The stage is set for Super Bowl 55.
Chiefs vs Bucs, Mahomes vs Brady, Le’Veon Bell vs Antonio Brown(?).
Whatever way you spin it, football fans are in for a treat, for what should be a great matchup between two explosive offenses. Super Bowl 55 is one of the year’s biggest events, so it only makes sense for QSAO to make a big deal of it.
This three-piece series will provide readers with in-depth analysis on both the Chiefs and Buccaneers, how they reached the Super Bowl, how (and why) they lost their games this year; players to watch, and more.
We’ve organized each topic by section and team, so you can skip to whatever you feel is most important to help you pick this year’s Super Bowl winner.
Yesterday we released our preview for the Kansas City Chiefs. So, today here is QSAO’s Super Bowl 55 Breakdown for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Unlike the Chiefs, the Buccaneers had a much harder path to the Super Bowl. The Bucs\’ 11-5 regular-season record wasn\’t enough to win the division or secure a home game for the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Bucs went on the road and won three straight games and make Super Bowl 55.
Tampa Bay is led by 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who is entering his 10th(!) Super Bowl in his 20th(!) season as an NFL pro. Brady has led the Bucs to 365 yards per game under centre, good enough for sixth in the league. Their explosive offense has been clicking recently, scoring over 30 points in each playoff game, on top of their 40+ points in each of their final two regular-season games, as they finished second in the NFL in points per game, averaging 30.7 per contest.
Brady\’s pass catchers include 27-year-old Mike Evans, a big-bodied receiver who\’s 6\’5\”, 231-pound frame has helped him finish with an NFL record seven-straight 1000+ yard receiving seasons, including his career-best 13 touchdowns in 16 games this year.
Opposite Evans is slot receiver Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller. Godwin, listed at 6\’1\”, 210-pounds, was limited by injuries this season, only playing in 12 games, but seems to be hitting his stride when it matters most — finishing the season with four touchdowns in his last three games, including a five-catch, 110-yard stat line in the NFC championship against the Green Bay Packers.
Miller, listed at 5\’9\”, 174-pounds seems to be that change of pace player Brady loves. Miller leads Tampa Bay with an average of 15.2 yards per catch, 14th in the NFL. While his other stats aren\’t as eye-popping, Miller is a player to watch out for leading up to the Super Bowl.
Like the Chiefs, the Bucs don\’t rely on their run game, finishing 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. However, similarly to the Chiefs, their running backs are more than capable. Ronald Jones has been the starting back for most of the season, posting career highs in rushing yards and total scrimmage yards. He had the longest play of his career in Week 10 when he broke off a 98-yard run against the Panthers for a touchdown.
— Constantine Maragos (@CMaragos123) February 4, 2021
However, injuries slowed Jones down later in the season, making room for ex-Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette to get his chance at the spotlight. Fournette has scored a touchdown in each game during the Bucs playoff run. Now that both are healthy for Sunday, expect a rotation of Jones and Fournette until the hot hand appears.
Although, what truly scares teams playing Tampa Bay is their defense. The Bucs defense is filled with big-name players and playmakers. Defensive tackle William Gholston is an elite pass rusher, as he ranks top-five in pass-rush win-rate (getting to the quarterback within 2.5 seconds) and top-10 in run-stop win-rate (winning his matchup against the offensive line on a run play) for his position per ESPN.
Two of Tampa Bays most prolific pass rushers, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett are wreaking havoc on opposing teams\’ offensive lines this year. Barrett is just one year removed from his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, and although his numbers took a slight dip from last year, he showed last week why he is so valuable. Barrett and Pierre-Paul combined for five sacks against Aaron Rodgers, including nine combined tackles and four combined tackles for loss.
Tampa’s defense also includes linebacker Devin White, a 22-year-old who finished fifth in the league in tackles, had nine sacks and a forced fumble, and Carlton Davis, a cornerback who finished seventh in the NFL with four interceptions in 14 games.
Tampa\’s defense took the ball away 25 times this season, the fifth-highest total in the league. The Buccaneers also have the number-one ranked run defense in the NFL, allowing only 81.4 yards a game on the ground. That’s 9 yards better than the second-ranked team and a whopping 40 yards better than Kansas City.
Who they lost to (and why)
Tampa Bay lost five games this year, including Weeks One and Nine against their division rivals New Orleans Saints, neither of which were that close. Their other three losses included a 20-19 loss in Chicago, where Brady infamously refused to shake Bears QB Nick Foles\’s hand after the game.
Looks like Foles was trying to find Brady for a handshake after the game pic.twitter.com/AZUp5Ksb3E
— The Fantasy Source 🔮🏈 (@FantasySource_) October 9, 2020
Then finally, back-to-back games in weeks 11 and 12, against the Rams and Chiefs. Interestingly enough, the Bucs lost to the Chiefs, went on their bye week and haven\’t lost since.
September 13 — Week 1 – Away game @ New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay had three-plus turnovers in three different games this season. Two came against the Saints in the regular season, both of which came at a two-plus possession loss. The first game in New Orleans, the Bucs scored first to go up 7-0 but then allowed the Saints 24 straight points, including a Tom Brady pick-six to start the second half. Although the Bucs actually outgained the Saints this game, Tampa Bay\’s three turnovers were too much and cost them their first game of the season.
October 8 — Week 5 – Away game @ Chicago Bears
Despite only one turnover this game, the Bucs couldn\’t score 20 points, the first of only two occurrences this year. From a statistical point of view, the Bucs should\’ve won this game. They outgained the Bears 339 to 243 yards, only had one turnover as a team, won the time of possession battle, but ultimately couldn\’t connect when it mattered. Tom Brady was 0-7 on throws over 20+ yards down the field, something he hadn\’t done in over four years.
November 8 – Week 9 – Home game vs. New Orleans Saints
The second matchup between these teams in Week Nine proved to be Tampa Bay\’s worst game of the season — by a wide margin. This time, Brady threw three interceptions, and the score was 31-0 by halftime. The Bucs couldn\’t gain even 200 yards this game, going one-for-nine on third downs, and clocked in less than 20-minutes of possession. In this game, everything went the opposite direction for the Buccaneers.
November 23 – Week 11 – Home game vs. Los Angeles Rams
Tampa Bay\’s Week 11 loss was a close game that ended with a brutal Brady interception.
— Constantine Maragos (@CMaragos123) February 2, 2021
Tampa Bay had a lot going against them in this game. Fournette had three drops, Jones had a drop, the defense allowed over 400 yards and missed a 4th down conversion in LA territory. For a game where the Buccaneers only lead for a total of four minutes the entire game, they kept it within one score. Although they got their chance for a classic fourth-quarter, game-winning drive from Brady, it just wasn\’t his day.
November 29 – Week 12 – Home game vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The final loss of Tampa Bay\’s season came against their future Super Bowl opponent. Despite dropping to a 17-0 deficit in the first quarter, the Bucs made this game somewhat exciting. The emphasis on the day was Tampa Bay\’s inability to stop WR Tyreek Hill, as he exploded for 13 catches, 269 yards and three touchdowns. Both teams let their offenses run free with both teams racking up 400+ total yards, but once again Brady threw two interceptions in the second half, and Kansas City was able to come away with the win.
Even when they haven\’t played their best, the Bucs have found ways to overcome their slow starts and keep games close enough for a second-half push. Tampa Bay has conceded double digits first-half leads seven times this season, losing by 17 or more in four of those games. While their slow starts have forced them to go off script, the Bucs have consistently fought back to completely dominate in the second half. The question is if giving the Chiefs an early lead in the Super Bowl will be too much to handle for Brady and the Bucs.
Tampa Bay’s Path to Super Bowl 55
Tampa Bay had a much harder path to the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The Buccaneers played three road games in the playoffs, going through Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay.
NFC Wildcard @ Washington Football Team
One of only two road teams to be the favourite in the Wild Card Round, Tampa Bay was in control of this game. While the score seemed a lot closer, football fans everywhere (minus maybe Washington fans), had Tampa Bay to win this game throughout. The Buccaneers outgained Washington 507 yards to 375, intercepted Football Team QB Taylor Heinicke early in the game, and had over 140 yards rushing. Despite a late surge by Washington, the Buccaneers got their victory and moved on to a matchup their division rivals, the New Orleans Saints.
NFC Divisional Round @ New Orleans Saints
Bucs vs. Saints was the playoff matchup of the week.
Two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time; Brady and Drew Brees, went head-to-head for the first time ever in the NFC playoffs. Unfortunately, the game didn’t live up to the hype Brady and Brees created. Both teams were held to under 320 total yards, and both quarterbacks threw under 200 yards.
In what was a poorly played game by both teams, Tampa Bay was lucky the Saints were a lot worse. Brees threw three interceptions and couldn’t complete a pass longer than 16 yards. Brees’ wife, Brittney later revealed that Brees played the game with a collapsed lung, torn rotator cuff, torn fascia in his foot and multiple broken ribs. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay took advantage of the poor play and advanced to the NFC Conference Championship.
NFC Championship @ Green Bay Packers
Entering the game as a 3.0-point underdog, the Buccaneers knew they needed a great game plan to beat the hot Packers. Like Kansas City, Green Bay had one of the leagues best QB-WR tandems in Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, and no one figured out how to stop. The key to this game for Tampa Bay was pressure and not giving Rodgers the time he needed to throw the ball. It didn’t help that Green Bay lost their starting LT David Bakhtiari before this game, debatably the league’s best blindside blocker.
The Bucs defense pressured Rodgers 22 times this game, most in his post-season career. He was also sacked five times. The key stat in this game is that Green Bay intercepted Tom Brady three(!) times and only cashed in with a touchdown once. In comparison, Tampa Bay was able to score a touchdown after each of the Packers two turnovers.
Wrapping it up
While some would say Tampa Bay has been lucky to make it this far, you can’t deny the success. Teams don’t just go out and win seven games in a row, especially when it involves beating legends in Brees and Rodgers — in their home stadium.
Call it luck, call it the Tom Brady effect, call it whatever you want, but the bottom line is: it doesn’t say how you win in the win column, and Tom Brady has 230 of them, most of any quarterback.
Since coming from New England this offseason, Tampa Bay went from a 7-9 team to 11-5 NFC Champions. Their defense is hot, their offense is clicking, and Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers are about to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, something that’s never been done. It may not always look pretty, but Tampa Bay just keeps winning.
Cover graphic credited to Charlie Neibergall, Matt Ludtke — Associated Press