Playoff Lenny + Ronny gave the Chiefs fits
The Bucs also moved the ball on the ground, with Fournette and Ronald Jones combining to carry the ball 28 times for 150 yards. It was a weird game in terms of the numbers. Jones was generally the more efficient back, picking up five first downs on 12 carries, but he was the worse back of the two by EPA by virtue of his two unsuccessful goal-line runs, which included a fumble on third down and a stuff on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Fournette ran for only three first downs across 16 carries, but he took a 27-yard run to the house in the third quarter.

That run was another example of how the Bucs used a pulling guard to mess with the Chiefs and their tendencies on film. Typically, their running game is static and built around duo and inside zone runs. They're rarely pulling guards, but as Geoff Schwartz noted on Twitter, the Bucs pulled Ali Marpet to create a designed bounce lane for Fournette on his touchdown. With the Chiefs looking to stop duo, Fournette ran untouched into the end zone.

One other element the Bucs were able to exploit on that play is the use of Haeg as a sixth offensive lineman. They used Haeg as a sixth lineman on 20 of their 63 snaps. They weren't successful with Haeg and Vea on the field near the goal line for three snaps, but of their 17 other snaps with Haeg on the field, 13 were successful in terms of moving the chains or keeping the Bucs ahead of schedule.

Haeg's role was twofold. One, naturally, was to give them a more physical blocker in the running game alongside Gronkowski than Brate. The other was to force the Chiefs to match personnel. The Chiefs consider their best 11-man defense to be a nickel or even a dime package, with five or six defensive backs on the field. Bringing Gronkowski and Haeg onto the field at the same time left Spagnuolo in a bind. When he stayed in the sub-package, the Buccaneers enjoyed a physical mismatch on the interior as they ran duo and inside zone.

Spagnuolo went to his base defense most of the time with Haeg on the field, though, and that gave Brady more linebackers to target in the passing game. Going to the base defense with Haeg on the field helped get Brown assigned against Mathieu, a safety, for his 1-yard touchdown. It's always nice when your sixth offensive lineman can make a more positive impact on the game than any of the other team's top five.

Bill Barnwell,, published 8 February 2021