The stage has been set for the 55th Super Bowl. Tom Brady is back, and there is no denying his greatness. He’s taking a previously mediocre team to the Super Bowl in his first season with Tampa Bay. His 21 years could make up three separate Hall of Fame careers, and at 43 years old, he may have the most sustained dominance of any athlete ever. It seemed the debate over the greatest quarterback of all time had been settled.
Then Patrick Mahomes came along. Mahomes, at the young age of 25, boasts the most impressive resume a quarterback has ever had and has already presented himself as one of the most talented quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. He aims to wrench the trophy out of Brady’s hands.
Kansas City seeks to establish a dynasty following its 2020 Super Bowl victory; Tampa Bay craves its first ring since 2002. Let’s see what each team needs to do to enter the history books on Super Bowl Sunday.
Kansas City Offense
Kansas City’s offensive line has been decimated with injuries. The team’s five starters for the Super Bowl are fresh off a round of icebreakers with their teammates, and they are inexperienced compared to the rejuvenated Tampa Bay pass rush. They need to turn to the run-pass option to get the ball out quickly and give Tampa Bay a variety of looks. While uncorking the deep ball is a key component of a potent Kansas City offense, Head Coach Andy Reid should know he’s going in short staffed. In their first game against Tampa Bay, Kansas City used their receiving corps in motion as chip blockers and ran RPOs to get off to an early lead. Without key offensive players like Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, the team will need to find a way to replicate that momentum.
Tampa Bay Offense
Tampa Bay doesn’t have an obvious offensive flaw. Given the team’s recent performances, Tampa Bay should be able to rely heavily on a passing attack to put up points. Tampa does, however, need to be aggressive coming out of the gate. Against Green Bay in the championship round, Tampa Bay put up 21 points by the end of the first half. In their regular season game with Kansas City, however, Tampa Bay scored on just one of six drives in the first half. To keep pace with a superb Kansas City offense, Tampa Bay needs to rely on Brady’s arm to keep the offensive game moving.
Kansas City Defense
Since playing Kansas City, the Tampa Bay offense has been on a tear, racking up seven more regular season wins and averaging over 30 points a game. In the regular season, however, Kansas City seemed to understand how to contain the Tampa Bay offense. Varied blitzes and pass rushes were the key. Kansas City used delayed blitzes well on several third downs, forced a Bashaud Breeland interception and employed another disguised set to get a Tyrann Mathieu pick. While Tampa Bay certainly has a potent offense led by the best mind in football, Kansas City has an experienced, tight-knit group that should be able to generate pressure in a variety of ways.
Tampa Bay Defense
In the NFC championship round, Tampa Bay’s defensive line brought Aaron Rodgers down five times. Every single player came from a four-man rush. Considering who they were facing, this statistic only becomes more impressive. Some quarterbacks are immune to the blitz; Mahomes is elevated by it. As of last season, he posted a higher passer rating when rushed. Tampa Bay needs to get home with just four rushers, which should be feasible against a depleted Kansas City offensive line.
While the defensive line needs to have a big day, the secondary was the issue when Tampa Bay and Kansas City faced off in the regular season. Kansas City’s star wide receiver Tyreek Hill logged 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns, and Tampa Bay corner Carlton Davis has been the subject of humiliation for weeks since. This time around, Tampa Bay cannot leave someone on an island with Hill. His three touchdowns in week 12 all came when Davis had minimal help. Zone coverage with two safeties playing deep is a must to limit Kansas City’s explosiveness.
We’re about to watch two teams with supreme talent, a deep understanding of the game and everything on the line. Tampa Bay can win their first Super Bowl in two decades in their own stadium, and Brady can shut the door for good on the greatest-of-all-time debate. Kansas City has the opportunity to form a dynasty, with back-to-back rings and nearly unparalleled dominance. The duo of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes could become one of the greatest ever, with nowhere to go but up. Greatness is to come on Sunday, and it will change the course of NFL history.
Saar Shah is a first-year in the McDonough School of Business. The Fifth Quarter appears online every other week.