Because they’re in different conferences, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only get to see each other once every four years, and Tampa Bay’s winning streak dates all the way back to 1999. The last time the Chiefs defeated the Bucs was when Joe Montana had his debut as the new Kansas City quarterback.
Sunday will be the fourth match-up between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady with Brady holding a 2-1 edge on wins. That includes the 2019 AFC Championship Game, when he was with the Patriots.
Brady missed a victory on Monday night against the Rams when he was picked off in the final two minutes. The Bucs ended with a 1-3 record in prime-time games.
Seven of Brady’s nine interceptions this season have come in just the last three weeks. In Monday night’s game against the Rams, Brady threw two interceptions and was 0 for 6 on passes traveling at least 20 yards. He’s 0 for 19 on such throws over the past three games.
These numbers have started a new conversation about whether the offense Bruce Arians is running is well-suited to what Brady has always been most effective at.
Adding Antonio Brown, a long-sought-after Brady addition, hasn't done much to boost Brady’s offense. The Bucs are currently 1-2 over the last three weeks since Brown started practicing with the team. He has yet to score a touchdown, but he did lead the team with 57 receiving yards against the Rams.
The secret ingredient to slowing the greatest quarterback of all time has always been putting pressure right in his face, particularly from the interior of the defense.
In all three of Brady's Super Bowl losses, defenses consistently stayed on Brady, sacking him eight times, generating 18 QB hits and 48 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. The pressure throws him off and forces him to move off his spot. In his Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Brady was pressured on 46.9 percent of his dropbacks.
The Kansas City Chiefs defense hasn’t necessarily been on their A-game. The team has been able to walk away with wins the past two weeks but their defense allowed 31 points each to Carolina and Las Vegas. Defenses that play primarily zone coverage or do not press receivers are basically asking Brady to pick them apart with quick strikes.
Kansas City defensive end Alex Okafor said the Chiefs’ interior pass rush is the key to keeping Brady at bay. “You’ve got to get pressure in the middle of the pocket, I think the whole NFL knows that,” Okafor told reporters. "Tom Brady is the GOAT. He’s the best quarterback that has ever played this game and the only way to affect him is to push through the middle.”
Kansas City’s defense has a turnover margin of plus-eight, which puts them third in the NFL this season behind Pittsburgh and Tennessee. The Bucs defense outranks the Chiefs in virtually every other major category.
The strength in this Bucs defense leaves some space for Brady to get comfortable in a way he hasn't been able to the past few weeks.