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Clayton: Seahawks’ challenges were on display in Chiefs’ Super Bowl loss

Cover-two defenses gave Russell Wilson and the Seahawks problems late in the season. (Getty)

As Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson sat next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during Super Bowl LV, you have to think he had flashbacks of his team’s bad playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams a month earlier.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense played more zone than it had at anytime this season. The Bucs were in cover-two 41.1 percent of the time. They were in cover-four 25 percent of the time. They were in man-to-man only a third of the time.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes couldn’t do anything. He had the worst game of his career. The zone took away the deep pass as Tampa Bay’s seven players in coverage took away open passing lanes. Mahomes was 26 for 49 with 270 yards and no touchdowns. He averaged only 5.51 yards per attempt.

Tyreek Hill had seven catches for 73 yards for the Chiefs after having 13 catches for 269 yards in the Week 12 game against the Bucs. Because of the zone, Mahomes was able to take advantage of tight end Travis Kelce, who had 10 catches for 133 yards, but those pass plays weren’t going to burn the Buccaneers’ defense.

Wilson had to be thinking about a bunch of things. Because the Chiefs fell behind early, they weren’t able to run the ball. Running the ball against a zone defense is a good strategy, but the Chiefs had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns so the run option wasn’t there.

Mahomes was experiencing what Wilson went through when defenses responded to the “Let Russ Cook” offense with cover-two zones, which brings up an interesting challenge to Wilson, Mahomes and the coaching staffs of the Seahawks and Chiefs. Their mission during the offseason is finding ways to beat zone defenses even though both teams have great receiving talent.

Obviously, running the football is important. Making sure the offensive lines can block well is vital. Mahomes was pressured 29 times behind a patchwork offensive line that was missing two starting tackles and was horrible at best.

For the Seahawks, the front office has to make sure the offensive line is solid. They got an upgrade on the right side with the drafting of Damien Lewis and the signing of right tackle Brandon Shell. They have to see if they can keep Ethan Pocic at center. Protection is important.

So is running the football. Though many Seahawks fans cringe at the idea of adding more running plays, you can see how important it was for the Bucs’ offense Sunday. Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II ran the ball well. They had 145 yards on 33 carries. Brady only had to throw only 29 passes as the Bucs scored 31 points and won easily.

Another thing to look at for the Seahawks is whether Fournette would be a viable option if they can’t re-sign running back Chris Carson. Fournette is big, he’s physical, he’s still young and he’s a free agent.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks have to make sure they can get back to being able to successfully rush the quarterback with four players instead of needing to blitz to get pressure. They have to hope Carlos Dunlap can stay. His cap number could lead him to being cut. They are solid with the rush at defensive tackle. The Bucs were able to rush four and drop seven into coverage, which totally bottled up Mahomes.

Wilson, I’m sure, noticed all of that.

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