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Chiefs-Buccaneers rapid reaction: Chiefs’ return to Tampa sees offensive explosion

This time, the business trip in Tampa went swimmingly.

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Week 4’s edition of Sunday Night Football featured the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. Given the quarterback matchup, the location of the game and even the team’s uniforms, there was an aesthetic familiarity to the matchup of Super Bowl LV — in which the Buccaneers humiliated the Chiefs with a 31-9 blowout.

How Sunday night’s game played out was nothing like that, as the Chiefs won 41-31.

They showed Shaq

The primary storyline all week surrounded the words of Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who laughed into a Zoom camera about the Chiefs’ offensive line. Barrett’s 2020 Buccaneers dominated the Chiefs’ O-line on the game’s biggest stage en route to a championship.

“I really don’t think it’s too much of a difference,” said Barrett. “I think we have a lot of favorable matchups. I think we really have an opportunity to really dominate the game... I just think, yeah, we’ve got an opportunity to really impose our will as pass-rushers, edge rushers in this game. We can really have like a coming-out party.

The coming-out party never started, with the offensive line setting the tone early. The line pushed the Buccaneers around, opening windows for running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Isiah Pacheco to ground and pound. As Barrett alluded to their possible “coming out party,” Pacheco seemed to have his — gaining 56 yards on 10 carries. Early in the game, the rookie saw meaningful playing time in what now appears to be a true running back-by-committee. Edwards-Helaire had a key fourth-down drop but put together a solid night overall, scoring twice while gaining 92 rushing yards.

The Chiefs’ offense simply seems to tick better when they can get tight end Travis Kelce going early, which it did in this game. Kelce scored the game’s first touchdown on the Chiefs’ second offensive play, finishing with five catches for 53 yards in the first quarter as part of a nine-catch, 92-yard night. Kelce’s running mate, Jody Fortson, added scores.

Make no mistake: the Tampa Bay defense did not come into the game as a slouch of any sort. Tampa was No. 1 in the league, surrendering only nine points a game through three weeks. They gave up 41 to the Chiefs.

The defense

I think — at least in this look from Sunday night — that it appears quarterback Tom Brady may finally be in the final chapter of his career. Yes, we have said this before. Yes, he still has zip on his passes. And yes, the Chiefs getting to him early in the game seemed to impact his throws. If it is indeed the last ride, the defense gave Mahomes his chance to even the series. Brady’s wins against Mahomes include a Super Bowl and an AFC title — but it is nice for the young prodigy to have evened the series at three wins apiece.

Right from the start, the Chiefs’ defense performed so well against the run — with tackles for loss by linebacker Nick Bolton and defensive end George Karlaftis — that Tampa Bay simply stopped running the football. Running back Leonard Fournette finished the first half with negative three yards — and with Tampa down 28-17 going into the third quarter, the passing first had to continue in the second half.

The Buccaneers have talented receivers, meaning an all-world pass-catcher such as Mike Evans is going to get his. But the Chiefs weren’t really gashed by anyone else, and Brady — well known for getting rid of the ball quickly — was hit five times. Brady was fooled by cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, never seeing him as he streaked to the quarterback for a strip-sack.

Brady fumbled and defensive tackle Chris Jones jumped on the football. A couple of plays later — tight end Noah Gray pulled off the well-missed Blake Bell tight end sneak to make it 28-10.

In a game where the Bucs defense entered doing the talking, the Chiefs defense did the walking.

Mahomes magic

We got a couple more clips for the Mahomes magic reel on Sunday night.

Early in the game, cornerback Carlton Davis nearly had the quarterback for a sack, but Mahomes was able to fake him out — and, while wrapped up, flip a ball to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for the first down. Then in the second quarter, there was another dazzler.

Flushed to his right, Mahomes avoided a sack, spun and flicked a pass that drops into the hands of Edwards-Helaire to give the Chiefs a 21-3 lead.

The final word

Tampa Bay came into the game with the league’s best defense — and the Chiefs dropped 41 points on its head. That isn’t simply significant for Sunday night. A week after looking lost against the Indianapolis Colts, that was an outing head coach Andy Reid — and Mahomes — can build upon.

All the while, Kansas City’s defense continued to operate at a high level for the second consecutive game without suspended linebacker Willie Gay Jr.

The last time the Chiefs played in Raymond James Stadium, it was a Super Bowl — and they didn’t play very well. But on Sunday, they performed like the AFC’s best team.

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