Editor’s note: As we head into Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we welcome General Manager Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation — our sister SBNation site covering the Buccaneers — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1) After the two teams faced each other in Week 12, Tony Romo was pretty confident that these two teams would be seeing each other again this Sunday. Did you have the same level of confidence?
No. Not at all. That time of the season. I saw way too many inconsistencies to legitimately feel they could make a run for the Super Bowl. Just look at how they played the Giants on Monday Night Football, the Saints and Rams heading into the Chiefs game. In fact, I messaged my staff in our group chat following the game against Kansas City saying, “No way this team makes the playoffs. They aren’t ready.” Yet, here they are. They’ve certainly turned things around — especially offensively.
2) So far in the playoffs, the Bucs have faced Taylor Heinicke, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. It’s almost like a video game in which the Bosses have been getting harder and harder. How should the Bucs attack the final Boss — Patrick Mahomes?
Man, I freaking LOVE this analogy! Hitting major video game nerdgasms here.
Honestly though, open world type games come to mind like Mario 64 when you have to run and jump around as Bowser attacks before you can return the favor. Or perhaps even Halo 2 — considering Halo 3 and 4 had mediocre Boss fights — when you had to dodge the big brute boss guy before hitting him in a weak spot several times. But this isn’t the Halo series where the boss fights got lamer as they went on. And this isn’t going to be the same kind of strategy.
The Bucs need to live and die by their press man coverage and aggressiveness from their linebackers. To compare those video game Boss fights to the football field, Tampa Bay has played zone several times — and were just eaten alive several times. They did it against the Chiefs during the regular season and made adjustments — just like Tyreek Hill mentioned. In the NFC Championship game, they gave up four consecutive first downs of 10-plus yards in the first half when in zone. You can’t play like that against a quarterback like Brees, Rodgers or Mahomes — or they will carve you up. Buccaneers played their pressure style of defense in the Divisional Round and the NFC Championship games. They have to do the same this weekend.
3) At times, the Buccaneers have been dependent on short fields to score points. If the Chiefs play a clean game, do you think the Tampa Bay can win?
I wouldn’t say so much so that it depends on if the Chiefs play a clean game or not. It’s more so about the Buccaneers playing their game and executing. Tampa Bay can move the ball with ease — as we’ve seen throughout the second half of the season as well as in the playoffs. If they can sustain drives and keep Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense off the field for longer periods of time, then they have a chance. Sometimes a good defense is a good offense and the Buccaneers will need a very good offense on Sunday.
4) We all know about the Buccaneers’ pass rush — but what about other players on the Tampa Bay defense?
It’s funny, because when I talked to the guys over at Acme Packing Company previewing the NFC title game, I mentioned how cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting has become Mr. Playoffs after an average-at-best regular season — and that may be even pushing it for him. But he has been key to the Buccaneers success in the postseason with interceptions in each of the three games so far, which have all led to touchdowns by the offense.
Linebacker Devin White has also flipped a switch this postseason. Already making a name for himself his rookie season and also his second, White has been all over the field after missing the Wild Card round due to COVID-19 protocols. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. has also been instrumental in their playoff victories — and after missing the NFC Championship game, Tampa Bay hopes to have him back very close to 100-percent for the Super Bowl.
5) Finally, how does this one play out? Who’s lifting the Lombardi on Sunday night?
I have been very critical of the Buccaneers’ defense the second half of the season — following the regular season game against Kansas City — due to their lack of adjustments and getting away from their aggressive style of play. Despite making adjustments along the way, I still didn’t have much confidence in the team playing their style against New Orleans, so I picked them to lose their third game against them — and was proven wrong. I felt good about their chances defensively in Green Bay and it held up.
But I am once again extremely apprehensive about their defense going up against a very explosive Kansas City offense. I think the Chiefs will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy right at midfield inside the Buccaneers home stadium — with Mahomes grinning ear-to-ear with another Super Bowl MVP trophy to add to his resume.