Zo huddle
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

FSM Presents: Zo Huddle – Zo Called It, The Biggest Defensive Threats To The Defending Champs Came Through

Franchise Sports Media.com

 

Last week, the Zo Huddle pointed out six Tampa Bay Buccaneer defenders to look out for who had the potential to disrupt the defending champion’s back-to-back Super Bowl championship pursuit. The Zo Huddle insists it’s not bragging, but here to say…

 

I was right!

Not bragging, I called it last week right here! And as a good friend reminded me: It ain’t bragging if you got the facts to back it up.

Going to do this for the Zo Huddle: Look back at what each defender faced before heading against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive machine followed by the end result:

 

DEVIN WHITE

What I originally said to watch for: Controlling the middle

What happened in Super Bowl LV: An MVP-like performance

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: YardBarker

White delivered one of the most memorable performances for an inside linebacker in the Super Bowl since Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis (two Super Bowl Most Valuable Players).

White took advantage of the pressure up front created by the Bucs’ defensive line by using angle pursuits and utilizing that 4.42 40-yard dash time to eliminate the potential sideline big plays. Those type of plays have become a staple of the Chiefs’ offense.

One example is near the 6:02 mark of the first quarter. Kansas City calls a read option play with no one accounting for the middle linebacker White. The play ended with White blowing up the play for a three-yard loss. That loss of yardage stop wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for two things: White making a beeline for the running back and not Mahomes and KC not putting a guard or center on White. The Chiefs paid dearly on that play, as White goes unscathed to his former LSU teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Later, and even on a play that ended with a shove to the end zone of Tyreek Hill (25 second mark of this video), I found myself impressed by how fast White closed on, arguably, the fastest player on that Raymond James Stadium grass. Lined up along the TB 14-yard line and four yards away from the line of scrimmage at the snap, Mahomes drops back and checks down to Hill at the 25-yard line. Hill has seven yards of green in front of him with the chance of getting back to the LOS and stretching the play further. However, White closes to the 20, readjusts his hip angle to face the sidelines, maintain his posture as Hill tried to fool him with a single jab step move and the play ends in a loss of two yards. Hill could’ve easily turned the play into an 18-yard touchdown had White not close quick on the spacing Hill had after the catch.

Finally, White was responsible for denying two red zone touchdowns: The first one on the shortstop-like throw Mahomes made toward Darrel Williams only for White to break the pass up, the other on the game’s final takeaway that saw White follow Mahomes’ movement the whole way before tipping the ball in front of Travis Kelce and ended with the interception.

After eight tackles and an INT, I’m in the population that believes the LSU standout White should’ve been the game’s Most Valuable Player.

 

JASON PIERRE-PAUL

What I originally said to watch for: JPP shading over reserve left tackle Mike Remmers

What happened afterwards: Three tackles and one pass deflection on a dominating Bucs’ front line

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Bucs Nation

Pierre-Paul fired some early shots in the CBS Super Bowl Sunday Pregame show – boldly saying “I don’t need to prepare for Patrick Mahomes. Patrick Mahomes needs to prepare for me…PERIOD.”

And No. 90’s declaration helped energize a confident and athletic group that took advantage of a depleted Chiefs offensive line…and made him 8-0 all-time in his playoff career.

Pierre-Paul was involved on the BucsSuper Bowl record 29 QB pressures against Mahomes. Even though he didn’t get any sacks, his quick first step and relentless pursuit of Mahomes resulted in forced incompletions. One example is the third-and-seven throw during the third quarter that ended in a PBU.

Another sample of JPP’s presence is at the 7:11 mark: With five across the KC line and JPP coming out of a two-point stance, JPP uses a bull rush on right tackle Andrew Wylie to push the 6-foot-6, 309-pounder in front of Mahomes. Opposite of him is Shaq Barrett beating Mike Remmers to Mahomes and the play ends in a sack. Both edge defenders use their speed to collapse the pocket like four walls closing in on Mahomes.

Speaking of Barrett

 

SHAQ BARRETT

What I said to watch for: Attacking from both angles

What happened afterwards: Had one of the three team sacks

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: NFL

Barrett ends the season getting two sacks of Mahomes (he had a sack in the regular season contest).

Let me remix what I said last week about Barrett: He’s a quick, energetic edge defender who leans on an outside jab step and explosive first step to beat blockers. Additionally, he’s equally strong at bending at the point of attack and still pumping his legs to get to the QB.

The bending and pumping part came in handy on that third quarter sack of Mahomes.

Barrett took advantage of KC’s lack of desire to leave an extra blocker outside of their front wall of protection. According to Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs trusted their front five on 92% of their dropback plays – opting not to leave a blocking back or tight end on 48 of 52 of those plays. Barrett uses a low center of gravity and push to force Remmers to tangle him using his upper body strength. But Remmers is already beat on the play – as Barrett has the pad level victory and pushes his way into the sack.

The now two-time Super Bowl champion (won Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos) finished with a game-high eight QB pressures (six during the first half). His edge quickness was masterfully executed during another key sequence in the red zone.

Lined up at the TB 14, Barrett discovers an open gap between Wylie and right guard Stefen Wisnewski. Barrett attacks the left shoulder of Wylie and slices through the gaping hole, forcing Mahomes to backtrack all the way to the 35-yard line before firing the ball to the sidelines for the incompletion.

I spoke last week about how Barrett is one of the fastest edge rushers in the NFL. Leaving him with one-on-one’s with a reserved tackle was a huge mistake.

 

VITA VEA

What I said to watch for: Double teams on passing plays

What happened afterwards: One tackle, multiple pressures and helping hold Chief running backs to a combined 69 yards

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: TampaBay.com

The Washington Husky great Vea was labeled by yours truly as the Bucs’ defense biggest X-Factor.

Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles rotated his defenders. But he smartly had Vea line up as a 5-technique on certain packages and head up on the center, creating situations where only one blocker had to account for him.

The 6-foot-4, 347-pounder smashed the trenches from there.

Vea’s strength and girth eliminated the inside running game for KC. On at least two plays, Vea used a straight bull rush and ended up putting Remmers and center Austin Reiter on roller skates before getting in front of Mahomes.

As I’ve discovered in my last piece: The Bucs dare opposing offenses to double Vea on passing situations because they feel JPP, Barrett and Ndamukong Suh can draw solo blocks from there. Vea did the dirty work in the trenches to help free up his fellow “Gravediggers.” On the Suh sack, Vea took on two inside blockers while the 11-year DT and outside linebacker Cam Gill penetrated through to collide into Mahomes.

Though I was secretly hoping the Bucs would hand the football off to him on that fourth and goal stop where he lined up as a fullback. I love a big man touchdown and was hoping to see The Fridge 2.0.

 

LAVONTE DAVID

What I said to look for: Blitzing and sticking with the All-Pro tight end

What happened afterwards: Six solo tackles, two PBU’s and kept Kelce out of the end zone

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Bucs Nation

Kelce caught 10 passes for 133 yards. However, David denied a potential huge Kelce first down reception.

Ironically, his stats mirror the previous regular season meeting: Collecting six solo tackles and keeping the All-Pro TE from getting his feet and the ball inside the goal line.

David’s in-game smarts showed on the PBU in front of Kelce. He didn’t get phased or bullied by Kelce’s brief bump during his route, stayed with the TE and swatted the pass. David played man on Kelce the whole evening and prevented big plays.

One of the longest tenured Buccaneers players (joined the franchise in 2012) finally got his ring.

 

SEAN MURPHY-BUNTING

What I said to watch for: Lining up at the slot cornerback spot

What happened afterwards: Three tackles and switched off on covering Hill, leading to a relative quiet night for the explosive pro bowl wideout

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

Unfortunately for Murphy-Bunting, his interception streak ended on Super Bowl Sunday.

But SMB didn’t need an INT to provide a valuable asset to the Bucs’ D. Instead, his cover skills came in handy against the most dangerous small receiver in the game.

SMB covered Hill on seven pass plays according to PFF. While Hill averaged more than 10 yards a catch, the former Central Michigan Chippewa still helped prevent the big play on ‘Reek. During one sequence, Hill was held to one catch for five yards through the first 21 minutes of the first half. Carlton Davis, who had one of his most disastrous performances against ‘Reek, managed to redeem himself by taking turns with SMB in shadowing the dynamic WR.

Murphy-Bunting ended his memorable postseason with 19 tackles, one TFL, five PBU’s, the three INT’s and lastly, going from an under-recruited MAC target to Super Bowl champion.

 

Post Huddle 

 

Bowles created a fairly simple, yet extremely effective, game plan to neutralize the Chiefs offense: Operate with two high safeties, rush just four and take away the sidelines and deep ball.

And it led to the impactful evening from six of these game changing defenders…as I called it.

 

Again, not bragging. But Zo Huddle didn’t hesitate to channel the inner Lorenzo the Greek leading up to the big game.

 

Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle              Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle             Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle              Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle               Zo Huddle              

Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: @LJ_Reyna

 

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