Tompa Bay!

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Tampa Bay, February 2003. First year Head Coach Jon Gruden led the number one ranked defense to a win against the former Oakland Raiders and their number one ranked offense. 18 years and 1 GOAT (Greatest of All Time) later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl again in their own home stadium. 

In March 2020, 6-time Super Bowl winner and 3-time league MVP quarterback Tom Brady announced his free-agent departure from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Critics wondered whether he would fail outside of the system plan under Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. Soon after he arrived in Tampa Bay, COVID-19 spread across the country forcing many sports leagues to shut down temporarily and conduct business virtually. 

In a normal offseason where players normally learn the system face-to-face with the advice of their coaches, the pandemic forced players to learn them all virtually. Once the proper protocols were put in place, chemistry still had to be formed between the new quarterback, the offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers, and the tight ends (that was just the offense). The season started shortly after on September 10th and for the first time, without any fans for some teams.



  Throughout the season, chemistry in the offense built up in actual games while the defense continued its dominance left off from the end of last year. Tampa’s stout interior defensive line prevented defenses from running the ball on them while their strong secondary helped limit passes on them. 

Their first match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs was a struggle defending Tyreek Hill, one of the fastest players in the league, as he had 13 catches for 269 yards receiving along with 3 touchdowns. The majority of yards and catches were in the first half of the game which changed with the second half game-plan. In the second half of that game, the Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, dialed up a new game plan which doubled Tyreek Hill wherever he went. This would be the same game-plan for when later they met in the Super Bowl. 

Fast forward to February 7, where the Chiefs and Bucs met again in the Super Bowl. Like the last Super Bowl that Tampa won, it was one of the top ranked defenses against one of the top ranked offenses.

The Bucs defense kept the game-plan from the second half of the last time they played the Chiefs. This entailed Cover 2, a man vs man style defense with two safeties higher up in the field. This is normally done to prevent deep throws which is what the Chiefs are known for attempting. Along with the Cover 2, the Bucs used their speedy linebackers to triple-cover Tyreek Hill so he would not run past them like he did the last game. While this makes teams more susceptible to running attacks, Bowles and the rest of Tampa knew that their interior defensive line would prevent any major runs as they prioritized limiting the deep pass. The defensive line pressure on the weakened offensive line had Patrick Mahomes, the consensus number 1 quarterback in the league, running to keep the play alive and try to get a shot down the field. 



However, there was a way to beat the Cover 2 that the Bucs were playing that game. In the previous game the Chiefs played against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship, the Bills also played Cover 2 similar to what the Bucs were playing in the Super Bowl. However, Patrick Mahomes sustained an injury limiting his throwing power deep due to the injury being on his plant (left) foot when throwing to the left. This resulted in the Chiefs calling a heavy Run/Pass Option offense which is where the quarterback reads the leverage of the linebacker and must make a decision within a split second on whether to hand the ball off to a running back or throw a quick pass to a wide receiver or tight end. In a Cover 2 defense, the safeties are farther down the field, resulting in bigger spaces for the ball to be thrown into and subsequently more yards after the catch. In the Super Bowl, if the Chiefs had continued this game plan, they would have had much more offensive success and potentially making it a closer game. However, they did not adjust to this resulting in the continued domination by the Bucs defense. 

Along with the Bucs defense limiting the explosive Chiefs offense, the Bucs’ offense had gelled better than the last time the two teams played. With Byron Leftwich calling the plays and the greatest quarterback ever running the offense, they put up a dominant 31 points on the Chiefs while limiting the Chiefs offense to 9 total points. As a result of this well coached game by the entire Buccaneers coaching staff along with near perfect execution by the players, the Lombardi Trophy has returned to Tampa Bay with hopes of a repeat next season. That remains to be seen after several key players along the offense and defense are scheduled for large pay days in free agency with the salary cap for each team being lowered to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.