Tyreek Hill catches Bucs napping early in Chiefs' 27-24 win
It was hotdogging with relish. Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill was on his way to his second of three touchdowns, a 44-yard reception from quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first quarter, when he paused at the goal line and did a backflip into the end zone.

Hill caught 13 passes for 269 yards and three scores - the most yards allowed to any receiver in club history - in the Chiefs' 27-24 win over the Bucs Sunday. What's more, 203 of those yards came in the first quarter. So you can hardly blame Hill for going all Simone Biles for a second.

They got the tumble part down pretty well. In fact, they seem incapable of stopping the fall. In the last four games, the Bucs have been outscored 49-7 in the first quarter. On Sunday, with no help from an offense that managed one first down in its first four possessions, Tampa Bay fell behind 17-0 in the first 13-1/2 minutes.

The second straight loss dropped the Bucs to 7-5 overall heading into the bye week. They also showed they are little match for good teams or good quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, who passed for 462 yards and three scores.

At this point, it's time to question everything about the Bucs. The coaching, the offensive scheme and why defensive coordinator Todd Bowles thought it was a good idea to have Carlton Davis try to cover Hill man-to-man all afternoon.

"He had him man-to-man," coach Bruce Arians said of Davis. "We tried to get a safety to him if we could. You've got (tight end Travis) Kelce on the other side, too, so there's a lot of weapons. When we did play man-to-man, Patrick found him and they made some really good plays."

It's a pick-your-poison game plan when you play the Chiefs, but it's hard to imagine a quicker death than trying to lock down Hill, who runs a sub-4.3 40-yard dash, with one player. "Far as Carlton, he went up against a great guy," linebacker Devin White said. "Tyreek Hill is one of the best guys in football. I just feel like we've got to do a better job of protecting our brother when there's something going on. But at the end of the day, 10 times out of 10, I'm going to choose (No.) 24 (Davis)."

You can credit the Bucs for keeping the score close against the defending Super Bowl champions. You can feel good about quarterback Tom Brady rediscovering the deep ball with bombs of 44 yards to Chris Godwin, 48 yards to Rob Gronkowski, 31 yards to Mike Evans and a 37-yard catch and run to Ronald Jones, the last two for touchdowns. This game could've gotten away from the Bucs like the 38-3 loss to the Saints a few weeks ago.

Brady passed for 345 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw two third-quarter interceptions that ended drives at the Chiefs' 36- and 24-yard lines. One was a deflected pass, and the other was underthrown to Scotty Miller while under pressure.

"We battled back," Brady said. "We unfortunately left ourselves a big deficit to start ― got off to a slow start and couldn't convert any third downs. Just poor execution early and (we got) behind. Players have to do a better job. We've got to make the plays that are there and certainly (on) offense, we've got to do our job, stay on the field and keep them off the field."

The Bucs defense had a better effort in the second half. It forced the Chiefs to punt three times. But when Mahomes needed to convert, as he did six of 12 times on third down Sunday, he was spectacular. Shaquil Barrett sacked Mahomes and forced a fumble that was recovered by William Gholston. The Bucs also intercepted him twice, but both plays were negated by penalties. Ndamukong Suh jumped offsides, and Jason Pierre-Paul was called for roughing the passer.

Those kinds of mistakes enabled the Chiefs to run over 10 minutes off the clock in the final two possessions. In the end, Mahomes hurt the Bucs with his feet as much as his arm. Brady's seven-yard TD pass to Evans left the Bucs trailing by a field goal with 4:10 remaining and two timeouts. They never got the football back.

Mahomes scrambled for two first downs and completed a short pass to - who else? - Hill in front of Davis to ice the game. "You know, we stopped the run, we stopped the pass," Arians said. "We don't stop the quarterback scrambling. I mean, those were two big first downs. "It's very frustrating, because there's very few guys I've ever seen in this league, or any league, that can backpedal eight to nine to 10 yards in the pocket and throw a dime 25 yards down the field."

Thanks to losses by the Rams and Cardinals Sunday, the Bucs still hold the sixth wild-card spot. They fell further behind the Saints in the NFC South. Arians had some advice for his team during the bye week.

"First and foremost, get healthy and beat the virus," Arians said. "Every team has come back and had a virus problem. We can't finish our season with eight or 10 guys staying home. Every game is a big game. 11-5 will do it. One at a time. But the first thing is to get healthy and beat the virus."

Arians says everybody tried to hand the Bucs the Lombardi Trophy in August. It's still there for the taking as they enter December with games against the Vikings, two against the Falcons and the finale at Detroit. But the starts have to be faster. The defense has to be better. And the hounds seem to be barking at Arians' door about some perceived rift between him and Brady that both claim doesn't exist.

"It is just external noise that when you are losing that is what you deal with," Brady said. "I love playing for the guys that I play with and the coaches. The whole organization has been unbelievable. I certainly have to do a better job the last four weeks of the year."

Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times, published 30 November 2020