(CBS Local)- Super Bowl LV is now just days away with the anticipation building for the matchup between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. While the quarterbacks are the headliners and will be talked about plenty between now and Sunday, former Seattle Seahawks defensive end and Super Bowl XLVIII champion Cliff Avril is dialed in to the pass rush for the Buccaneers.
“The X-factor for Tampa to win is going to be Ndamukong Suh, J.P.P, that front four,” said Avril in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “I think it’s going to be imperative that they find ways because I do believe the Chiefs are going to be moving the pocket around. They have to be able to read those boots, those nakeds, read those plays to apply pressure. Because what makes Mahomes so great is, he can kill you with his feet or he can launch it down field. But, when he has time to sit back there, it’s unreal.”
The Chiefs offensive line has been a focal point this week due to the shuffling that they have had to do throughout the season and, more recently, in response to the loss of Eric Fisher at left tackle. For a former pass rusher like Avril, seeing those backup linemen, he knows the Bucs are licking their chops.
“You’re excited about it. It’s an opportunity to go up against a second-string guy that might make this game too big for himself,” said Avril. “He might let the lights and the cameras get to him a little bit so you have to attack him immediately.”
But, that all said, Avril points out, the Chiefs know their deficiency as well and he expects Kansas City to counter using Mahomes’ ability to move.
“Early, I think they’re going to see how they play out against these defensive linemen because they’re stacked with Shaq Barrett, Suh, J.P.P., these guys get active,” said Avril. “So, what do you do to compensate for that? I think they start moving Mahomes around a little bit in the pocket. They’re going to test it out to see how these guys hold up but then they’re going to start moving him around in the pocket so that guys don’t necessarily have to match up one-on-one and it’s more of a zone type of play.”
On the other side of course, is Tom Brady, who Avril faced in the Super Bowl six years ago now. Avril was on both Seahawks Super Bowl teams and feels very lucky to be able to say that. So Brady making his 10th appearance this year? He only has one word for that.
“It’s legendary man, it’s legendary. I was fortunate enough to play in two, win one. Extremely excited. When they bring me up, Cliff Avril, Super Bowl champ right,” said Avril. “But when you think of what he’s done, because I know a lot of guys who have played 13 years, 15 years, have never sniffed a Super Bowl. Never sniffed the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl. This man has gone 10 times. It’s unreal. But then to do it in the manner he’s done it right? The big question mark, who’s going to need who more (Bill) Belichick or Brady? Well, Belichick didn’t necessarily have a great season and Tom Brady is on one of the last standing teams.”
Brady is still standing and with six Super Bowls to his credit already, makes for a tough task for the Chiefs. But, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has had success against Brady on this stage in the past. He was the coordinator for the New York Giants when they upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. One thing the Giants did well in that game was pressure Brady. It’s no surprise then that Avril looks at getting after the veteran QB as a key for K.C.
“Just like any quarterback, I don’t care if you’re a rookie, I don’t care if you’re Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes or the great Tom Brady. If you get hits on quarterbacks, you get hurries on quarterbacks, make them uncomfortable in that pocket, you mess with them a little bit,” said Avril. “I don’t care how strong they are mentally, they’re not used to getting hit. The game is kind of created for them. I think that’s key. Frank Clark, some of those guys off the edge, I think it’s going to be huge for those guys to be able to find ways to get pressure. Difference with Brady and Mahomes is, the pocket presence. Brady, his pocket presence is great, but he doesn’t move. You know once you beat your guys he’s going to be in the pocket. That’s why I think for those guys up front it’s going to be imperative to get pressure as much as possible.”
The quarterbacks will draw the headlines, but the pass rush will be just as key. For more of Avril’s thoughts on the game, check out the full interview above.