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Andy Reid sees improved Bucs’ team since Week 12

Nose tackle Vita Vea — who was unavailable in Week 12 — is set to play in Super Bowl LV against the Chiefs.

NFL: OCT 08 Buccaneers at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 back on November 29 — nine weeks ago at this writing. After losing to Kansas City, the Buccaneers entered their bye week at 7-5. They did not lose another game.

The Buccaneers beat the Vikings, Falcons, Lions and Falcons again to close the regular season, then beat the Washington Football Team, Saints and Packers in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.

It is a different team than the one that lost to the Chiefs in Week 12.

“They’re playing organized football all the way around — I mean in all three phases,” noted Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Monday. “They’re not making many mistakes, they’re creating turnovers on the defensive side. They’re keeping the turnover level down on the offensive side. The running back situation is even stronger with (Leonard) Fournette being able to work in there and feel comfortable.”

From Weeks 14 to 17, the Bucs also led the league with 1,429 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns.

“They’ve got the good wide receivers that we’ve faced before, but I think they’re probably more on the same page with Brady than they were back when we played them,” said Reid. “So all the way around, they’re healthier — and they’re playing at a higher level.”

Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea — who had been out since Week 5 due to a leg fracture — returned to the lineup for the NFC title game. Vita plays an important role for the Bucs in setting the tone for the entire defense.

In his return, Vea registered two quarterback hurries in a limited 33 snaps. His presence also helped outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, who combined for 5.0 sacks of Aaron Rodgers in the conference title victory.

“Vita — he’s a heck of a football player,” added Reid. “He is disruptive, does a nice job inside there. And he didn’t play the last time we played them. We respect him as a football player and we know how talented he is.”

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes sees him as a potential game wrecker.

“The dude is a problem, man,” the quarterback admitted. “The pass rush on the inside, the way he’s able to stop the run — just a tremendous player. He’s someone, another guy on this defense that you have to account for almost on every single play. You’ve got to know where he’s at. For us, we understand that we have a great challenge going up against this defense, and we’re going to try to do whatever we can to get the ball out of my hand and get it to these other guys that can make plays happen.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us every single snap.”