Wow. What in the hell just happened at Raymond James Stadium? That was one of the weirdest games I’ve watched in quite some time. Both teams looked like they didn’t want to win and were begging the other to make that big play.
Anyway, it was an eventful afternoon and I thought the Buccaneers played their best half of football in that first half, especially on defense and that’s something to build on moving forward. Unfortunately, the Kwon Alexander injury seemed to have sucked the life straight out of this football team. The Buccaneers had a few top performers during their 26-23 OT win over the Browns.
1. Kwon Alexander - Kwon was all over the field in the first half. Alexander was under fire the last few weeks after not playing his best football, but he balled out today before he got hurt. He totaled 7 tackles, 5 solo tackles and 1 pass defense. There were several big hits that he also delivered that fired up the Buccaneers defense. After his injury, the defense went back to its old ways of sorts. Clearly there were some miscommunications in the middle of the field. For Tampa Bay’s sake, they have to hope that this isn’t a season ending ACL type injury.
2. Jason Pierre Paul - Another week, another dominant performance by JPP. Pierre Paul recorded his sixth sack of the season and has now has a sack in each of the team’s last five games. He also blew up several run plays for a big losses and drew several holding penalties, including a big one in overtime. JPP has been the best defensive player all year long and he is showing no signs of slowing down. If in fact Kwon is out for the season, JPP will undoubtedly take over as the leader of the defense.
3. Carl Nassib - Noah Spence who? What a pickup by Jason Licht during final cuts of training camp. The team needed to add more pass rush depth and they did just that with Nassib. Each week you can see Nassib was getting more and more comfortable in the defense and was starting to make big impact plays. Today, Nassib had two sacks, two QB hits, 1 Pass breakup and two tackles for loss. The biggest sack of the game came late in overtime when the Browns were threatening in Buccaneers territory. Nassib, ultimately sacked Baker for a 7 yard loss and the Browns were forced to punt. You can make the argument that Nassib has earned the right to start over Vinny Curry from here on out.
4. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans - I thought Godwin played a terrific game today. The stats don’t jump out at you, but he was reliable as he always is on this Sunday afternoon. Godwin caught five of six targets for 60 yards. He is clearly cemented as the #2 receiver in this offense and his chemistry with Jameis Winston continues to improve. Look for Godwin to really break out over the second half of the year. Evans did what he always does. He had a really solid game today as he secured 7 catches for 107 yards. Evans will continue to dominate as he and Jameis Winston begin to get that chemistry back to top knotch.
5. Anthony Auclair - In addition to having three catches for 15 yards, Auclair made arguably the most important play of the game. When it looked like Tampa Bay was destined for an overtime loss, Auclair forced Jabrill Peppers to fumble on the punt return. The Buccaneers wound up scoring the game winning field goal as a result, but if it wasn’t for that fumble, the Buccaneers would’ve either lost, or tied. Props to Auclair for doing his job on special teams and not giving up on the play.