NFL

Super Bowl LV: Chiefs have pressing decisions to make on O-Line after Bucs beatdown

By Sports Desk February 08, 2021

The Kansas City Chiefs' offense was the riddle the rest of the NFL had been trying to solve for the past two seasons. 

In Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers found a simple and time-tested answer: pressure Patrick Mahomes with four pass rushers.

It's hardly a new solution. After all, the San Francisco 49ers held the Chiefs to 10 points through three and a half quarters in Super Bowl LIV largely through the efforts of a stellar defensive line.

While the Niners ran out of gas and surrendered a 10-point lead, the Buccaneers were relentless and their pass rush had a more devastating impact, completely derailing the most feared passing attack in the NFL en route to a 31-9 win.

How did they do it, and what do the Chiefs' struggles in pass protection mean for Kansas City next season and beyond? We examine those questions with the help of Stats Perform data. 

Four-man front delivers five-star performance

The Buccaneers racked up 33 total pressures of Mahomes, with the sight of last season's Super Bowl MVP sprinting from the pocket to avoid swarming Tampa defenders the defining image of almost every Kansas City possession.

Just seven of those pressures came via the blitz, illustrating the dominance the Buccaneers' four-man defensive line had against an undermanned Chiefs offensive line. 

When the blitzes did come, they were well-designed and effective, with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles devising a gameplan his counterparts around the league will surely be looking to replicate.

Yet it likely would not have been so effective had the Chiefs entered the field with two key members of the offensive line group that did just enough to keep the Niners at bay a year ago.

Fisher injury a fatal blow

Kansas City had been without three-time second-team All-Pro and 2018 first-team All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz since Week 7 because of a back injury. 

The Chiefs managed to cope minus his services, but the loss of left tackle Eric Fisher to an Achilles issue in the AFC Championship game proved the tipping point on the O-Line.

It forced a reshuffle in the trenches, with Mike Remmers moving over to left tackle and Andrew Wylie playing on the right.

Adapting to new positions at short notice in the biggest game of the season against a defense as talented of that of Tampa Bay is a long way from ideal, and so it proved as the Bucs' edge rushers prospered throughout.

Shaquil Barrett made a strong case for MVP with a remarkable 13 pressures, while veteran Jason Pierre-Paul registered five.

But the Chiefs cannot just point to injuries for their struggles up front, with the Bucs' success up the middle pointing to a larger problem the Chiefs will have to solve in the offseason.

Interior issues

A Week 5 injury to guard Kelechi Osemele loomed large as the interior of the Chiefs' offensive line left Mahomes having to deal with pressure in his face as well as Barrett applying it from the periphery.

Center Austin Reiter and guards Stefen Wisniewski and Nick Allegretti were overmatched in their battle with the Bucs' defensive tackles.

Veteran Ndamukong Suh had eight pressures, Vita Vea logged six and Steve McLendon added four as they took advantage of an area of the Chiefs' roster that looks set for a rebuild.

Reiter, Remmers, Osemele and backup center Daniel Kilgore are all in their 30s and are all unrestricted free agents this offseason.

In a year where the salary cap is set to shrink due to the economic impacts of the pandemic, the Chiefs must determine whether it is worth the outlay to bring any of that quartet back or if they would be better served to trying to upgrade the heart of their O-Line through the draft.

With just over a month to go until teams can negotiate with pending free agents, Kansas City's front office has a relatively quick decision to make about an area that opponents will surely target more readily after it was ruthlessly exposed by Bowles and the Bucs.

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