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Chiefs’ Alex Okafor speaks on importance, difficulty of pressuring Tom Brady

Kansas City’s veteran defensive end knows a comfortable Tom Brady is a dangerous Tom Brady.

It’s no secret that a comfortable Tom Brady is much better than a Tom Brady under pressure. The numbers back that up, and the Buccaneers have seen it firsthand throughout the 2020 season.

Think back to some of the worst games Tampa Bay has played on this run to Super Bowl LV. That Thursday night loss to the Bears? Brady was sacked three times and hit eight times. The Sunday night debacle against the Saints? New Orleans tallied three sacks and nine quarterback hits. In many ways, the Buccaneer offensive line keeping Brady comfortable has been the key all year long, and the fact that it has done the job well week in and week out is why the team is still alive in the playoffs.

Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor was asked Wednesday about the importance of getting pressure on the 43-year-old quarterback this Sunday, and the eighth-year veteran said he and his team are well aware of what they need to do. The pass rush will be a huge for Kansas City, and Okafor said it especially needs to come from up the middle:

“We know the significance of getting pressure on Tom Brady, man. I’m sure everybody has said it, he’s the greatest player that’s touched a football, so [if] you give him time back there, he’ll carve you up. So, we know that our job is important this week and, more than anything, we have to get pressure—not necessarily pressure all around—but specifically we’ve got to get push up the middle. We have a solid game plan set and we’re excited about executing it.”

The big men up front for the Bucs allowed one sack and eight quarterback hits in their Week 12 meeting with the Chiefs, but you would expect them to be up to the task with the Lombardi Trophy on the line. As for Okafor saying pressure needs to come up the middle, a later answer about the difficulty of sacking Brady seems to indicate one of the reasons behind that:

“One of the most difficult things about bringing him down is, one, he gets the ball out quick in most situations. He knows where he wants to go with the ball. And two, he’ll sit back eight, nine yards and as an end, you think he’s gonna be at that spot, so you rush eight, nine yards deep and he steps up to five yards. And that’s how he gets a lot of people to miss sacks on him. So, we’ve just got to be conscious of that, mindful of that and put a plan in place around that.”

Brady certainly does work the pocket well, often making it difficult for guys coming off the edge to get to him. That’s why pushing the line up the middle and collapsing the pocket will be so important for Kansas City. If the interior of the defensive line can get penetration, there will be no pocket for Brady to step up into. That’s where there could be trouble for Tampa Bay’s offense.

The trenches are always a big part of the game, but that may be even more of the case this Sunday. The entire Buccaneer offensive line will need to be ready, but the most pressure would seem to be on the interior trio of Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie. We’ll see how that pressure is dealt with in just a few short days.

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