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How Dominant Was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Defense in the Super Bowl?

When needed the most, the Buccaneers defense put all of the pieces together for a masterful performance.

On the biggest stage in all of football, Tampa Bay shocked the world to not only upset but dominate Kansas City, upsetting the three-point favorites by a score of 31-9. 

On the backs of the best pass rush in football, the Buccaneers shut down the most powerful offense in the entire league, getting pressure on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes all night long. Despite only sacking Mahomes three times due to his Houdini-like movements, the Bucs pass rush was exerting its dominance with constant duress. 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks on Sunday Night. Despite being pressured on over half of his dropbacks, the Bucs only blitzed 11% of the time, on six snaps. 

Unsurprisingly, the 29 pressures of Mahomes is a Super Bowl record, topping the former record of 25 which was set in Super Bowl XXVI when Jim Kelly was struggling to escape from the Washington pass rush in 1992.  

When the Bucs did send extra pressure to Mahomes, he failed miserably to make them pay for not playing coverage. On the first five blitzes of the Super Bowl, Mahomes was 0-5 with an interception. That interception was the first caused when Mahomes was blitzed all season, an indicator of how the night went for the highest-paid QB in the NFL. 

The base pass rush of four defenders was effective, much in part due to the quality of depth that the Chiefs had along their offensive line. The Chiefs were hurting terribly, with both tackles out and the remaining healthy options pushed to positions they were not accustomed to. 

The Buccaneers have one of the most dangerous pass-rushing duos with Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, but the addition of nose tackle Vita Vea back into the lineup was vital to allowing the edge rushers to get pressure on their reps. 

As Vea was wreaking havoc on the inside, the edge threats in Barrett and Pierre-Paul were able to find one-on-one matchups with the severely out-talented tackles, causing pressure over and over again. Not only was the pressure occurring every other snap, but the Buccaneers' defense was getting into the backfield swiftly. 

With the pressure getting to Mahomes almost instantly, he was forced out of the pocket early and often. Early on, it worked in the Chiefs' favor, as Mahomes extended multiple drives with his legs as he scrambled for first downs. But alas, this was quickly shut down once the Buccaneers were reminded of Mahomes' scrambling ability. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes had been pressured in less than 2.5 seconds on 24 snaps, or 43% of his dropbacks. 


Despite all the stats showing that Tampa's pass rush feasted on the Chiefs' offensive line, the real eye-opener was how Tampa's secondary halted the receivers of Kansas City. 

As a result of the pressure rate with only four rushing the passer, the Buccaneers were able to drop seven in coverage, forcing Mahomes to throw into tight windows. With an extra man in coverage, Tampa often doubled Tyreek Hill and dropped their safeties deep, ensuring they do not get beat overtop. 

Even when Mahomes had time to get the ball out, the Buccaneers secondary caused multiple incompletions themselves, setting the Chiefs even further behind the sticks. In total, Tampa recorded nine pass deflections and also forced two interceptions, which changed the momentum of the game, allowing the Tampa offense to pull away. 

The Chiefs tried to adjust with certain screen plays and short passes, which proved unsuccessful due to the pure speed of the backend of the Tampa defense. 

It did not help that the Chiefs receivers evidently forgot how to catch the football once they landed in Tampa, as Mahomes escaped the pocket and delivered strikes, just for them to be dropped by his receivers. 

All in all, it was a masterpiece of a gameplan by Tampa defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. I expected Bowles to have his team ready with an excellent gameplan, but even I could not believe the pure level of dominance that Tampa showed in Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. 

Bowles' gameplan simply shut down three of the best playmakers in the entire league and most importantly, made Mahomes look mortal for once. 

As the age-old saying goes, "Defense wins Championships" and that could not be more true, even in one of the most peculiar seasons the sport has ever seen.