With Jamel Dean sidelined for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they face the Kansas City Chiefs, Sean Murphy-Bunting’s performance on Sunday will mean even more than usual.
Murphy-Bunting didn’t have a good game against the Los Angeles Rams as the Bucs fell to 7-4 on the season. He wasn’t alone though either. So in a sense, the entire defense will be the X-Factor in order for Tampa Bay to send Kansas City home with a loss.
Tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill have combined this season for 176 receptions so we know we’ll see plenty of those two. However, we’ve also see a lot of teams come out and do what we didn’t think they could or would against this Buccaneers defense at times.
Which means this could also become a breakout game for guys like Demarcus Robinson or Mecole Hardman who have combined for fewer receptions than either of the previous two names have individually.
Carlton Davis III is the best defensive back on the field for the Bucs. After him, it’s a debate between Dean, Winfield Jr. and Murphy-Bunting when he’s at his best.
Unfortunately, the last name on the list there hasn’t been at the top of his game for most of this season.
Through eleven games, Murphy-Bunting is allowing the highest quarterback rating of all Buccaneers defenders. In fact, among corners who have at least 182 coverage snaps this season, the second-year defender’s 125.7 QBR allowed is twelfth-worst.
According to PFF, Murphy-Bunting came out of Week 11 against Jared Goff with his fourth-worst grade of the year. His three lower graded games came in Buccaneers wins against the Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers, and Las Vegas Raiders.
Against the Chargers he was targeted seven times surrendering seven receptions for 131-yards and two touchdowns. He gave up four catches on five tries against the Packers, and then was tapped again for five catches against the Raiders.
Facing the Rams, Goff and head coach Sean McVay targeted Murphy-Bunting more than any other defensive back, hitting on five of nine targets for 65-yards. Alone, the stat line doesn’t look big, but when you consider 34 of those yards came after the catch the stat line represents sloppy play, missed tackles, and provided opportunities for Los Angeles they otherwise shouldn’t have had.
What Justin Herbert, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr all failed to do was identify the weakness in the Buccaneers secondary, and exploit it fully.
Patrick Mahomes II won’t make the same mistake. Mahomes leans heavily on Kelce and Hill because of the mismatches they provide him. However, we’ve also seen the MVP quarterback take what the defense gives him.
If Todd Bowles’ group finds a way to minimize the Chiefs’ two main weapons, Mahomes will look for opportunities elsewhere. This means Sean Murphy-Bunting isolated against guys like Robinson, Hardman, and Sammy Watkins who will be playing after dealing with calf and hamstring injuries.
For these reasons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting will have a major impact against the Kansas City Chiefs, and is our Week 12 X-Factor.