TAMPA — It didn’t make up for what happened the last time the Kansas City Chiefs visited Raymond James Stadium, but Patrick Mahomes & Co. sure created a new memory in a big way on Sunday night.
The Chiefs blasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-31, in a rematch of Super Bowl 55 that sent a message that their high-powered offense still has plenty of juice.
Mahomes passed for 249 yards and 3 TDs. Travis Kelce wreaked havoc with 9 catches and 92 yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 92 yards and produced two scores.
And they represented just some of the problems for the Bucs defense.
That Kansas City (3-1), rebounding from its only loss of the season, put up such a complete offensive clinic was impressive enough.
But to dominate the Bucs defense in this fashion?
Tampa Bay (2-2) entered the game allowing an NFL-low 9 points per game, and its big-play defense had essentially kept the Bucs afloat in countering the struggles of Tom Brady and an injury-stung offense.
Well, the Bucs defense finally collapsed for the first time this season. It was the complete opposite of the battering it inflicted in Super Bowl 55 on Mahomes, then weakened by injury and a since-rebuilt offensive line. The bulk of the Bucs’ defensive Super Bowl starters were on the field on Sunday night.
But it was clear from the early hole that Tampa Bay found itself mired in – Mahomes found Kelce for a 16-yard TD just 42 seconds into the game after Rashaad White fumbled away the opening kickoff – that it was not a night where history would repeat itself.
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Three things we learned from the Chiefs’ win Sunday night:
The Bucs’ run defense sprung a serious leak. What happened? Of all the woes experienced by Tampa Bay’s defense, it was more complete when considering the Chiefs shredded the typically airtight run defense for 116 yards on 20 carries – in the first half! And it happened in healthy chunks as KC, led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, ripped off seven runs of at least seven yards in the first half. The tone was set when the Chiefs averaged 8.8 yards in the first half, which laid the foundation for the balance and creativity that kept the Bucs D on its heels. The Bucs entered the game with the league’s fifth-ranked run defense, allowing 3.8 yards per carry. But this is surely a case where it’s not how you start.
Reinforcements mattered only so much. An offense that produced just three TDs through the first three games needed a jolt. The hope came with Tom Brady having his complete package of front-line wide receivers intact for the first time since Week 1 as Mike Evans returned from a one-game suspension, and Julio Jones and Chris Godwin came back after missing the previous two games with injuries. Well, it’s still a work in progress as the chemistry and rhythm sputtered early. Evans didn’t catch a pass until the second quarter and big plays from the passing game were so rare as Brady often opted for check-down passes rather than more aggressive downfield throws.
Tyreek Hill can’t be replaced … but they can’t stop trying. The Chiefs undoubtedly miss the big-play impact of Hill, the explosive receiver traded to the Miami Dolphins during the offseason as a contract stalemate thickened. That’s where newcomers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have opportunities, while roles out of the backfield are created for Jerick McKinnon and rookie Isiah Pacheco. It was also notable that the Chiefs got short TDs from backup tight ends Noah Gray – who shifted to line up behind center and scored on a 1-yard sneak — and Jody Fortson. In other words, coach Andy Reid and coordinator Eric Bieniemy seem willing to continually test their creativity.