Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell would be more scared of trying to stop the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl LV than Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The reigning champions are taking on the Bucs in their own backyard this Sunday as they attempt to become the first team to win back-to-back national championships since the Brady-inspired New England Patriots in 2003 and 2004.
Brady is looking to win a seventh ring when he lines up in his 10th Super Bowl at the age of 43, which would cap a remarkable first year in Tampa and underline his position as the greatest to have played the game.
But former New York Giants defensive end Umenyiora – who got the better of the then New England Patriots star on the way to his two Super Bowl triumphs – would be far more concerned if he was trying to halt Mahomes this weekend.
“Kansas City, for sure,” the great said when asked which of the offensive units would concern him most. “Not only do they have their quarterback, but the receivers that they have, all three guys, are extremely speedy.
“Travis Kelce, the best receiving tight end in football. It’s a very difficult thing to match up against those kind of players.
“But like I said, the defensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have the advantage.
“This is where they win the game, if they’re going to win the game, the defensive line have to earn their money.
“They have to overwhelm the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line. Otherwise, they’re not going to stand a chance.”
Former NFL cornerback Bell echoed Umenyiora’s views, saying that Mahomes’ “intellectual capabilities are something else”.
“If I was playing defence, it would scare me playing against Kansas City,” the former Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Giants player said.
“It’s because of the second reaction plays. I’m just thinking as a defensive back, you can cover a guy all day and especially against a guy like Tom Brady in the pocket. I have a clock in my head. I know what’s going to happen.
“But when Patrick Mahomes starts to move around out of the pocket, things break down. I’ve watched the tape over and over.
“Travis Kelce so many times is covered, then Patrick Mahomes moves, Travis Kelce starts moving around and gets open. Bam, there it is. That’s frustrating as a defence.”
The bookmakers make the Chiefs favourites but Bell believes it will be closer than the odds may suggest, with the deciding factor being “whose quarterback has an A+ game”.
“This is why I’m so excited about this game,” Bell said. “They’re both very similar, I would say.
“I’m leaning more (towards) Kansas City just because of the explosive nature of that offence.
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“But when you look at Tampa Bay and the weapons Tom Brady has, I mean, there are one A and one B, and on the defensive side, I’m looking at that defensive line and the linebackers of Tampa Bay, the secondaries, who are young, but they’ve got better all year. I mean, Jamel Dean, at corner, he’s one of the top guys in the league, if you ask me.
“It’s the same with Kansas City. They’ve got better as the years progressed. I thought that defense was a weakness.
“However, (Steve) Spagnoulo has done what he always does and he gets better as the year progresses. They are pretty evenly matched.
“That’s why to me, it comes down to the quarterback. Everybody knows that. But more importantly, this year, because those defences match up well against each other.”
It is sure to be an unforgettable end to an NFL season unlike any other. Only around 25,000 will be in attendance at the cavernous Raymond James Stadium in Tampa due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, but just getting to this point of the season is “incredible” in itself in the view of Umenyiora.
“Nobody thought this was even a possibility,” he said. “There were people who were saying there’s no way the NFL is going to make this happen or maybe they have to go into a bubble or maybe they have to do things that they’ve never done before.
“But it is a testament to discipline, a testament to leadership, and a testament to them that they were able to figure out a way to play every single game.
“Now we’re about to have the biggest Super Bowl that we’ve probably had in many, many years.” :
::Super Bowl LV is live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday, February 7, kick-off 1130pm.