From players to pedigree, Chiefs edge on Bucs in all aspects
By DAVE SKRETTA AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes has surpassed Tom Brady as the NFL’s best quarterback.
Tyreek Hill is superior to Mike Evans at wide receiver.
Travis Kelce against Rob Gronkowski is no longer the contest it might have been five years ago.
Based on offense alone, the Kansas City Chiefs are head and shoulders better than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s not the only reason why they will win their second consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday.
Directing all that talent is the league’s most brilliant offensive mind in Andy Reid, helped along by arguably its premier offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has proven to be the kryptonite to Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady in the big game. Even the Chiefs’ special teams are more special.
“We’ve had everybody’s best shots, all shots thrown at us — guys throwing cheap shots, guys wanting to fight us,” Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “We’ve been taking on the world. That’s what makes us who we are. I think that’s what makes us the best team in the world.”
Within each of those reasons are yet more reasons why the Chiefs are 3 1-2 point favorites over the Buccaneers at the sports books, and why the majority of money from the betting public has been landing on Kansas City.
Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, has only gotten better since last season. That was evident in a Week 12 win over the Buccaneers, when he shredded their vaunted defensive front and aggressive blitzing scheme. Mahomes finished with 462 yards passing and three touchdowns without an interception in the 27-24 victory.
“We have a really good feel for what we want to do and how we want to execute on game day,” Mahomes said, “and when you have that much communication, you understand why things are called, it’s a cool thing to have on your team.”
Having Hill, Kelce and the rest of the Chiefs’ playmakers at his disposal is pretty cool, too.
Kelce had 13 catches for 118 yards and two TDs in the AFC championship game, tying Shannon Sharpe and Kellen Winslow for the playoff record for receptions by a tight end. Hill had a Chiefs playoff-record 172 yards receiving in the same game. Together, they’re the first teammates in NFL history with at least 100 yards receiving in consecutive postseason matches.
Yes, the Buccaneers have one of the NFL’s best run defenses, and they’ll have back Vita Vea after the big defensive tackle missed their Week 12 game with an injury. But that shouldn’t affect the Chiefs much: They had 49 pass plays against just 16 runs in that game, using their ground game merely to keep the defense a little bit honest.
“That group is playing at a very high level. You saw that with their front against Green Bay (in the NFC title game),” Reid said. “Our guys are working hard to make sure they’re fundamentally sound, schematically sound. Just keep it tight there.”
Speaking of Reid, the mastermind of the Kansas City offense is making his third Super Bowl trip as a head coach. Tampa Bay counterpart Bruce Arians has been to the big game twice as a coordinator in Pittsburgh, but never in charge.
Then there’s the Chiefs’ defense, which critics like to consider their shortcoming. But the reality is Spagnuolo’s bunch held the Buccaneers to a mere 10 points until the fourth quarter of their meeting earlier this season. They have plenty of star power in All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, pass rusher Frank Clark and defensive tackle Chris Jones.
As for Spagnuolo, he was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants when they held Brady and the unbeaten New England Patriots to just 14 points in springing one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
“At the end of the day, especially when you get into the postseason, it’s about which team has the best defense on the field,” Mathieu said. “It’s about winning third down, not letting the other team score 17 or 20 points. If we stay in that mindset, we give ourselves a chance to win any big game.”
None is bigger than the Super Bowl.