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BUCS’ OPPONENT: Kansas City Chiefs

WHERE: Raymond James Stadium

SPREAD: Chiefs by 3

WHERE THE CHIEFS STAND: The Chiefs are 3-4 and in third place in the AFC West Division.





OVERALL: 24th (291.7 ypg)
RUSHING: 28th (85.4 ypg)
PASSING: 19th (206.3 ypg)

OVERALL: 2nd (T) (266.1 ypg)
RUSHING: 21st (117.6 ypg)
PASSING: 2nd (148.6 ypg)

OVERALL: 3rd (405.9 ypg)
RUSHING: 1st (167.5 ypg)
PASSING: 9th (238.3 ypg)

OVERALL:20th (312.3 ypg)
RUSHING: 15th (125.2 ypg)
PASSING: 22nd (187.2 ypg)

…the Chiefs have scored 101 points in their past two games?

Kansas City’s No. 3 overall offense is led by tailback Priest Holmes, who has rushed 180 times for 833 yards (4.6 avg.) and 13 touchdowns through seven games this season. Holmes, who rushed for a whopping 27 touchdowns in 2003, is also a good receiver, evidenced by his 15 receptions for 184 yards and one touchdown. Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders likes to use Holmes, who is a slashing runner with great instincts and field vision, on screen and swing passes. Although Tampa Bay’s defense is ranked No. 2 overall, its run defense ranks 21st and has allowed three teams to rush for over 140 yards this season. The Bucs will have to be on top of their game in terms of tackling in order to limit Holmes’ production.

Chiefs quarterback Trent Green has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,783 yards and has tossed nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Green’s mistake-free play over the past two games is one of the reasons why the Chiefs have totaled 101 points in that span and are converting nearly 47 percent of their third down attempts this season. However, if Tampa Bay’s defense can contain Holmes, its front four will then need to get pressure on Green, who tends to struggle when the Chiefs are one dimensional.

Kansas City wide receivers Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison haven’t been consistent this season. In fact, they’ve combined for 46 receptions for 668 yards and neither player has scored a touchdown this season.

That’s why Green’s favorite target is Tony Gonzalez, who is arguably the NFL’s best tight end. Gonzalez is a great all-around tight end and has hauled in a team-leading 34 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns in 2004. Tampa Bay strongside linebacker Ian Gold, who used to face Gonzalez twice a season when he played in Denver, will be likely be charged with the difficult task of covering Gonzalez in this contest. Bucs safeteies Jermaine Phillips and Dwight Smith will also help cover Gonzalez.

Kansas City lost right tackle John Tait to the Chicago Bears in free agency, but its offensive line is still one of the league’s best. This group, which is made up of left tackle Willie Roaf, left guard Brian Waters, center Casey Weigmann, right guard Will Shields and right tackle John Welbourn, has allowed Green to be sacked 15 times in seven games. While it’s allowing two sacks per game, this unit thrives in the running game, where it plays a very physical style of football and often opens up huge holes for Holmes, who usually accounts for nearly half of the 400 yards of total offense the Chiefs produce per game.

Fullback Tony Richardson, who has rushed nine times for 47 yards (5.2 avg.) and caught nine passes for 59 yards, is a tremendous lead blocker. Backup RB Derrick Blaylock has rushed 29 times for 132 yards (4.6 avg.) and four touchdowns. He allows Holmes to take a breather without the Chiefs suffering a major setback while he’s on the sideline. However, Blaylock is questionable for Sunday’s game, which means RB Larry Johnson may see some playing time.

Kansas City’s defense, which is coached by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, blitzes more than any other defense in the NFL. While this is effective at times, evidenced by Kansas City’s 17 sacks and seven interceptions, it can also leave this unit exposed in both the running and passing game.

Although the Chiefs are only allowing opposing offenses to convert 32.4 percent of their third down tries, they are also surrendering an average of 312.3 yards of offense and 23.7 points per game this season.

Kansas City’s front four, which is made up of left defensive end Eric Hicks, under tackle Ryan Sims, nose tackle John Browning and right defensive end Vonnie Holliday, is struggling to stop the run, evidenced by the 125.2 yards rushing they’re giving up per game this year. Establishing an effective ground attack could go a long way for the Bucs, who are producing just 85 yards rushing per game, since success on the ground will help keep the Chiefs’ potent offense off the field.

Kansas City’s linebackers haven’t been much help against the run, either, but they are getting to the quarterback when Cunningham sends his blitz packages. Chiefs left outside LB Scott Fujita and right OLB Shawn Barber have each notched a sack.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden will be tempted to throw the ball against Kansas City’s defense, which ranks 22nd against the pass. Although backup right DE Jared Allen has a team-leading four sacks, the Chiefs are struggling to generate a pass rush with just their front four. The last time Tampa Bay’s offense saw a defense that blitzed as much as Kansas City’s was in Week 1 against Washington. The Bucs struggled and were held without an offensive touchdown in that contest. That said, Bucs quarterback Brian Griese, who was on the bench in Week 1, must be able to recognize the blitz and audible when needed. And when Griese drops back to throw, RB Michael Pittman will have to help pick up the blitz in the offensive backfield.

Griese will have to be careful when throwing. His go-to guy has been rookie WR Michael Clayton, who has hauled in a team-leading 37 passes for 505 yards and two touchdowns, but Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield has notched four interceptions and a team-high six passes defensed. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown. Strong safety Greg Wesley has recorded two picks of his own and has five passes defensed.

The Bucs would love to have WR Joey Galloway back for this contest because they like the matchup he would receive against Chiefs CB Dexter McCleon. If Galloway can’t go, Joe Jurevicius will start at the split-end position, but he doesn’t have Galloway’s speed.

Kansas City return specialist Dante Hall is averaging 20.3 yards per kick return and 14.9 yards per punt return. Hall, who scored four touchdowns (two punt and two kickoff returns) last season, might be the most dangerous return specialist the Bucs face all year long. The good news is Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia’s troops have done a great job of containing return specialists this season. Tampa Bay simply can’t afford to allow Kansas City’s offense to work with a short field.

Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes has made 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) field goal attempts. He’s 1-of-2 from beyond 50 yards out.

Keep an eye on Bucs kick returner Torrie Cox, who is averaging 28.9 yards per return this season. The Chiefs are allowing opponents to have an average starting field position of the 30-yard line, which ranks second worst in the AFC and fourth worst in the NFL.

Punter Steve Cheek is averaging 43.1 yards per attempt, and he’s pinned four of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

Last Sunday, Kansas City’s offense put up 590 yards of total offense against the Indianapolis Colts, who play a defensive scheme that’s similar to Tampa Bay’s 4-3, Cover 2 system, and Chiefs tailback Priest Holmes had 275 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. That said, one can expect Kansas City to give Tampa Bay a healthy of dose of Holmes early and often in this contest.

Since 2000, Tampa Bay is 0-16 when opposing offenses have their primary tailback carry the ball 24 or more times, which is not good news since Holmes averages nearly 26 carries per game. If the Bucs can find a way to contain Holmes, or at least limit his big plays, they’ll stand a good chance of winning this game.

Tampa Bay’s defense ranks No. 2 overall and is fast, but the Bucs offense will likely have to score often. While Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s group developed the blueprint (great tackling, great hitting, slow down the run and pressure the quarterback) in terms of how to slow down St. Louis’ offense, which is similar to the one Dick Vermeil is running in Kansas City, the Chiefs might be too hot to stop, especially since Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s bunch isn’t known for being an offensive juggernaut.

Just as Kansas City should benefit from facing Indianapolis’ 4-3, Cover 2 scheme last week, Tampa Bay will have a bit of an edge playing Kansas City this Sunday since it played similar offenses in St. Louis and Chicago over the past two games. Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders played an important role in St. Louis’ explosive offense in the Rams’ Super Bowl heyday, and Terry Shea, Chicago’s offensive coordinator, came from Kansas City where he has installed the Chiefs’ offense.

With its season hanging in the balance, 2-5 Tampa Bay needs to win this game. But at 3-4 and in third place in the AFC West Division, Kansas City needs the win, too. The Bucs will have to play a near-perfect game to win this contest, but that’s not something they’ve been able to do so far this season. That said, they might be due, and a win Sunday could go a long way for the Bucs, who still believe they’re very much alive for a playoff spot.

FLYNN’S PICK: Buccaneers 24 Chiefs 20
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