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As Bucs-Chiefs Super Bowl rematch nears, what has changed? What hasn’t?

The passers and play callers remain the same, but new faces abound elsewhere.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is sacked in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 55, a 31-9 Bucs romp at Raymond James Stadium.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is sacked in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 55, a 31-9 Bucs romp at Raymond James Stadium. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 27

TAMPA — In terms of suspense and dramatic effect, this is one sequel that should pound its predecessor.

Twenty months after the Bucs embarrassed the Chiefs with a defensive tour de force in Super Bowl 55, the teams meet again, presumably at Raymond James Stadium (though Hurricane Ian may have the final say about that). Unlike that 31-9 romp, staged amid the pandemic before a sparse audience, we expect more nip and tuck, more ebb and flow, more counter runs and counter-punches.

We think.

Frankly, much has changed for both teams in the ensuing 24 months. Many of the primary characters remain, but a lot of the supporting players are new. Philosophies have been adjusted, or even overhauled. Even the momentum both brought to Raymond James in the previous encounter is gone; the Chiefs and Bucs both are coming off defeats.

Here’s a look at some of the players, play-callers and potential plot devices that remain intact from that Super Bowl encounter, and some of the rematch’s new features.

What’s new

Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) celebrates a sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during Super Bowl 55. The Bucs exploited Kansas City's injury-depleted offensive front to sack Mahomes three times.
Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) celebrates a sack of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during Super Bowl 55. The Bucs exploited Kansas City's injury-depleted offensive front to sack Mahomes three times. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

1. Offensive line fortunes

Their line decimated by injuries, the Chiefs arrived for the Super Bowl with patchwork protection for Patrick Mahomes, and it showed. Mahomes was sacked three times and posted the worst passer rating of his career (52.3), officially rushing for 33 yards but seeming to scramble for 3,300. Only one starting lineman from that game — right tackle Andrew Wylie — remains, and Mahomes has been sacked twice in three contests. By contrast, only one Bucs starting offensive lineman from the Super Bowl — right tackle Tristan Wirfs — is a sure bet to play Sunday as left tackle Donovan Smith deals with a hyperextended elbow. Brady has been sacked six times this season, and his yards per pass attempt (6.5) is tied for 25th in the NFL.

2. The flamboyant receivers

New Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a Pro Bowler with the Steelers in 2018, has helped fill part of the void created by the departure of speedster Tyreek Hill to Miami.
New Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a Pro Bowler with the Steelers in 2018, has helped fill part of the void created by the departure of speedster Tyreek Hill to Miami. [ MICHAEL CONROY | AP ]

Super Bowl 55 provided the consummate spotlight for two guys — Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown — who can’t get enough of it. Hill, who staged a de facto clinic against the Bucs in the 2020 regular season, had 10 catches for 73 yards in a losing effort for the Chiefs; Brown had five receptions for 22 yards including a 1-yard scoring catch. These days, Hill is helping reboot the 3-0 Dolphins, while Brown tries desperately to stay relevant as a rapper. Pro Bowler JuJu Smith-Schuster, also known more for soft hands than soft-spokenness, has helped fill the void created by Hill’s exit. The Bucs have no flamboyant pass-catchers, per se, and have very few healthy pass-catchers, period.

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3. The USF connections

Former Bulls center Austin Reiter, who started at center for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, now is on Kansas City’s practice squad. However, Lakewood High alumnus Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs in March after four seasons in Green Bay, has 10 catches in three games. On the Bucs side, former Bulls edge-rush extraordinaire Jason Pierre-Paul is gone, but nose tackle Deadrin Senat was activated from the practice squad last week and had two tackles against the Packers.

What’s not

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Bucs counterpart Tom Brady hug at the end of Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Bucs counterpart Tom Brady hug at the end of Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium. [ JILL TOYOSHIBA | Kansas City Star ]

1. The quarterbacks

Brady and Mahomes probably enter this game a bit more disillusioned than normal. The Bucs have totaled three offensive touchdowns and two smashed Microsoft tablets (courtesy of Brady) in three games. Mahomes, normally stoic by comparison, was seen arguing with Eric Bieniemy after the Chiefs coordinator opted to run on second-and-20 late in the first half of last week’s 20-17 loss to the Colts. Sunday’s game should benefit from having both guys bent on kicking their respective offenses into gear.

2. The coordinators

Both teams’ offensive, defensive and special-teams coordinators remain essentially the same from that Super Bowl encounter. The only difference (a mere technical one) is the fact Todd Bowles — then Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator — now is the Bucs’ head coach. Though he has co-coordinators in Kacy Rodgers and Larry Foote, Bowles still calls the defense. Based on the offense’s conservative bent to date, he likely is governing the offensive philosophy also.

3. The tailbacks

Bucs tailback Leonard Fournette totaled 135 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 55.
Bucs tailback Leonard Fournette totaled 135 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 55. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Both teams’ backfield dual threats in Super Bowl 55 are still around. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has totaled 231 yards (116 rushing, 115 receiving) on 34 touches in three games, while Leonard Fournette has 281 (227 rushing, 54 receiving) on 66 touches. The disparity exists in the depth: Veteran Jerick McKinnon and rookie Isiah Pacheco (131 combined rushing yards) complement Edwards-Helaire. By contrast, the Bucs have leaned almost exclusively on Fournette; no other Bucs tailback has more than 10 touches.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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