Tampa Bay BuccaneersA Super Bowl LV rematch features another marquee quarterback matchup, but the Buccaneers’ defense is riding high as both teams wonder about the impact of Hurricane IanScott Smith
The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs met on the field it made NFL history, as the Buccaneers became the first team ever to play a Super Bowl, let alone win one, in their own home stadium. For the rematch a little over 19 months later, once again scheduled to be played in Tampa, the Buccaneers and Chiefs are not yet sure if that rematch will be at Raymond James Stadium.
With Hurricane Ian making landfall on Florida's west coast on Wednesday, there remains the possibility that the NFL will move the Buccaneers-Chiefs game to an alternate league venue outside of the state. While the location of a football game is hardly the most pressing of concerns for a state facing a hurricane, it does add a bit of uncertainty to what is one of the most anticipated games on the entire 2022 NFL schedule.
The Buccaneers and Chiefs get the prime-time spotlight on Sunday night not just because they will be playing for the first time since Super Bowl LV but because, of course, it features yet another marquee matchup of quarterbacks. One week after Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers - last year's top two vote-getters in the MVP race - squared off for just the fifth time, Brady will now share the field with one of the NFL's brightest young stars, Patrick Mahomes.
This will be the sixth meeting between the two prolific passers, the first three of which came while Brady was with the New England Patriots and Mahomes was seen as the next transcendent star to whom Brady might eventually pass the torch. And, after Brady's team won the first two of those meetings, Mahomes was able to even it up with wins over the Patriots in 2019 and the Buccaneers in 2020. In between, Mahomes and the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV.
As it turned out, however, Brady hasn't quite seen fit to hand that torch over yet. He joined the Buccaneers in 2020 and over the next two years presided over the NFL's highest scoring offense while leading the NFL in both passing yards and touchdown passes in 2021. In Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers denied the Chiefs' bid to win back-to-back Super Bowls as Brady threw three touchdown passes in a 31-9 victory.
Of course, it was Tampa Bay's defense that really denied Mahomes his win over Brady on the biggest stage, chasing the elusive quarterback all night and clamping down on his favorite targets. The Buccaneers became just the third team in Super Bowl history to hold an opponent without a touchdown. That Mahomes vs. the Bucs' defense matchup could emerge as the central plot in Sunday's rematch, as well. While Brady's crew has struggled to find a groove amid the absence of a handful of key performers, the Chiefs' offense has continued to thrive even after trading big-play wideout Tyreek Hill to Miami. Kansas City is scoring 29.3 points per game, which is actually better than its average from any of the past three seasons, and Mahomes has a 112.1 passer rating and an 8-1 TD-INT ratio.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers' defense has emerged as the main reason the team is 2-1 and in first place in the NFC South. Tampa Bay is allowing a miniscule 9.0 points per game, best in the league, and is among NFL leaders in sacks, takeaways and third-down defense. Mahomes has already completed at least 10 passes to four different pass-catchers, headlined by tight end Travis Kelce (17 for 230 yards and two touchdowns). Newcomers JuJu Smith-Schuster (14-178) and Marques Valdez-Scantling (10-105) have helped make up for the departure of Hill. However, the Buccaneers can counter with a secondary that has already picked off five passes and has completely clamped down on big plays. Antoine Winfield has taken very well to a dual role at safety and nickel corner and could be one of the keys to slowing down Kelce and getting to Mahomes when he moves out of the pocket and makes his signature off-script throws.
If the situation permits, this highly-anticipated battle that is much more than just Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes - though it very much is about Brady-Mahomes - will take place at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night. Wherever it is played, it will come amid the larger concern for the citizens of the state of Florida.
GAME AND BROADCAST DETAILS
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
Sunday, October 2, 8:20 p.m. ET
Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 69,000)
Television: NBC (Local WFLA Channel 8)
TV Broadcast Team: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Cris Collinswoth (analyst), Melissa Stark (reporter)
Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station
Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (reporter)
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ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD SERIES
The last time the Buccaneers and Chiefs met on the field, it was one of the most glorious evenings in Tampa Bay's franchise history.
That, of course, was Super Bowl LV, which the Buccaneers won by a convincing 31-9 margin over the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, 2021, becoming the first team in NFL history to capture a Super Bowl title on its home field. The Bucs' swarming defense, led by linebacker Devin White, held the Chiefs' high-powered offense to three field goals, marking just the third in Super Bowl annals that a team had been held without a touchdown. Tampa Bay's defense sacked Patrick Mahomes three times, pressured him relentlessly and picked him off twice, with White's goal-line interception ending the Chiefs' last bid at cracking the end zone.
That was a particularly fine time to exact revenge over a 27-24 win by the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium earlier that season. That outcome snapped a five-game head-to-head winning streak for Tampa Bay and gave Kansas City its first victory in the series since 1993. Joe Montana was the Chiefs quarterback in that last win; Patrick Mahomes was two years and 12 days from being born.
The Chiefs win in November of 2020 came close to evening the series, with the Buccaneers now clinging to a 7-6 lead in the regular season. That game also narrowed the Bucs' series lead in home games to 4-3. Kansas City raced out to a quick 17-0 lead, with Tyreek Hill scoring two long touchdowns early and finishing with a career-best line of 13 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns. The Buccaneers mounted a comeback in the second half and scored on their last two drives with Tom Brady touchdown passes to Mike Evans, pulling to within three with four minutes left, but Mahomes engineered three first downs to run out the rest of the clock.
Even though the Bucs and Chiefs have only met a baker's dozen times in 45 years, their shared history has some rather interesting moments. For instance, Tampa Bay's 3-0 victory in the 1979 regular-season finale, which clinched the team's first division title, remains the lowest-scoring contest in franchise history. Contrastingly, the year prior to that the Buccaneers scored big in a 30-13 win at Arrowhead Stadium that was the franchise's first-ever win against an AFC team.
The Buccaneers' five-game winning streak included three straight contests from 2004-12 in which Tampa Bay's offense was in high gear, leading to final scores of 34-31, 30-27 and 38-10. The middle game in that run went to overtime in Kansas City as the Buccaneers stormed back from a 21-point deficit to win, marking what is still the biggest comeback win in team annals. Most recently before 2020, the 2016 Buccaneers upset a 7-2 Chiefs team in Kansas City, 19-17, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone by safety Chris Conte.
The Bucs-Chiefs series also featured the notable debut of Montana in Kansas City after he had left the 49ers, who were going with former Buccaneer Steve Young under center. Opposing Montana at quarterback for the Buccaneers was former Chief Steve DeBerg, who had led Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game in 1991, though by the end of Kansas City's 27-3 win he had been relieved by Craig Erickson. That is the last game in the series that the Chiefs have won.
* Buccaneers Senior Advisor to the General Manager Bruce Arians spent four seasons (1989-92) as the running backs coach on Marty Schottenheimer's staff in Kansas City.
* Kevin Ross, Tampa Bay's cornerbacks coach, had a distinguished 14-year playing career in the NFL, most of it with the Chiefs. Ross first arrived as a seventh-round draft pick in 1984 and spent a decade with the team, earning a spot in the franchise's Hall of Fame and its Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium. Ross also returned to Kansas City for his final playing season in 1997.
* Kansas City running back Ronald Jones spent his first four NFL seasons in Tampa before departing as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason. A second-round draft pick by the Bucs in 2018, Jones played in 55 games with 25 starts over those four seasons and recotrded 2,174 rushing yards, 571 receiving yards and 19 total touchdowns.
* Chiefs WR Justin Watson was in that same Tampa Bay 2018 draft class as Jones, arriving as a fifth-round pick. He saw action in 42 games with four starts over four seasons in Tampa, catching 25 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns and playing extensively on special teams.
* Buccaneers Running Backs Coach Todd McNair also came into the league as a Chiefs' draft pick, selected in the eighth round in 1989. McNair played six seasons (1989-93, 1996) in Kansas City.
* Buccaneers defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Chiefs in 2015. He played in 34 games with 16 starts over three seasons in Kansas City.
* Bucs kicker Ryan Succop was a seventh-round draft pick by Kansas City in 2009; as the 256th and final selection in that draft he got the title of "Mr. Irrelevant." Succop played his first five seasons with the Chiefs, making 119 of 147 field goal attempts.
* Joe Cullen, who is in his first season as the Chiefs' defensive line coach, held the same post for the Buccaneers in the 2014 and 2015 seasons on Lovie Smith's staff.
SENIOR COACHING STAFFS
* Head Coach Todd Bowles
* Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
* Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich
* Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers
* Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foot
* Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong
* Head Coach Andy Reid
* Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy
* Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
* Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub
KEY 2022 ROSTER ADDITIONS
* WR Cole Beasley (FA...currently on practice squad)
* P Jake Camarda (fourth-round draft pick)
* WR Russell Gage (UFA)
* G Luke Goedeke (second-round draft pick)
* DL Logan Hall (second-round draft pick)
* T Fred Johnson (FA)
* WR Julio Jones (FA)
* TE Ko Kieft (sixth-round draft pick)
* G Shaq Mason (trade-NE)
* CB Zyon McCollum (fifth-round draft pick)
* OLB Carl Nassib (FA)
* S Keanu Neal (UFA)
* TE Cade Otton (fourth-round draft pick)
* TE Kyle Rudolph (FA)
* S Logan Ryan (FA)
* RB Rachaad White (third-round draft pick)
* LB Leo Chenal (3rd-round draft pick)
* S Bryan Cook (2nd-round draft pick)
* DE Carlos Dunlap (FA)
* RB Ronald Jones (UFA)
* DE George Karlaftis (1st-round draft pick)
* T Darian Kinnard (5th-round draft pick)
* CB Trent McDuffie (1st-round draft pick)
* WR Skyy Moore (2nd-round draft pick)
* RB Isaih Pacheco (7th-round draft pick)
* S Justin Reid (UFA)
* WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (UFA)
* WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (UFA)
* CB Joshua Williams (4th-round draft pick)
ADDITIONAL 2022 CHANGES OF NOTE
* While the Bucs continue to maintain enviable continuity on their coaching staff, there is a new person in the corner office. In March, Bruce Arians stepped down after three years as the head coach and took on a new role as a senior advisor to the general manager. Todd Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to take his place. Bowles previously served as the New York Jets' head coach from 2015-18 before rejoining Arians when the latter came on as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2019.
* With Bowles stepping up the Bucs needed a new defensive coordinator and they essentially named two of them. Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers added the title of Run Game Coordinator while Outside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote switched to inside linebackers and added the title of Pass Game Coordinator. They are in effect co-defensive coordinators. Bob Sanders joined the staff to take over for Foote in the outside linebackers room. Foote made his switch after Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell landed the defensive coordinator position in Jacksonville under new Head Coach Doug Pederson.
* The Buccaneers had two key players retire after the 2021 season, but only one of them stayed retired. While quarterback Tom Brady eventually elected to return 40 days after announcing he was stepping away from the game, his long-time buddy Rob Gronkowski walked away for good, leading to big changes in the Bucs' tight end room. While veteran Cam Brate returned, O.J. Howard left in free agency and the Buccaneers subsequently drafted Cade Otton and Ko Kieft and signed veteran Kyle Rudolph.
* Tampa Bay's defense also saw the departure of two front-seven stalwarts from the extremely successful 2020-21 seasons, as neither DL Ndamukong Suh nor OLB Jason Pierre-Paul was re-signed. The team signed veteran standout Akiem Hicks and drafted Houston's Logan Hall 33rd overall to address depth up front and are relying on 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka to step up on the edge.
* Like Tampa Bay's most recent opponent, the Packers, the Chiefs made the unexpected move of trading their top wide receiver during the offseason. Kansas City sent big-play specialist Tyreek Hill to Miami in exchange for first, second and fourth-round picks in this year's draft and fourth and sixth-round selections next year. Obviously aware that they weren't going to find a one-for-one replacement for Hill, the Chiefs reloaded with the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and draft pick Sky Moore. While Hill has thrived so far for the 3-0 Dolphins, the Chiefs' offense hasn't missed a beat, ranking fourth in the NFL with 29.3 points per game.
* Kansas City also moved on from one of its cornerstone pieces on defense, choosing not to attempt to re-sign safety Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu eventually signed on with the Saints. The Chiefs loaded back up in the secondary, nowever, by signing veteran Justin Reid and selecting Cincinnati safety Bryan Cook in the second round of the draft. The Chiefs' cornerback room also saw the free agency departure of its top player, Charvarius Ward, but spent one of its two first-round picks on Washington CB Trent McDuffie after trading up eight spots. However, McDuffie is currently on injured reserve.
* The Chiefs will be without another one of their usual starters on defense against the Buccaneers and for two more games after that. Last week, the NFL levied a four-game suspension on starting linebacker Willie Gay, a punishment stemming from an off-field incident last January. Gay had 16 tackles, a quarterback hit and two passes defensed in the Chiefs' first two games before his suspension. Former undrafted free agent Darius Harris started in Gay's place in Week Three against the Colts.
* Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes had Mike Kafka as his position coach for his first four years as a starter but new Giants Head Coach Brian Daboll hired Kafka away to be his offensive coordinator. The Chiefs brought back one of their own, Matt Nagy, to slide into Kafka's spot as quarterbacks coach after Nagy was relieved of his head coaching duties in Chicago. Nagy was previously on Kansas City's staff from 2013-17, including the last two years as the offensive coordinator. Moving in the other direction was Ryan Poles, previously the Chiefs' executive director of player personnel and now the new G.M. for the Bears.
* The Chiefs' former linebackers coach, Matt House, left to join LSU as the Tigers' new defensive coordinator so Andy Reid switched Defensive Line Coach Brendan Daly to that position, on Daly's request. To take over the open spot coaching the defensive line, the team brought in Joe Cullen, who lists Tampa as one of his NFL coaching stops.
All Eyes on Ian - The Buccaneers avoided Hurricane Ian and found a way to continue preparing for the Chiefs game, but they didn't lose their perspective. "It's a double-edged sword because you feel for everybody else in Tampa and you can't save the world," said Head Coach Todd Bowles on Wednesday. "But our heart goes out to everybody there. You try to take it day by day and not make it too big for yourself and just make sure everybody can function." The relocation of the Bucs' football operations to South Florida went smoothly, but that is far from the last impact that Ian has made or will make. The most important issue, of course, is how the hurricane affects the citizens of the communities it hits the hardest. Though obviously far less critical, those outcomes could affect whether or not the Chiefs and Buccaneers will be able to play their game at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night. As of Thursday morning, that was still the plan, but the league and both teams will continue to monitor the situation closely and it remains possible the game will be moved to another NFL location.
Mahomes vs. Bowles, Pt. 3 - While Sunday's game is rightfully billed as a rematch of Super Bowl LV, it is also the first time these two teams have met in the regular season since early in the Bucs' 2020 championship season. In that contest, Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill early and often on his way to a 462-yard day with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Hill had 210 yards and two touchdowns by halftime and finished with 13 catches for 269 yards and three scores. The Buccaneers did rally to make it a 27-24 final, but still absorbed the last loss they would take in 2020, regular or postseason. Then the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator, current Head Coach Todd Bowles clearly took what he had seen in that late-November contest and devised a defensive strategy that worked infinitely better eight weeks later in the Super Bowl. Dialing back his usually aggressive blitz tendencies, Bowles saw his defensive front get an enormous amount of pressure with just four rushers, leading to the first game in which Mahomes started and the Chiefs failed to score a touchdown. "They had a good game plan," Mahomes later said. "They kind of took away our deep stuff, took away the sidelines and did a good job rallying to the football and making tackles. We weren't executing early, had a few miscues and we weren't on the same page." Obviously, both teams are well aware of how the Buccaneers' chose to defend Mahomes and company in the Super Bowl, and there are surely lessons from that game that both teams will apply on Sunday. How much of that night can Bowles' defense duplicate this time around, and how will Bowles tweak his team's approach to stay ahead of the Chiefs strategically?
Reinforcements on the Way? - Tom Brady and the Buccaneers' passing attack led the NFL in 2021 with 307.6 yards per game and Brady finished with an NFL-high 43 touchdown passes. Through the first three weeks of 2022, the Bucs are 22nd in the league with 211.3 passing yards per game and Brady has just three touchdown passes, with one in each game. This is not a completely unexpected development, with heavy turnover on the offensive line and the receiving corps experiencing a rash of simultaneous injuries. Still, the Buccaneers do expect their aerial attack to get significantly better as the season progresses, and that would start with it getting more healthy. Left tackle Donovan Smith may continue to miss time with his elbow injury but the Bucs are getting Mike Evans back from a one-game suspension, which may have given him time to recover more fully from a calf injury. Wideouts Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) are both headed in the right direction after returning to the practice field on Wednesday. The Buccaneers have high hopes for an offense featuring Brady distributing the ball to Evans, Godwin, Jones and Russell Gage, but they have had very little work so far with all five on the field at the same time, even in training camp. That group might not fully intact by this Sunday, but even getting a couple of those players back could help the offense get out of neutral.
Time to Share the Rock? - Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's rushing attack got off to a great start in Dallas with a 152-yard evening but has since dropped to 25th in the league with 86.0 yards per game. The coaching staff has been very pleased with how hard Leonard Fournette has run and the tone he has been able to set, but Todd Bowles has made it clear he wants to get rookie back Rachaad White and third-year man Ke'Shawn Vaughn more involved, as well. Through three games, Fournette has 57 of the team's 65 carries by a running back and 12 targets in the passing game to four for White. Fournette is more than happy to continue carrying the load but thinks that his fellow backs will start to get more involved. "I feel like the coaches, they're going to find a way to help me out with a lot of the guys coming in, Rachaad and Sneak and things like that. But right now, it's all about winning and that's what I'm trying to do each and every week, trying to put my team in the best position to win. If I'm not on the field, not on the field, it doesn't really matter. It's all about winning these first couple weeks. The wear and tear, it's all about how you train. I train my body for this in the offseason to get prepared for things like this, running the ball, blocking, things like that. I just feel like with the hard work I put in this summer it's not affecting me right now."
*Number Five - *It was unexplainable anomaly in 2020, Tom Brady's first season with the team, when the Buccaneers routinely struggled in prime-time games before national audiences. Tampa Bay went 1-4 in those games during the regular season, with the one win a narrow two-point decision over a 1-6 Giants team. Since the start of the playoffs that season, however, it has been a completely different story for the Buccaneers under the brightest lights. Counting the 2020 postseason, the Bucs have won eight of their last nine games that kicked off at 6:30 or later. That includes a rousing 20-3 win in Dallas on Sunday Night Football to start off the current campaign. Just three weeks later, the Buccaneers are back under that same spotlight, scheduled to face the Chiefs on NBC's premier platform on Sunday evening. For the third year in a row, Tampa Bay has been assigned the maximum of five regular-season prime-time games, so continued dominance on that stage would go a long way towards securing a third straight playoff berth.
1. Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Chiefs CB Rashad Fenton
It's fair to say the Buccaneers missed Mike Evans in Week Three against the Packers. The offense had trouble getting into gear until late in a narrow 14-12 loss, as Tom Brady was also operating without Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. Evans is now back from his one-game suspension, giving Brady at least one more go-to weapon as the team waits to see if Godwin and Jones can return from their injuries, as well. Evans definitely gives Brady a security blanket, particularly when there is pressure in the backfield, and Brady was sacked three times against the Packers. Since 2020, Brady has targeted Evans when under pressure 54 times, 20 times more than the next player on that list. Those 54 pressured throws have resulted in 30 receptions for 551 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Through the first two games, Evans had been the team's leading receiver with eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. With the departure of Charvarius Ward in free agency, fourth-year player cornerback Rashad Fenton has become a full-time starter, playing almost exclusively on the right side of the defense this year. Originally a slot corner when he first got to Kansas City, Fenton gives up a decent amount of size to Evans, standing 5-11 and 188 pounds. Fenton, who has 16 stops this year along with a pass defensed, is a quality tackler as a cornerback and he has displayed good coverage skills throughout his three-plus seasons, both in the slot and outside.
2. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Buccaneers ILB Devin White
The last time Devin White was tasked with covering Travis Kelce on a route, White batted the pass in the air near the Buccaneers' goal line and brought it in for an interception. That was Kansas City's last play in Super Bowl LV. White won't be the only Buccaneers defender tasked with trying to keep the Chiefs' incredibly productive tight end in check, and it will depend some on where Kansas City lines him up before the snap. When White does get coverage responsibilities on Kelce he'll have to work hard to slow down a tight end who not only has six straight 1,000-yard seasons but is also the best in the league at his position in picking up yards after the catch. Kelce's 586 YAC in 2021 was first among all tight ends and seventh in the league overall. The Chiefs may actually be seeking to get Kelce matched up against White or fellow linebacker Devin White because that approach has worked well for them in the past. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Kelce has caught 40 of his 49 targets for 506 yards and four touchdowns since the start of 2021 when covered by a linebacker. Against defensive backs he's been targeted 83 times and has produced 50 catches for 643 yards and four touchdowns, with the opposition logging four interceptions.
3. Buccaneers G Shaq Mason vs. Chiefs DT Chris Jones
One week after facing off against Green Bay's Kenny Clark, who recorded two sacks, the Buccaneers' interior offensive linemen now have to deal with another of the NFL's best inside defenders in Chris Jones. Jones lines up about equally on both sides of the center, so Shaq Mason, Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke should all get plenty of action against him on Sunday night. Those three are all new starters for the Buccaneers this year, but only Mason has previous NFL starting experience as he came over in an offseason trade with New England to replace Alex Cappa at right guard. The Buccaneers' new-look offensive line started off well before a minor stumble against the Packers, as Brady was sacked just three times in the first two games and the rushing attack had 224 yards in those two outings combined. However, they will be facing a rugged run defense on Sunday, as the Chiefs rank ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (86.7) and fifth in yards allowed per carry (3.56). Jones is obviously a main reason for that success. Mason and company will be looking to move him off his spot in the run game and to keep him away from Brady when he drops back to pass.
4. Chiefs G Trey Smith vs. Buccaneers DL Logan Hall
The Buccaneers' pass rush, led by Shaq Barrett, infamously took over Super Bowl LV, harassing Patrick Mahomes non-stop and forcing the incredibly creative quarterback into increasingly desperate (yet often still accurate) throws. Part of the problem for the Chiefs that night was an offensive line that was missing several key pieces due to injury and needed upgrades at a couple spots. Since that game, the Chiefs have thoroughly addressed that issue, in part due to an extremely successful 2001 draft. After landing Creed Humphrey, who proved to be an instant star, late in the second round the Chiefs found guard Trey Smith in the sixth round. Both Humphrey and Smith have started every game since and are a big reason why the Chiefs currently rank second in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. The Buccaneers have also added several new players on the other side of the trenches since that game, taking outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with the last pick of the first round in 2021 and defensive lineman Logan Hall with the first pick of the second round. Both have started to assert themselves as key parts of a Tampa Bay pass rush that has 11 sacks through three games. Hall had his best performance yet in Week Three against the Packers, notching the Bucs' lone sack and hitting Aaron Rodgers three times. Playing primarily on passing downs, Hall has shown a quick first step and a well-developed array of pass-rush moves. He has more often rushed from the left side of the Bucs' front, which means he should be matched up with Smith on many occasions Sunday night.
DNP: Did not participate in practice
LP: Limited participation in practice
FP: Full participation in practice
NL: Not listed
* QB Tom Brady (right finger) - WEDS: FP; THURS: FP
* WR Russell Gage (hamstring) - WEDS: LP; THURS: LP
* WR Chris Godwin (hamstring/rest) - WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP
* DL Logan Hall (groin) - WEDS: LP; THURS: FP
* DL Akiem Hicks (foot) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
* WR Julio Jones (knee) - WEDS: LP; THURS: LP
* WR Breshad Perriman (knee/hamstring) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
* T Donovan Smith (elbow) - WEDS: LP; THURS: LP
* K Harrison Butker (left ankle) - WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP
* DE Mike Danna (calf) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP
* WR Mecole Hardman (heel) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: LP
* DT Chris Jones (rest) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: FP
* RB Ronald Jones (illness) - WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP
* WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) - WEDS: FP; THURS: FP
* WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (abdomen) - WEDS: LP; THURS: DNP
* T Andrew Wylie (hip) - WEDS: FP; THURS: FP
In Tampa: Mostly sunny, evening low of 66, 18% chance of rain, 84% humidity, winds out of the W at 6 mph.
Head referee: Bill Vinovich (17th season, non-consecutive, 14th as referee)
* Favorite: Chiefs (-2.5)
* Over/Under: 45.0
INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS
Buccaneers- Points Scored: K Ryan Succop, 27
Touchdowns: S Mike Edwards/WR Mike Evans/WR Russell Gage/WR Breshad Perriman, 1
Passing Yards: QB Tom Brady, 673
Passer Rating: QB Tom Brady, 89.2
Rushing Yards: RB Leonard Fournette, 227
Receptions: WR Russell Gage, 19
Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 132
Interceptions: CB Jamel Dean, 2
Sacks: ILB Devin White, 3.0
Tackles: LB Devin White, 24
Chiefs- Points Scored: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 18
Touchdowns: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 3
Passing Yards: QB Patrick Mahomes, 857
Passer Rating: QB Patrick Mahomes, 112.1
Rushing Yards: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 116
Receptions: TE Travis Kelce, 17
Receiving Yards: TE Travis Kelce, 230
Interceptions: CB Jaylen Watson, 1
Sacks: LB Nick Bolton, 2.0
Tackles: LB Nick Bolton, 29
TEAM STAT RANKINGS
Buccaneers- Scoring Offense: t-22nd (17.0 ppg)
Total Offense: 27th (297.3 ypg)
Passing Offense: 22nd (211.3 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 25th (86.0 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: t-28th (16.7)
Third-Down Pct.: 28th (28.6%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: t-14th (5.83%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: t-28th (28.6%)
Scoring Defense: 1st (9.0 ppg)
Total Defense: 4th (289.0 ypg)
Passing Defense: 12th (209.7 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 5th (79.3 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: 2nd (14.7)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 6th (30.2%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 8th (9.40%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 18th (60.0%)
Turnover Margin: t-3rd (+4)
Chiefs- Scoring Offense: 4th (29.3 ppg)
Total Offense: 7th (374.0 ypg)
Passing Offense: 6th (281.0 ypg)
Rushing Offense: 22nd (93.0 ypg)
First Downs Per Game: 8th (22.7)
Third-Down Pct.: t-12th (40.0%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 2nd (1.82%)
Red Zone TD Pct.: 7th (69.2%)
Scoring Defense: 17th (21.7 ppg)
Total Defense: 10th (314.0 ypg)
Passing Defense: 15th (227.3 ypg)
Rushing Defense: 9th (86.7 ypg)
First Downs Allowed Per Game: t-11th (19.3)
Third-Down Pct. Allowed: t-10th (32.6%)
Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 10th (8.13%)
Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: t-27th (72.7%)
Turnover Margin: t-20th (-1)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
* Tight End Cameron Brate has 33 career touchdown catches. His next one will tie him with Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for second place in franchise history in receiving TDs and fourth place in overall touchdowns.
* Wide receiver Mike Evans already owns Tampa Bay's career touchdown mark and virtually every career receiving record, but now he's closing in on the top spot in another category: yards from scrimmage. Former running back James Wilder has long held that record with 9,449 but Evans is now up to 9,443. That means Evans needs just seven more yards from scrimmage to take that record from Wilder.
* Evans is also close to moving up another all-time Buccaneer chart, this one for points scored. His touchdown in Dallas in Week One increased his career points total to 470, meaning he needs only eight more to pass kicker Connor Barth (477) for third place on that list.
* In addition, Evans' next start will be the 123rd of his career and with that he will pass Gerald McCoy for the ninth most starts in franchise history.
* Wide receiver Chris Godwin has 29 touchdown catches on his resume. Two more would move him into a tie with Kevin House for the fourth-most in team history.
* Tom Brady is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and, in just his third season in Tampa, he's moving high up the Bucs' career list in that category as well. With 319 more passing yards, Brady would pass Brad Johnson (10,940) for the sixth most in team annals.'
* Head Coach Todd Bowles on Leonard Fournette and the Bucs' rushing attack being less effective the last two games after a hot start: "Well, they've been making some plays on defense. He's been productive doing the little things as far as catching it out of the backfield, picking up blitzes and chipping defensive linemen. But we've got to back to running that. When we run the ball, we're trying to get three or four yards a pop and he's been effective at that in the first game. We've just got to get back to it. I don't think we're executing at a high level right now and that's got to change."
* Running back Leonard Fournette on the evolution of his pass-blocking skills: "Over the years, I've gotten better. Coming into Tampa, I had to get better, just knowing your blocking for one of the greatest - I'm not going to say players but guys - in the world. He's a great guy to be around. It goes both ways. We have to block for Tom, the receivers have to block for the running backs, the running backs block for the wide receivers. It opens up so much for our offense. We're going to get back to that, the basics. I know we haven't been scoring a lot of points how we wanted to. We're just still figuring things out with a lot of injuries and stuff like that. There's no excuses, but we're going to get better each and every week."
* Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett on what the defense has to do to compete against Patrick Mahomes: "Hopefully we won't have to cover for a long time because the pressure's getting there. But he's going to make guys miss and he's gong to extend the plays and try to make a play, so we've got to just limit that as much as possible. Because it's hard to cover guys for five, six seconds no matter who you are, no matter what caliber DB you are, and we've got a lot of great ones on our team. If we can just get him on the ground when we get a first opportunity, not miss or let him make us miss, it would help our defense a lot."
* Inside linebacker Devin White on if he can pinpoint why the defense has started slow in each game before clamping down: "I don't think it's a 'pinpoint' thing, I think it's just an in-the-moment thing. Each play, the guy's just got to make the play, whoever it is on third down, second down. Whatever it is, we've just got to be able to make the play and we've got to communicate a little [better], get off to a better start communicating. The other day we gave up two touchdowns and then none, and I think the communication got so much better throughout the game. But really we've just got to come out talking and seeing eye-to-eye."
* Bowles on the Bucs' defense playing very well but having slow starts: "I like the effort and I like the communication. That has picked up, and we've played defense once you get past the first drive. We talked about it this morning, as we've been talking about it all week: We've given up 27 points and 20 of them have been on the first drives, or the first two drives in Green Bay's case. Three to the Saints and three to the Cowboys. So we've got to learn how to start faster and we're looking for ways to start faster and communicate and play better right off the top."