Jameis Winston will get all the glory for Sunday's crucial NFC South victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and deservedly so, but there's one unit on this team that deserves even more credit - the defense.
As the Bucs' offense sputtered around in the half, Tampa Bay's undermanned defense bent but didn't break against the Falcons' offense, holding them to three field goals instead of touchdowns and kept this team in the ballgame.
Despite missing Jac Smith and Gerald McCoy, the team's two best pass rushers, Tampa Bay sacked Matt Ryan 3 times and had a remarkable 19 hurries. Some of it was manufactured with the blitz, other times it was old fashion Tampa Two that kept Ryan frustrated.
Even when they lost Jude Adjei-Barimah, the Bucs didn't wilt and kept fighting on defense. Tampa Bay held the Falcons, the 3rd rated offense in the league coming into the game, to just 319 yards of total offense and shut down Devonte Freeman to just 56 yards on 10 carries.
- Everyone saw the highlight of Marcus Mariota pulling a Michael Vick in a meaningless game against the Jaguars. Leave it to Winston to one-up his draft counterpart. No, it wasn't an 89 yard touchdown, but his crazy miraculous 3rd and 19 run was the difference between settling for a FG and overtime and a chance to win a game with playoff implications.
The effort of Jameis Winston on that play, never giving up and awareness to know he wasn't down - it was a backbreaker for a tired Falcons defense who thought they had gotten off the field with no worse than a tie.
I think one thing is pretty evident at this point - for once, its not an either/or proposition with the top two quarterbacks of the 2015 NFL draft. Both Titan and Buc fans love their guy and both are going to be stars in this league.
I'm just glad Jameis Winston is the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I think even more than his fantastic skill, the Bucs desperately needed his confidence, leadership and do anything for a win attitude.
Its something that has been missing here since Derrick Brooks retired and Warren Sapp became a Raider.
- Lets take a moment to recognize Doug Martin. Martin continues to be hot on the heels of Adrian Peterson for the NFL rushing title. He pounded out another hard 95 yards and got in the end zone for the first time in a while (pleasing fantasy owners everywhere). He also had a 28 yard run and 14 yard run wiped out due to penalties.
Yes, the Dougernaut made a critical error in the fourth quarter fumbling and giving the Falcons life, but trust me when I say that this Buccaneer offense would not be in the top ten if not for him.
While Jameis is certainly the heart, Doug is the engine.
- After Martin's fumble and Atlanta cashed it in for a touchdown, the Bucs went 3-and-out (a rare occurence) and the Falcons got a quick first down, moving it into Tampa Bay territory. Did you begin to doubt your team, Buc fans? After so many losses and disappointments, it was hard not to.
As fans of this franchise, we've fallen into doubt, not truly believing that this team can overcome this type of disappointment. Early in the season, they couldn't. Atlanta would have marched straight down the field for the game sealing touchdown.
This Buccaneer team however believes in itself. The defense got the Falcons off the field and the offense marched 80 yards in 12 plays, bleeding 5:16 off the clock and resulting in Mike Evans diving touchdown reception.
Then with 1:32 left - plenty of time for Matty Ice - Lavonte David picks off the Falcons QB to put the ballgame away.
These were the plays the Bucs weren't making in the last few years. Your best players have to be at their best in the fourth quarter. Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Lavonte David all made plays to have this be a celebratory victory Monday.
- Doug Williams joins other Bucs Greats in the Ring of Honor. If one just looks at his pedestrian statistics as member of the Buccaneers, you wonder why he's receiving such an accolade. Sure, guys have thrown for more touchdowns or yards than Williams. Other quarterbacks have won more games. Yet Williams joins Lee Roy Selmon and Jimmie Giles in representing what for two decades was the lone bright moment in an otherwise dismal run for the franchise. WORST to FIRST.
As a young Buccaneers fan, Doug Williams is the first quarterback I remember growing up. I didn't know much at 6 years old in 1979, but I knew Rickey Bell was running the football, Lee Roy was sacking the QB and Doug was flinging it to Jimmie Giles.
Williams gave the Bucs legitimacy - a chance - to be a contender. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, cheapsake owner Hugh Culverhouse screwed Williams and Buccaneer fans, not paying him his worth and he absconded to the USFL and eventually to the Washington franchise where he became the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
I cried the day Doug left for the USFL. For over the next decade, Bucs fans cried about the Doug Williams Voo Doo curse.
It wasn't a curse, it was the first in a series of terrible moves by the Buccaneers that tore apart a young, competitive football team.
Congratulations Doug Williams - the Bucs first franchise quarterback.
- With Jude Adjei-Barimah down, the Bucs went to Mike Jenkins to fill in the void. It looked like once again, the coaching staff had a referendum on Johnthan Banks and it wasn't good for the 2013 2nd round pick. Jenkins played about 10 snaps before Banks entered the game and played the rest of the way (19 snaps). He was charged with allowing one reception for 13 yards to Devonte Freeman but that was really his only target.
If Jude is out for an extended period of time, here's hoping Banks can work his way back. I always liked his game and maybe the time on the bench seeing how its done hit the lightbulb for him.
- We've likely seen the last of Kwon Alexander until January (if the Bucs make the playoffs). While the Bucs rookie MLB has had his ups and downs, he has been a tremendous leader of the defense, his speed and playmaking ability will be sorely missed.
With that said, the Bucs signed Bruce Carter to a $4 million dollar deal in the off-season expecting him to be the starter at MLB. Its time for Carter to show why the Bucs spent money on him.
We can't expect him to be better than Alexander, if he was, he'd be starting. But be in the right position, make the right calls and be efficient. Don't hurt the team.
- There's a way the Bucs could have a playoff spot wrapped up before the Carolina game. It will take a LOT of help but its do able. The trick? Obviously the Bucs have to beat New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago. Not a murderer's row but for a young team like Tampa Bay, no game is a gimme.
Then they need Seattle to lose two games (unlikely the way they're playing), or BOTH Green Bay and Minnesota to lose two games.
Now the latter is a bit more doable. Here me out. Minnesota is on the road at Arizona, home to the Bears and Giants. Green Bay is home against Dallas, on the road in Oakland (not an easy road trip) and on the road in Arizona.
Green Bay and Minnesota play each other in Week 17. If each enter that game 9-6 and the Bucs are 9-6, the only way Tampa Bay would not make the playoffs is if that game ends in a tie. The winner would be NFC North Champion (and the Bucs likely opponent in the playoffs), the loser would be out.
Why? The Bucs conference record. Unlike previous seasons where the Bucs were behind the eight ball when it came to conference record, Tampa Bay has a very strong one. They're currently tied with both Green Bay and Minnesota in conference record.
But here's the beauty. Minnesota only has NFC games left. 3 of Green Bay's last four are NFC opponents. If both lose twice in the next three weeks, they'll take at least 1 conference loss and the loser of the matchup at the end of the year will get another conference loss.
Needless to say, having the wild card all but wrapped up before Week 17 would be a great thing for the Bucs. They just need a little help to do it. We're all suddenly big Arizona Cardinals fans.
We'll get more on this and other playoff scenarios in DLT's Crazy Insane Bucs' NFC Playoff Scenarios, coming tomorrow!