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Five matchups that will decide Super Bowl 55

Beyond Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady, here are some things to keep an eye on at Raymond James Stadium.
 
Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15), forcing a fumble, during the first meeting between the teams in November at Raymond James Stadium. “Obviously, the front is special,” Mahomes said of the Bucs.
Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15), forcing a fumble, during the first meeting between the teams in November at Raymond James Stadium. “Obviously, the front is special,” Mahomes said of the Bucs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 29, 2021

The headlining matchup of Super Bowl 55 is the quarterback duel between future Hall of Famer Tom Brady and reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.

Beyond that, what are the games within the game that will decide whether the Bucs win their second Super Bowl or if the Chiefs defend their title?

Related: If he loses Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes can’t catch Tom Brady, Tony Romo says

Here are five other matchups to know:

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill vs. Bucs defensive back Carlton Davis

Tyreek Hill torched Carlton Davis and the rest of the Bucs in their previous meeting.
Tyreek Hill torched Carlton Davis and the rest of the Bucs in their previous meeting. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Hill torched the Bucs for 269 yards and three touchdowns in their first meeting. Davis was the closest defender to Hill on all three of those scores and was in coverage on nine of Hill’s 13 catches, according to Pro Football Focus. Davis probably won’t be stuck on Hill during the entire game and will get help from the safeties. But a repeat performance would be disastrous for the Bucs.

Bucs running back Leonard Fournette vs. Chiefs’ defensive front

Leonard Fournette has starred during the Bucs' run to the Super Bowl.
Leonard Fournette has starred during the Bucs' run to the Super Bowl. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Fournette has done so well this postseason (313 total yards, three touchdowns) that he has a partnership to sell “Playoff Lenny” T-shirts. Continuing the success won’t be easy. Kansas City held Bills running backs to only 32 yards on nine carries in the AFC Championship Game and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past six games.

Related: How Bucs’ Leonard Fournette evolved from disgruntled to dynamic in one postseason

Chiefs’ offensive tackles vs. Bucs’ pass rush

Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the Bucs' pass rush got to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game. Will it happen against the Chiefs?
Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the Bucs' pass rush got to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game. Will it happen against the Chiefs? [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Kansas City was already without All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back injury) and lost its Pro Bowl left tackle, Eric Fisher, to a torn Achilles in the AFC Championship Game. That means backups like Mike Remmers, Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin will likely be tasked with trying to slow down Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, who combined for five sacks at Green Bay. “Obviously the front is special,” Mahomes said of the Bucs. He should know; Tampa Bay sacked him twice in their previous meeting and tallied two other tackles for a loss.

Kansas City’s returners vs. Bucs’ coverage units

Tampa native Byron Pringle returned a kickoff for a score against the Broncos during the regular season.
Tampa native Byron Pringle returned a kickoff for a score against the Broncos during the regular season. [ JACK DEMPSEY | AP ]

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The Chiefs were the only team to score touchdowns on a punt return (Mecole Hardman) and kickoff return (Robinson High alumnus Byron Pringle) during the regular season. The Bucs can be susceptible to big returns, which makes special teams a potential X-factor. Tampa Bay’s punt-coverage unit allowed the seventh-most yards per return (10.3) in the regular season. Although the Bucs’ kickoff unit led the league in touchbacks, it also allowed the most yards per return (33.6) on the few returns opponents did attempt.

Related: Tampa Super Bowl: Where did the Bucs, Chiefs players come from?

Bucs receiver Chris Godwin vs. Chiefs’ secondary

Chris Godwin will likely need a big performance for the Bucs against the Chiefs.
Chris Godwin will likely need a big performance for the Bucs against the Chiefs. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Although Godwin didn’t catch a touchdown in their first meeting, he led the Bucs with eight receptions in the loss. He’s also the second-most-targeted receiver in the postseason, behind the Bills’ Stefon Diggs. That’s the same Diggs whom the Chiefs bottled up in the AFC title game; his six catches were tied for his second-worst output of the season. Godwin will likely need to do better than that against a passing defense led by All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu if the Bucs are going to keep up with Kansas City’s offense.

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