BY IRA KAUFMAN
The Bucs never stopped ’em. Not really.
The NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense was overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage Sunday evening as the Chiefs gained a small measure of revenge for their lopsided Super Bowl loss in Tampa.
This was not a game to moan about Tampa Bay’s lack of offensive balance. Tampa Bay fell behind early and it soon became evident that Patrick Mahomes and his band of brothers were not to be denied.
The Chiefs came in averaging only 93 yards on the ground, but they passed that total by halftime. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and rookie Isiah Pacheco capitalized on enormous holes as Tampa Bay’s front 7 got their butts kicked from Dale Mabry to Bayshore Boulevard.
When the final seconds ticked off, Kansas City had 189 rushing yards. The Bucs had 3.
Tom Brady kept firing away, finishing with 39 completions, tied for the second-most in his storied career. A plodding offense came to life, but the Chiefs kept converting third downs and making plays in the red zone. If Todd Bowles has experienced a worse day as a defensive coordinator, it must have been a doozy.
Mahomes exhibited his usual wizardry, throwing from a variety of arm angles and often escaping a pass rush that dropped him three times. His only mistake was a foolish late interception that gave the Bucs brief life.
Tampa Bay ultimately ran out of time in a 41-31 setback, but the harsh truth is the Buc defense ran out of answers early and never recovered.
Here’s how the visitors dropped the Bucs to 2-2 before a national TV audience expecting a more competitive game:
* When Cris Collinsworth can’t drum up excitement about a potential comeback, you know you’re out of it. Every time the Buc defense needed to make a play, KC kept the chains moving. Converting 12-of-17 on third down is a ridiculous success rate, even with Mahomes under center.
* Can somebody around here cover Travis Kelce — or at least try? The future Hall of Fame tight end caught 9-of-10 passes sent his way, including 7 in the first half, giving him 19 receptions in his last two meetings with Tampa Bay. His knack for finding open spaces is fantastic and his yards after the catch is equally impressive.
* It was nice to see Mike Evans return with a vengeance after last week’s suspension. If there’s a more effective red-zone target in the NFL, let me know.
* The game balls should go to Kansas City’s offensive line, especially left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey. They manhandled the interior of Tampa Bay’s defense and continually got KC runners to the second level. The Chiefs kept churning out at least five yards on first-down runs, staying ahead of the sticks. That’s how you finish with 18 more snaps and 17 more minutes of possession time.
* For the second consecutive game, safety Mike Edwards was credited with 13 tackles. He also added a sack, but many of those stops came well down the field. Bowles would much prefer for Devin White and Lavonte David to lead the team in tackles.
* It was a mixed bag for Rachaad White. The rookie back fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a quick 7-0 deficit, but he flashed his receiving skills by catching all five targets for 50 yards. He’s going to get more snaps as the season progresses.
* As the game developed, Byron Leftwich realized this was not a night to feed the run game. With the Chiefs knowing Brady would be firing away on virtually every snap, Tampa Bay’s pass protection was outstanding. The only sack came from blitzing cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, and it was a big one as Brady lost a fumble. But overall, Brady was given a clean pocket and suffered few hits from a defense that sacked Matt Ryan five times last week.
* Through four games, the Bucs have gotten very little from Julio Jones or Chris Godwin, both undermined by injuries. As good as he is, Evans can’t hold up this offense by himself. Given the scant production at tight end, it’s imperative that Godwin and/or Jones emerges as a credible threat.
* Here’s all you need to know about this matchup: Kansas City’s only punt came with less than a minute to play and the game well decided.
* Nothing like an early-season battle for NFC South supremacy, right here at Raymond James Stadium. Here come the 2-2 Falcons, averaging a healthy 26 points behind a surprisingly potent ground game that just rushed for 202 yards vs. the Browns, besting the 201 they ran on the Saints in Week 1.
This content was originally published here.