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Safeties Will Decide The Super Bowl

Mill Woods

Posted on February 1, 2021 18:45

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Brady vs. Mahomes. Evans vs. Hill. Gronk vs. Kelce. Those are the obvious headlines, but championship football is far more complex than that — it’s Arians vs. Reid and offensive vs. defensive coordinators. Each offense will try to get single coverage on their dangerous receivers. Each defense will at times cheat with their safeties. Whoever wins the chess match will win the Super Bowl.

Both teams in red, matching my preseason crystal ball.

Will it be decided by turnovers and injuries? Maybe, but that’s too obvious — if a team fumbles too much or a star player goes down, the scale tilts. I prefer to ponder: what if turnovers and injuries are about equal?

The key to victory is the defensive play-calling — in particular, the way coaches use safeties.

The Bucs’ D dictates what offenses can do. DC Todd Bowles likes to blitz, and most opponents suffer if either:
 
·      The offense doesn't read or block blitzes well, or
·      The QB isn't very mobile.
 
The Chiefs, however, excel at both!
 
The Bucs’ defensive line, excellent against the run, is often helped by bringing up a safety for:
 
·      Stuffing the run
·      Tackling receivers after short passes
·      Blitzing.
 
The Bucs would like to coerce the Chiefs into running the ball more, but the Chiefs call many plays leaving the ball in Mahomes’ hands. The Bucs will show two deep safeties a lot, hoping for an audible to a run play. Then, just before or right after the snap, the Bucs will bring up a safety. When the Bucs press with a linebacker instead, Mahomes will find it a good time to go to TE Travis Kelce.

The key to the game: when the Bucs press with a safety (going to single-safety coverage), Mahomes will audible and target one of his dangerous wide receivers — Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and (possibly) Sammy Watkins. Hill burned the Bucs badly in the Chiefs’ Nov. 29 win.

Tom Brady, not as mobile, is another master at reading blitzes, audibling and throwing deep against light coverage. The Bucs prefer to get the ball out of their QB’s hands quickly on most plays. Usually, the Chiefs keep both safeties back, preventing long passes, but that  makes them more vulnerable to runs and short passes. The Chiefs may try to blitz a little more than usual.

The Bucs have the better running attack (note: the offensive lines are more important than the runners). I like Ronald Jones, but I would give more handoffs to Leonard Fournette, an expert at spin moves and hard running. 

As good as the Chief receivers are, the Bucs have Mike Evans with seven 1,000-yard seasons, a record. Arians and Brady don’t mind gambling — even throwing deep interceptions, especially on third down. Picks simply replace punts — unless there is a long return.

The difference could be who performs better in the red zone. The team that kicks the most field goals will likely lose. Inside the 10, TDs against the Bucs are hard to get, but Mahomes' mobility often gets it done. A major wild card: will Mahomes risk a hard hit? The Bucs have one of the dirtier defenses.

I think the outcome rides on the deep ball, and thus, the moves by the defensive coordinators involving safeties.

I'll go with the Chiefs in a close and tough chess match.
 

Mill Woods

Posted on February 1, 2021 18:45

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When the Buccaneers played the Chiefs back in November, Tyreek Hill torched Tampa Bay’s secondary for 269 yards and three...

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