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Chiefs-Bucs focus points: all eyes on the offensive line

The game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory is here, and the Nerd Squad has six points to watch in the AFC championship.

AFC Championship - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The defending world champion Kansas City Chiefs look to complete the Run It Back tour with a confetti shower as they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in Super Bowl LV. We covered what to watch on one final preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory.

Here are the focus points to watch on Sunday:

Offense

Eyes on the offensive line

It may feel like a broken record to some, but it bears repeating — the most significant matchup in this game is the Chiefs pieced-together offensive line against a talented front four for Tampa. The Chiefs can still win this game even if they lose this matchup — the Bucs cannot. This is a key factor — among other things — that the Bucs need to pull this game off. Patrick Mahomes was locked in during the AFC championship — getting the ball out of his hand on time to great success. He will need to be as sharp as he was then to help take the pressure off his line.

Taking away Travis and Tyreek

The Bucs may be dead set on trying to take away the two key pass catchers for the Chiefs and force the complementary pieces to do the damage in favorable matchups. It would not be a shock to see Tampa bracket Tyreek Hill and chip Travis Kelce at the line of scrimmage to throw off his timing and release — similar to the game plan the New England Patriots have employed. That doesn’t mean these two still won’t get theirs, but slowing them down will be a priority.

3x1 formations in the passing game

The Chiefs can create problems for the Buccaneers with their 3x1 formations (three receivers to one side of the field). If the Bucs are playing man, the Chiefs can align to make it difficult to take both Kelce and Hill away. If they’re playing their static, spot-dropping zone coverage, the Chiefs can create favorable matchups like Hill or Kelce against a linebacker. Isolating Kelce on the back side against man coverage would make it hard to double him. There are some solutions the Chiefs have in answering what the Bucs might try to do.

Defense

Blitzing up the middle or the slot

Tom Brady has fallen off in the second halves of the game this season, at times. Pressuring him early and getting him on the ground will help the Chiefs close the game strong. You could see some blitzes from second and third-level defenders up the middle or from the slot to try and heat him up, force him to throw quicker than he wants (and athletically) and hope to get some hits on the 43-year-old quarterback. Steve Spagnuolo will not be afraid to dial up pressure.

Will the Bucs play with tempo?

Spagnuolo has had a lot of success against Brady in the past — but there are things the Bucs can do to counter that. One of them is tempo. If the Buccaneers play a possession or two of no-huddle, they can make it tougher for the Chiefs to be as exotic and take Spagnuolo out of a possession or two by forcing quick communication and less time to be exotic. That could also tire the pass rush. If the Bucs can punch in a score on a tempo possession, that could be part of the formula to them winning.

Third-down pass defense

The Bucs are converting 51% of their third downs in the playoffs. Brady was demoralizing the Packers early in the NFC championship. Tampa will have to maintain those splits. Brady is not afraid to throw some balls up and give his receivers a chance on third down. Limiting explosive plays and getting off the field will be key for the Chiefs defense.


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