Vita Vea’s return to play isn’t just unexpected, it’s one of the more improbable storylines of Super Bowl LV. After breaking his ankle in week five, no one expected him to return until the 2021 season. Instead, he not only returned for the NFC Championship but he was a huge factor in the Bucs’ ability to get after Aaron Rodgers. I mean, his very first snap was a sack by Jason Pierre-Paul.
I asked Patrick Mahomes about Vea’s presence in Super Bowl LV - what kind of problems having Vea on the field creates for the Chiefs - so I felt it was only right to ask Vea about Patrick Mahomes. I asked him what is so difficult about facing a quarterback as unique as Mahomes and what he can do to help slow down the Chiefs’ signal caller;
“I don’t think it’s just me, I think we all gotta do our jobs. Everybody has to do what we’ve been coached all week as a collective group. With a guy like that, it doesn’t really take one guy to contain him. It takes the whole defense being on the same page to do the job, you know? If one person is not on the same page, it can cost us.”
Vita Vea might be one of the bigger x-factors for this game. Alongside Ndamukong Suh, Vea has been excellent at collapsing the interior of the pocket. Now, with Mahomes, you have a quarterback that is probably the best in the NFL at improvising and moving East to West to extend plays while looking downfield. However, with JPP and Shaquil Barrett going up against backup tackles, the collapsing of the interior is crucial. When Mahomes goes to extend the play or escape the closing pocket, he should be running into the Bucs’ edge rushers who have the advantage over the patched up offensive line.
It starts with the trenches - as most games do - and the Bucs being able to get pressure with their front four or five will be critical in this game. If they can get to Mahomes or rush his throws without sending a blitzer, allowing their players to stay back in coverage and minimize gains, the Chiefs’ offense won’t be able to operate as it normally does.
For this defense, all of that starts up front with the return of Vea.