gift-wrapping the ball to the opposing team.
The bright side for Tampa fans, if there is one, is that they still show potential. Despite every effort to shit the proverbial bed, they still only lost to the Chiefs by a field goal. There is talent on this roster. It just hasn’t meshed yet. It’s as if there are so many weapons, they don’t know which to use at any given moment. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes is managing his workload just fine, throwing the ball and handing it off to his seemingly endless arsenal, on his way to a 10-1 record.
Suffice to say that Andy Reid’s game plan (and his players execution of said game plan) was far more effective than anything the Bucs could muster. Hence, the Chiefs walked away with a 27-24 victory. The Buccaneers now head into their bye week wondering how they lost three of their last four games and more importantly what they can do to fix it.
With a relatively easy schedule remaining, the Bucs should still make the playoffs, thanks in large part to a mediocre NFC but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be concerned about shoring up their chemistry.
If you’re serious about winning a Super Bowl (and if your name is Tom Brady, why wouldn’t you be), you’re going to have to beat these Chiefs, or the AFC team that was good enough to beat them to get there. This past Sunday, Brady looked across the field at his opponent and was reminded of just what it takes to win a Super Bowl, which is the exact opposite of what’s gone on in the NFL for the last twenty years when it was Brady setting the bar and others trying to reach it.
Thanks in large part to the councilman, the birthday guest of honor and I were able to witness Mahomes’ greatness firsthand. It was a thrill to watch him in person, a generational talent for certain, if only it didn’t come at the expense of the team I was rooting for.
Mahomes left little doubt as to who is now the best quarterback in the league. We’re watching history in the making. In the next two months, we’ll see if the man on the other sidelines has history left in him to counter.