The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both known for having all-star quarterbacks, play-making wide receivers, and high-profile tight ends. Both teams are well known for their elite passing attacks, but the low-key feature of each teams’ aerial attack that could become pivotal in the season’s biggest game is the way they use their running backs.
No one in the NFL allowed more completions to running backs than the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay’s defense yielded 101 receptions to backs in 2020. The Chiefs weren’t far behind, ranking 30th in the NFL by allowing 93 receptions to opposing running backs.
But it was the Chiefs, remarkably, who were dead last in receiving yardage to running backs this season. Kansas City’s defense allowed 846 yards to opposing backs, while the Buccaneers ranked 24th in this department, with 671 yards allowed.
It may be difficult for Kansas City’s running backs to get going on the ground against the Bucs’ top-ranked rushing defense, but don’t be surprised to see elusive rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire finally get the looks we’ve been waiting for in the passing game against the Buccaneers. If Tampa Bay learned anything about the Chiefs in their first matchup back in November, they will be concentrating more efforts on keeping a lid on wideout Tyreek Hill, who gouged them for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns on 13 receptions—all three of those statistics were season-highs for Hill. If the Bucs choose to double Hill, quarterback Patrick Mahomes will likely have his choice of one-on-one shots with Edwards-Helaire, tight end Travis Kelce, or any of his ancillary wide receivers.
Tampa Bay displayed a tendency to throw to free agent acquisition Leonard Fournette (36 receptions), even more than starter Ronald Jones (28 receptions). Fournette will be the player to watch out of the backfield for the Bucs.
The Chiefs and Bucs are likely to lean on RBs in Super Bowl.
When Edwards-Helaire was drafted, many speculated that his skill set best suited the Chiefs offense because of his elusiveness and receiving ability. Despite the Chiefs’ full quiver of passing options, Edwards-Helaire still received over 50 targets in the passing game in his rookie season. However, the Chiefs have yet to realize his full potential in that area.
Edwards-Helaire has the tools to be a legitimate downfield weapon in the passing game, and we’re still holding out hope that head coach Andy Reid has been saving this offensive wrinkle for the end of the season. That was partially derailed when the rookie suffered a high ankle sprain in December in the waning moments of the Chiefs’ win at New Orleans. Now fully healed from his injury, Edwards-Helaire could flash that ability in the biggest game of his career against a defense that could heavily overlook him.