Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill sprinted past Tampa Bay cornerback Carlton Davis — again — caught the ball in stride and then cut so sharply that safety Mike Edwards ended up flailing at him with one arm near the sideline. Hill casually jogged a few more yards before pausing at the goal line and doing a backflip into the end zone.
It was the second and most impressive of three scores for Hill, who was the star of the Chiefs' 27-24 road win against the Buccaneers back on Nov. 29 in the 12th week of the regular season. Hill finished with 13 receptions for 269 yards — both career highs for the 26-year-old — and proved to be a mismatch for Davis and the Bucs.
Tampa Bay gets another shot at the three-time All-Pro and the rest of the Chiefs next Sunday at Super Bowl LV, the first rematch from the regular season in the NFL finale in nearly a decade.
Same teams. Same venue. Much higher stakes.
The Chiefs (16-2) are counting on the same outcome as they try to not only beat Tampa Bay again but repeat as Super Bowl champions after rallying to beat the San Francisco 49ers a year ago in suburban Miami. The Bucs (14-5), who have won seven straight games since that loss this past fall, are trying to become the seventh team in 14 tries to defeat an opponent in the Super Bowl that it lost to in the regular season.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida — yes, the 55th edition of the Super Bowl is the first with a team playing in its home stadium — and CBS will televise the game. Both teams expect to lean on and learn from their previous meeting.
"We'll help a little bit more than we did in that ballgame," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said.
Tampa Bay's biggest and most obvious mistake was trying to use single coverage to contain Hill, one of the fastest players in the league. Davis was burned repeatedly, including on consecutive touchdown passes from Patrick Mahomes to Hill for 75 and 44 yards in the first quarter. Davis was the guilty party on their third scoring connection, too, but had much tighter coverage on what was a perfect throw and catch.
Hill had seven receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, then just six catches for 66 yards and a score the rest of the way. The difference?
"I just got tired. I got tired of running," Hill joked this past week.
"No, let me stop," he continued. "Todd Bowles is a great defensive coordinator. He's been doing it for a long time. I'm sure he's seen guys like me throughout his career. Just being able to dial up (coverages) and things like that to slow me down. Also bringing the safety over the top a bit to double me and (tight end Travis) Kelce. That kind of slowed us down a lot, plus their front seven is tremendous. Once they get clicking on defense, they're a great defense. They fly around the field; they're great. I feel like I just got lucky and was able to get open."
The Chiefs scored on three of their first four possessions and led 17-0 before the Bucs crossed midfield. The margin could have been even greater had Tampa Bay's defense not forced a field goal after Kansas City ran two plays from the 1-yard line.
Davis knocked down Kelce's pass to Mahomes, a nifty trick play that started when the quarterback flipped to Hill, who pitched to Kelce, who expected to find Mahomes open in the end zone. For Davis, it was his best play of the afternoon.
Kansas City had settled for a chip-shot field goal on the opening possession. Mahomes and Co. had a chance to extend their 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, but Shaq Barrett stripped the quarterback on a first-and-goal play from the 8-yard line and forced the Chiefs' lone turnover.
Tampa Bay was unable to mount a rally until the fourth quarter. Tom Brady had thrown two interceptions in the third, and the Bucs trailed 27-10 before a furious attempt at a comeback victory.
Brady found Mike Evans for scores of 31 and 7 yards, the first one coming on a fourth-and-3 play early in the fourth and the second one coming after a pair of roughing-the-passer penalties on Frank Clark.
Down three with 4:10 to play, Tampa turned to its defense to get a stop and get Brady the ball back. Mahomes didn't let it happen, scrambling for one first down and then rolling left on third-and-7 and finding — who else? — Hill for a first down in front of — who else? — Davis. Mahomes then took a knee to end the game.
"You learn from mistakes and you learn from really good things, and there were some really good things in that game," Arians said. "So we've got a lot of stuff to build on."
Mahomes completed 37 of 49 passes for 462 yards and the trio of touchdowns to Hill, who finished with the 14th-most receiving yards in any game in NFL history and the most since Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones notched 300 against the Carolina Panthers in 2016. Brady was 27-of-41 for 345 yards with three scores and the two picks.
Neither team will be completely the same in the rematch.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his staff had to shuffle their offensive line again this past week after losing left tackle Eric Fisher to a torn Achilles' tendon in the AFC championship game against the Buffalo Bills. Two more starters — right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (back) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (knees) — haven't played since October.
The Bucs will have 350-pound defensive tackle Vita Vea back for the second straight game after he missed most of the season because of a broken right ankle. Vea returned last week and was the catalyst in Tampa's five-sack day against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game.
"They kind of readjusted some things and then they had a week off, had a lot of guys get acclimated to the system that Tom Brady likes, their coach likes," Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones said. "They've been playing well, especially later in the season. They're definitely a different team from when we played them a couple of weeks ago."
Hill and Davis, though, are sure to be lined up across from each other at some point.
"You go back and look at the game and what matchups you had," Arians said. "Familiarity helps. I'm not really excited playing Tyreek Hill and Kelce and Mahomes. That's a formidable challenge, but our guys will be up for it."
SO WE MEET AGAIN
When the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off next Sunday, it will be the 14th Super Bowl pairing of teams that met during the regular season. The Chiefs won 27-24 on Nov. 29 in Tampa, Fla., where the Bucs are about to become the first Super Bowl team to play at home. Here’s a look at the first 13 such Super Bowl rematches, with the score from the title meeting listed first and the result from the regular season second:
XII: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos
Jan. 15, 1978, in New Orleans: Cowboys 27, Broncos 10
Dec. 18, 1977, at Dallas: Cowboys won, 14-6
XV: Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Jan. 25, 1981, in New Orleans: Raiders 27, Eagles 10
Nov. 23, 1980, at Philadelphia: Eagles won, 10-7
XVI: Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers
Jan. 24, 1982, in Pontiac, Mich.: 49ers 26, Bengals 21
Dec. 6, 1981, at Cincinnati: 49ers won, 21-3
XVIII: Los Angeles Raiders vs. Washington Redskins
Jan. 22, 1984, in Tampa, Fla.: Raiders 38, Redskins 9
Oct. 2, 1983, at Washington: Redskins won 37-35
XX: Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots
Jan. 26, 1986, in New Orleans: Bears 46, Patriots 10
Sept. 15, 1985, at Chicago: Bears won, 20-7
XXI: Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants
Jan. 25, 1987, in Pasadena, Calif.: Giants 39, Broncos 20
Nov. 23, 1986, at New York: Giants won, 19-16
XXV: Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants
Jan. 27, 1991, in Tampa, Fla.: Giants 20, Bills 19
Dec. 15, 1990, at New York: Bills won, 17-13
XXVIII: Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys
Jan. 30, 1994, in Atlanta: Cowboys 30, Bills 13
Sept. 12, 1993, at Dallas: Bills won, 13-10
XXIX: San Diego Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Jan. 29, 1995, in Miami: 49ers 49, Chargers 26
Dec. 11, 1994, at San Diego: 49ers won, 38-15
XXXIV: St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans
Jan. 30, 2000, in Atlanta: Rams 23, Titans 16
Oct. 31, 1999, at Tennessee: Titans won, 24-21
XXXVI: New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams
Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans: Patriots 20, Rams 17
Nov. 18, 2001, at New England: Rams won, 24-17
XLII: New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz.: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Dec. 29, 2007, at New York: Patriots won, 38-35
XLVI: New England Patriots vs. New York Giants
Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis: Giants 21, Patriots 17
Nov. 6, 2011, at New England: Giants won, 24-20