On thirteen previous occasions in NFL history have the Super Bowl teams met in the regular season. This Sunday will see that number rise to fourteen as the Chiefs and Buccaneers battle for the second time in the 2020 season. That was in Week 12, Sunday is for the Lombardi Trophy. In the buildup to the game, many are wondering if that previous meeting holds any relevance. It’s time to examine.
Why It Might Be Important
Quite simply, it allows both teams to react to first-hand experiences. There is always an element of shooting in the dark when game-planning for an opponent you’ve never faced. On the other hand, when two teams meet for a second time; it takes the surprise out of the process. For example, Tyreek Hill torched the Tampa secondary for over 200 yards receiving. Hill spent most of that game against single-coverage which was a mistake from Tampa defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. It is unfathomable for Bowles to make that mistake a second time in the Super Bowl.
The other advantage of playing a team twice is it allows teams to work out the opposition’s trends and sequences. Steve Spagnuolo can decipher what plays Tampa would run out of a specific formation. Tampa lines up in 11 personnel 63% of the time. The Bucs hardly run; they finished 28th in rushing plays attempted.
Therefore the Chiefs can work out that in that formation; Tampa won’t run the ball. Kansas City’s advantage is they can assess every Bucs play that was running against them in Week 12. Brady threw for over 300 yards in that game; he specifically enjoyed throwing to the right side of the field. That is almost always the Gronkowski side of the field. Brady’s two interceptions came to the left side of the field.
In summary, it is essential because it provides both teams with notes on each other. The scouts and coaches can forensically analyze every facet of the game. They can then formulate a game-plan that hides their weakness as well as elevating their strengths. Both teams will get a direct comparison against each other; knowledge is power in the NFL. If a team is a level above the others, that can be a critical factor in determining the outcome of the Super Bowl.
Why It Might Not Be Important
That Week 12 game took place in November. That is a long time ago in the NFL. A prime example is L’Jarius Sneed; between Week 1 – 13, the rookie was sent on four blitzes and generated zero pressures. Since Week 13, Spagnuolo sent Sneed on 23 blitzes resulting in six sacks. The secondary blitzes played a crucial part in the Chiefs’ success against Buffalo. Moreover, the Tampa offense finally came to life after that defeat. Tampa finished the regular season averaging 30 points in the last three games.
Brady finally looks comfortable in the big-play offense that Bruce Arians likes to employ. That is another big difference since the Week 12 clash. However, one of the more critical changes between now and then is injuries. Star tackle Eric Fisher is out for Kansas City. That is a massive loss for an offensive line coming up against a tough front seven. For Tampa, they get Vita Vea back from injury. Vea will be a crucial part of the defense as he can penetrate the interior portion of the pocket. Both sides are in different places from November; players are developing confidence at the right time. In several ways, this game is entirely different from the previous meeting.
What Does It All Mean For The Super Bowl?
In short, probably nothing. Of the 13 previous meetings, six got won by the team that lost in the regular season; while the winning team in the regular season won on seven occasions. Yes, owning first-hand knowledge from a previous game is very helpful. Although, they’ve had two weeks to recalibrate and modify the game-plans. Add that to injuries plus individual players finding form; it’s very different to the game in Week 12.
Then one must consider the enormity of the occasion. It is the Super Bowl, the world championship game. Those are all different factors from the earlier game; therefore, while the last game holds some importance; it’s not as important as what we might think. It is a completely different situation. The last game will not decide the outcome of this Sunday’s Super Bowl.
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