A priority for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason will be adding some speed in the secondary after Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill torched what looked like a totally unprepared unit early and often on Sunday evening.
The Buccaneers' 27-24 loss to the Chiefs, like last week's defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, simply fell out of favor early and left the Bucs clawing for a way back into the game. It wasn't a terrible game from head to toe, and quarterback Tom Brady was able to make this game competitive near the end, but no dice.
With that, you can find our five key takeaways from the loss below.
The Bucs' secondary was torn apart
Patrick Mahomes went 25-of-33 for 359 yards in the first half against the Buccaneers, finding Hill specifically for 203 yards in the first quarter - the most receiving yards by a player in any quarter since 2006.
While the game slowed down for Kansas City in the second half, it was clear that should the Chiefs have wanted to, they could have kept their foot on the gas all night long. Tampa Bay was able to generate some more pressure in the second half, which KC balanced out by nearly doubling its rushing attempts. Mahomes was still relatively automatic despite the pressure, going 12-of-16 for 103 yards and making unorthodox plays - part of what makes him so dynamic.
Tampa Bay's two biggest issues in coverage were Carlton Davis Jr. manning up against Hill, and a lack of deep safety help. Hill scored all three of his touchdowns with Davis in coverage - the first being a 77 yard out-and-up vertical to the weak-side where Antoine Winfield Jr. provided no deep help as Mahomes baited him with a look to the strong-side. The second came as Davis lined up across from Hill in the slot and pressed, which Hill beat moving across the field and vertically from there on out for a 44-yard score.
The third, a much shorter, 20-yard score, came from Hill gaining just one step on Davis against a Cover 1 look vs. five wide. Once again, there was no safety help as Hill beat Davis on the weak-side.
Mahomes finished his night with six completions of 20+ yards.
Even if Jamel Dean (concussion) was able to play on Sunday, it may not have mattered that much. The Bucs simply don't have the speed or deep-coverage awareness to slow down an offense with as much firepower as KC, which the Chiefs knew coming in and decided to have some early fun to expose the issue.
The offense came out stale, which it couldn't afford to do
Tampa Bay's first four drives ended in punts, combining for just 14 offensive plays and 39 yards. The first drive lasted five offensive plays, before the Bucs encountered three consecutive three-and-outs. Ronald Jones II converted the team's second first down of the night on a 13-yard carry at the 8:38 mark of the second quarter.
Tom Brady was relied upon throughout the entirety of the game once again, dealing with ample pressure and having to get his passes out quickly. A deep ball as Brady was hit went right through Mike Evans' hands on the first drive, and the next play ended in miscommunication between the two on a hitch route, resulting in the first punt.
You could tell pretty quickly how the afternoon was going to go, and it came to fruition as the Bucs finished 3-of-9 on third downs. While Brady was only sacked once throughout the game, he was hit eight times, especially earlier in the game to prevent him from getting into a rhythm. Brady found it in the fourth quarter at least, after shaking off two interceptions that led to a 17-point deficit, going 11-of-16 for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.
However, Kansas City responded to Brady's last touchdown with an eight-play, 4:10 drive to run out the game clock. It was too late.
Say what you will about the box score at the end of the game: This offense was a disaster in the first half. Against a team that can go up-tempo and seamlessly pick you apart in the passing game like Kansas City, the last thing you can afford to do as an offense is come out stale. That's exactly what the Bucs did.
Brady completed some deep passes!
If the Bucs deserve credit for one thing offensively, it's that the deep ball made its return!
Brady completed four passes of 20+ air yards on the night (not including short passes + yards after the catch), breaking a streak of over 20 consecutive incompletions on such attempts, which was extended shortly into the game.
Rob Gronkowski was on the receiving end of the first two deep balls, the first a 29-yard catch thrown almost immediately off the snap and up the seam, and the second resulting in a 48-yard gain. Chris Godwin made a diving 44-yard catch on a beautifully thrown deep pass from Brady as he got rocked by a rusher in the third quarter, while Evans' hauled in a fourth-down, 31-yard touchdown on Tampa Bay's final drive.
Brady ended the night 4-of-8 for 152 yards on such throws.
Red zone defense was solid, at least
While the Chiefs had their way with the Buccaneers' secondary throughout the night, the entire defense was stout in Kansas City's four trips into the red zone.
On KC's first drive of the game, the Chiefs set up with a second and goal from the one-yard line but ran an unsuccessful Philly Special where Davis broke up a pass from Travis Kelce to Mahomes at the goal line. Mahomes threw another incompletion on the next play, and four points were left on the field.
Mahomes fumbled on a sack by Shaq Barrett that was picked up by William Gholston at the TB13 in the middle of the second quarter, and the following drive ended with three incompletions in a row from Mahomes at the TB11.
Mahomes connected with Hill on a 20-yard touchdown with seven minutes left in the third, which kept it from being a great night for the Bucs' red zone defense. Still, on a night where Mahomes finished with 462 passing yards, the Bucs should at least find comfort in keeping 15 points off of the scoreboard that could have come in the red area.
Fortunately, no shakeup in the Bucs' playoff picture
Despite the second loss in a row, the Buccaneers (7-5) haven't moved in the playoff picture and currently project as the sixth seed. The Buccaneers hold a half-game advantage over the 6-5 Arizona Cardinals and a two-game advantage over the top three reams in the hunt.
The Bucs' next game, after this week's bye, comes against the 5-6 Minnesota Vikings, who currently lead "the hunt". Should the Vikings defeat the 1-10 Jacksonville Jaguars at home on Sunday, Dec. 13's matchup becomes all-the-more important. In such a case, a loss to Minnesota would put each team at 7-6 with the Vikings taking the head-to-head advantage,
Tampa Bay is set to face the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and Atlanta again following the Vikings game. Win all four, which should be manageable for this team, and the Bucs are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
We'll see if that holds true.