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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. San Francisco

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 27-9 home win over the 49ers?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers put together a complete effort on Sunday to beat the 49ers, 27-9, at Raymond James Stadium. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Tampa Bay, though it surely upset those who want the team to have a better position in next year’s draft. Regardless, the Bucs are now 4-7 and currently in possession of the No. 10 pick in the 2019 draft. That aside, it was just good to see Tampa Bay play the way it did on Sunday. The last two seasons have been frustrating, so it was nice to have a reminder of what a well-rounded team looks like.

Let’s get into the Buccaneers of the Week from week 12.

Honorable Mention

While he doesn’t crack the top five, Cairo Santos’ performance is worth talking about. The kicker was successful on all three of his extra point attempts in addition to making field goals from 41 and 39 yards out. He is now seven-for-seven on extra points and two-for-two on field goals with the Bucs. Tampa Bay’s issues in the kicking game have certainly been well-documented. It’s only been two games and cautious optimism is suggested. But with that said, is Santos the solution to what has been a long-running problem for the Bucs?

5. Jason Pierre-Paul (One point)

A huge reason for Tampa Bay’s strong defensive effort on Sunday was pressure from the front four. 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens had no chance to get comfortable, which played a role in his quarterback rating of 21.1 and passer rating of 62.1. The Bucs picked up four sacks and 10 quarterback hits, with Jason Pierre-Paul playing a big part in that. He came up with a sack and two hits on Mullens. The sack brought his 2018 total to 10 1/2, officially making him the first Buccaneer to record double-digit sacks in a season since Simeon Rice in 2005.

Pierre-Paul has been instrumental in the defensive line’s improvement this season. His 10 12 sacks are enough to determine that trading for him was more than worth it, but his production has exceeded that number. His pressure off the edge has created chances for other linemen to get after the quarterback. On Sunday, his presence helped Gerald McCoy, as well as the next two players on this list, put heavy pressure on Mullens. With as banged-up as Tampa Bay is at linebacker and in the secondary, the defensive line needs to collapse the pocket as often as possible. The group did that on Sunday, with Pierre-Paul continuing his excellent 2018 campaign.

4. Carl Nassib (Two points)

Bucs general manager Jason Licht has made his fair share of bad free agency signings. However, he very clearly found a gem in Carl Nassib. The Browns cut ties with their 2016 third-rounder before the 2018 regular season began, leading to a pretty quick signing by Tampa Bay. Nassib’s impact has been huge, especially in the last several weeks. With Vinny Curry struggling with injuries throughout the season and Noah Spence failing to see the field, the Bucs have seen Nassib step up to fill the gap. He has quickly become one of the more productive players on what has otherwise been a disappointing defense.

Nassib set the tone early in Sunday’s win over the 49ers, getting to the quarterback and knocking the ball loose on the defense’s first drive. San Francisco ultimately recovered the fumble, but it set the offense back and eventually led to a punt. He wasn’t done there, as he would come up with a quarterback pressure and six-yard tackle for loss on back-to-back plays later in the first quarter. Overall, he finished with two tackles (both for loss, one sack), a forced fumble and two quarterback hits. He is up to 5 12 sacks on the year, which is good for third on the team. At 12 points in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings, he has a top five spot through 12 weeks.

3. Vita Vea (Three points)

There have been complaints about No. 12 overall pick Vita Vea all year long, but perhaps Sunday will silence the haters just a bit. The big defensive tackle was extremely disruptive in the win over the 49ers, racking up three tackles for loss. One of those three was a sack, which was his second of the season. The Buccaneer defense as a whole had seven tackles for loss, so the fact that three of those came from the rookie is significant. He had some nice moments throughout the earlier part of the season, but tangible production was lacking. On Sunday, it came through in a breakout game.

With an injury forcing Vea to miss all of training camp, the whole preseason and the first three games of the regular season, his development was always going to be a process. As with any rookie, he has had his share of rough learning experiences. But he showed on Sunday, albeit against a bad San Francisco team, that he clearly has the ability to be a force up the middle. Without much left to play for this season, the Bucs certainly hope to see their 2018 first-rounder string together some nice performances to end the year. For his three tackles for loss on Sunday, he earns three points and his first appearance in these weekly standings.

2. Mike Evans (Four points)

On Sunday, Mike Evans did something that only two other receivers have done in NFL history. In the first quarter, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth straight season. With that, he joined Randy Moss and A.J. Green as the only receivers to put up 1,000-plus yards in five consecutive seasons to start a career. Coming into the game, he needed 43 yards to hit the mark. He nearly got there with his first catch of the day, which was a 42-yarder down the sideline to set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown. By the end of the day, Evans had six catches (on eight targets) for 116 yards.

Evans has already etched his name in franchise history in countless places, owning records for career receiving yards, career touchdown catches and single-season touchdown catches. He is well on his way to owning the record for career receptions, but before he gets there, he might break another team record. With 1,073 yards in 2018, he is 350 yards away from breaking Mark Carrier’s 1989 record for single-season receiving yards. Evans has been a bright spot for Tampa Bay in each of his first five seasons, even when the team hasn’t been winning. It’s no surprise to see him at the top of the Buccaneers of the Week Standings this late in the season.

1. Jameis Winston (Five points)

When he came off the bench during Tampa Bay’s week 11 loss to the Giants, Jameis Winston played well. That led to discussion throughout the week as to whether or not he could keep that up in week 12. He did more than that against San Francisco, playing one of the cleaner games of his career. The 24-year-old finished 29-of-38 for 312 yards and two touchdowns while not turning the ball over once. His efficiency was near a personal-best:

Sunday was also just the second time in his career that Winston has thrown multiple touchdowns and not turned the ball over. In his first start since Oct. 28, the 2015 No. 1 overall pick was smart with the ball. He took sacks when he had to, checked down when necessary and scrambled effectively to extend plays. Considering the Bucs are facing a decision about his future, Winston did a whole lot to help his case in Sunday’s game. When he takes care of the ball, he can be very good quarterback in this league. He just has to prove that he can do that consistently. He’ll get his next chance to do so next Sunday against the Panthers, but for now, he earns five points in this week’s standings.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through week 12:

  1. Mike Evans— 23 points
  2. Jason Pierre-Paul— 21 points
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick— 17 points
  4. Peyton Barber— 16 points
  5. (TIE) Carl Nassib/Jameis Winston— 12 points
  6. DeSean Jackson— 11 points
  7. Lavonte David— 9 points
  8. O.J. Howard— 8 points
  9. (TIE) Kwon Alexander/Chandler Catanzaro/Adam Humphries— 6 points
  10. Chris Godwin— 5 points
  11. (TIE) Vita Vea/Cameron Brate— 3 points
  12. (TIE) Offensive Line/Jacquizz Rodgers— 2 points
  13. (TIE) Vernon Hargreaves/Bryan Anger/Carlton Davis— 1 point