The Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday, and the Bucs ground game will be critical to success. The Chiefs' high-flying offense is tough for even the best defense to slow. The Bucs defense will give them a tough time, but Todd Bowles’ unit will be counting on Byron Leftwich’s offense to control field position and time of possession.
The Bucs ranked 10th in rushing efficiency this season and will look to Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to step up their game Sunday evening. Jones was the team’s lead back for most of the regular season, but injuries and COVID-19 have provided opportunities for Fournette. The big guy took over for Jones in the playoffs and has not looked back.
Fournette averaged 3.8 yards per carry during the regular season but has stepped it up to 4.4 per carry in the playoffs to go along with two touchdowns. He’s also been more active in the passing game, catching 14 of 17 targets for 102 yards and a score.
Jones averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the regular season but has struggled in limited playoff opportunities. He is averaging 3.4 yards per carry in the playoffs, with only 23 carries — half of Fournette’s 48 carries.
We’ll be updating their respective performances Sunday evening. Fournette is likely to carry the heavier workload, but Jones is talented enough that he could move back into the lead role if he can get hot.
Fournette finished with 89 rushing yards on 16 carries and a score. He caught four passes for 46 yards. Jones didn't contribute through the passing game but did chip in with 61 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Update After 3Q
Fournette has racked up 116 yards from scrimmage. He’s run for 70 yards and a score on 11 carries and caught four passes fr 46 yards. Jones has 38 rushing yards on eight carries but hasn’t logged a reception.
Update 7:41 3Q
Fournette broke off a 27-yard touchdown run to put the Bucs up 28-9.
Jones got stuffed on the goal line twice in the Bucs’ first drive of the second quarter, and the Chiefs forced the first turnover of the game. He’s tallied 33 rushing yards on six carries to go along with two catches for 19 yards. Fournette has 30 rushing yards on seven carries. Neither back has found the end zone, but Tampa Bay holds a 21-6 lead thanks to a last-second touchdown catch by Antonio Brown.
Update After 1Q
Fournette notched one three-yard carry on the first drive. Jones was featured more during Tampa Bay’s second drive and kicked off the game with a 13-yard carry, but the Bucs failed to convert another first down before punting for a second time. Fournette experienced a surge during his team’s third drive and finished the third drive with 29 rushing yards on five carries. The Bucs lead 7-3.