How the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Used Power Football to Win Super Bowl LV

How the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Used Power Football to Win Super Bowl LV

by February 8, 2021 0 comments

Bill Parcells once said “Power wins football games. It’s always been vindicated. It’s the new stuff that had something to prove.” Parcells uttered those words after his New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills 20-19 to win Super Bowl XXV. The one where Scott Norwood kicked wide right.

That was 20 years ago, but Parcells’ words echoed loud and true once the dust settled on Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on February 7, 2021.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had just beaten the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs 31-9. They’d done it by playing old-fashioned, power football on both offense and defense.

Tom Brady was named MVP, as much because he’s a 43-year-old guy who won a seventh Lombardi Trophy, as for his three first-half touchdown passes. Brady was good, but the real heroes were the guys along the Tampa Bay offensive line. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate were also heroes, along with running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II.

This group of bruisers and mudders bludgeoned a lightweight and unfocused Kansas City defense. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich used two-tight end sets, tight formations, and overloaded offensive lines to dominate the trenches.

There were heroes on the other side of the ball, where coordinator Todd Bowles‘ big guys bullied Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Ndamukong Suh and Shaquil Barrett were in Mahomes’ face all night, helping the Bucs log three sacks, while Devin White and Antoine Winfield Jr. each snatched an interception.

Here’s how the Buccaneers dominated the Chiefs with a gameplan as old as the game itself:

Run with Power

Fournette ran with power on every one of his 16 punishing carries. He amassed 89 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Tampa’s straight-ahead strategy worked because of a loaded line of scrimmage.

Take a look at this early tone-setter. Fournette ran behind a formation with two wide receivers packed tight to the line of scrimmage, and Brate lined up at fullback.

Brate’s lead block allowed center Ryan Jensen (66) to move up to the second level and engulf linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53). Chris Godwin (14) chipped on the backside defensive end before moving up to block Nickelback L’Jarius Sneed (38).

This was a pure power play that let the Chiefs know what they were in for. The pattern continued, no matter who was in the backfield to take the handoff from Brady. Jones also lugged the rock 12 times, gaining 61 yards.

Both backs were helped by Gronkowski’s presence. The Gronk caught a pair of touchdowns, but his work knocking members of the Kansas City front seven off the ball in the running game was just as important.

Arians and Leftwich had Steve Spagnuolo’s defense on skates, and Fournette applied the telling blow on his best run of the night. The play encapsulated the Bucs’ commitment to power football.

Tampa Bay put six offensive linemen on the field and stacked Gronkowski and Brate on the same side. Those extra bodies allowed the Buccaneers to single block every member of Kansas City’s eight-man front and have a player over. The spare man was left guard Ali Marpet, who pulled around the corner to seal the edge for Fournette.

This was right out of the Parcells playbook. His Giants beat up the Bills with Ottis Anderson running behind tight ends Howard Cross, Mark Bavaro, and Bob Mrosko.

Decades come and go, players change, but the principles of winning in the postseason stay the same. Those principles also worked for the Buccaneers on defense.

Bowles Went Old School to Stop Mahomes

Putting two safeties deep might be the oldest coverage strategy in football. It’s right up there among the golden oldies, but Cover 2 has stood the test of time for a reason. It works.

Cover 2 works because it allows defensive players to do what they enjoy doing the most. Namely playing fast and hitting people. Keeping two safeties back to prevent the deep ball, and having cornerbacks jam the outside routes, forces an offense to throw into the midfield where underneath defenders are waiting to dole out the punishment.

Bowles learned his lesson from Week 12’s 27-24 to the Chiefs, when Mahomes and Hill destroyed single coverage and the blitz. This time Bowles reined in the blitz and kept a two-deep shell behind underneath coverage.

Bowles knew his pass-rushers would win after Eric Fisher‘s injury denied the Chiefs their standout left tackle. Mike Remmers moved over from the other side, while guard Andrew Wylie slid out to play right tackle. Wylie’s shift brought Stefen Wisniewski in at guard for his first start of the season.

Three changes along the offensive line was a recipe for disaster against a Bucs front seven featuring Suh, Barrett, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Mahomes couldn’t produce the big plays he’d made for fun against this defense during the regular season. There was too much pressure and nobody got open deep.

Bowles’ gameplan also allowed his underneath defenders to play aggressively against routes over the middle. Kelce finished with 133 yards from 10 catches, but he played a heavy price for every one of them. Linebackers jammed him at the line and rarely let up, knowing they had help deep.

Beating up receivers on crossing patterns is a staple of a two-deep defense. The Bucs played it beautifully in their biggest game to shut down an offense many thought unstoppable. Mahomes has redefined how teams manage games because of his ability to manufacture big plays. The Buccaneers proved an old-fashioned blueprint can still stall any quarterback when executed properly.

That’s how Tampa Bay dominated this Super Bowl and put a pin in any talk of a Mahomes dynasty. The “new stuff” didn’t prove itself.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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