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Buccaneers of the Week: at Dallas

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Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Cowboys?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers fell to 5-10 on Sunday with a 27-20 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Tampa Bay outplayed its opponent for most of the day, but penalties and turnovers prevented Dirk Koetter and his team from playing spoiler. With just one week left in the 2018 season, the Bucs are seemingly headed for another last-place finish in the NFC South.

There have been plenty of negatives to go through all year, but this Buccaneers of the Week series aims to highlight the more notable performers in each game. Let’s get going with our top guys from week 16.

5. Jameis Winston (One point)

Deciding whether or not to place Jameis Winston on this week’s list took some significant time. Overall, his performance and the lack of any other standouts in the game led to his inclusion. The numbers for the 24-year-old quarterback look pretty good for the most part. He completed 34 of his 48 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown. That was the good. Putting up those numbers against a defense like the one Dallas has isn’t very easy. Plus, Winston did all of that while missing some open throws. His offensive line was virtually no help throughout the day, so the fact that he played the way he did against that defense was encouraging.

There were some positives, but Winston also was charged with two costly turnovers that led to 14 points for the Cowboys. The first was a fumble that came outside the pocket, with Winston looking to scramble before being blindsided and stripped of the ball. That fumble was returned 69 yards for a touchdown. He later was charged with another fumble on a bad exchange with Bobo Wilson. It can be debated whether or not that fumble was on him, but it set Dallas up for another score regardless. It’s hard to say Winston was one of the top players in this game when two of his plays, plus his mismanagement of the clock, negatively impacted the final score for Tampa Bay. But the fact of the matter is, the rest of the team failed to do anything too noteworthy to replace him at the No. 5 spot. His effort may not wholly deserve it, but Winston is awarded with one point this week.

4. Carlton Davis (Two points)

This is just the second appearance on this list for Carlton Davis. It comes after the rookie cornerback quietly had a very good game against one of the hotter receivers in the NFL right now. Davis’ numbers weren’t too flashy, as he recorded just two tackles (one solo), with one going for a loss. But what he did in coverage was impressive. Tasked with defending Amari Cooper for much of the day, the former Auburn Tiger more than held his own. Cooper finished the day with four catches for 20 yards on just five targets. Davis also forced a fumble, though Tampa Bay failed to recover it.

Sunday really wasn’t a bad day for the Tampa Bay defense. It allowed 20 points, though seven came on a drive that started inside the 10-yard line. Three more came on a 59-yard field goal that capped a five-yard drive. The Bucs were constantly putting their defense in tough positions throughout the day, but the unit responded pretty well. Davis’ play in the passing game was part of a wider effort that saw Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott throw for just 161 yards. Davis did his part in keeping Cooper in check, which is good enough for two points in this week’s standings.

3. Vita Vea (Three points)

There aren’t too many guys on this Bucs roster that have displayed such visible improvement this season like Vita Vea has. The 2018 first-rounder missed significant time in August and September, leaving him behind in his first NFL season. However, he has slowly but surely developed into a pretty good player in a short amount of time. In recent weeks, he has been putting his power and raw talent on full display. In Sunday’s loss to Dallas, Vea finished with three tackles (two solo) and a sack. He would have had two sacks on the day if not for what looked to be an inadvertent facemask. Of course, whether it was inadvertent or not doesn’t change the fact that it should be called, but it seemed like a sure sack before his arm reached up and landed on Dak Prescott’s facemask.

With the benefit of more snaps each week, Vea is figuring out how to play in this league. His power is more than apparent, as you can see him getting significant push on a lot of plays. Some of those pressures that he comes up with won’t show up on a stat sheet, but they will impact a game. His first sack was important in that it ended any hopes of a last-second field goal to close the half for the Cowboys, but one other specific pressure ended a Dallas drive early in the third quarter. Vea pushed his man into Prescott, causing an errant throw on third down. That kind of stuff can easily be forgotten. The Washington product is playing well right now, earning three points in these standings for a second straight week.

2. Mike Evans (Four points)

There was definitely a back-and-forth between the top two spots on this week’s list, so any disagreements with Mike Evans being No. 2 are expected. The star receiver caught six passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in the loss, finishing the day five yards shy of breaking Tampa Bay’s record for receiving yards in a single season. Add to that the fact that he was reportedly sick throughout the game and you have a gutsy, inspiring performance. Consistency has been a staple of Evans’ career to this point, and his importance to the team can’t be overstated. He often makes the offense go, even when other receivers are off. His day against the Cowboys was quietly very good, making up for the lack of production from DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate.

Evans could have been No. 1 on this list. However, he narrowly missed that top spot for a couple of reasons. He did have six catches, though they were on 10 targets. That’s not necessarily a terrible mark, but when it’s compared to the guy that tops this week’s standings, it doesn’t look so hot. Additionally, 38 of his 90 yards came on one play early in the game. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but in terms of overall impact over the course of the game, he comes in a close second. Despite missing out on the full five points, Evans passes Jason Pierre-Paul for the top spot in the overall standings with just one game to play.

1. Adam Humphries (Five points)

The top spot of this week goes to Adam Humphries, who continued to give the Bucs more reasons to bring him back after this season. He caught 10 of his 12 targets on the afternoon, going for 79 yards. He was the team’s second-leading receiver behind Mike Evans, but his overall involvement in the offense throughout all four quarters was what gave him the top spot. There were plenty of times throughout the day when Tampa Bay’s offense struggled, but Humphries often broke through and got things going again. He seemed to come up with about 100 first downs, helping the Bucs move the ball pretty well on a good Dallas defense.

There are plenty of reasons to like Humphries, but his toughness is almost unmatched. For the second or third time in recent weeks, he managed to hold onto a ball after taking a vicious hit across the middle of the field. He has had a largely underrated 2018 season, as he is now up to 750 yards and five touchdowns on 71 catches. The Bucs face a decision regarding his future beyond this season, but it shouldn’t be a tough one. He should absolutely be in a Tampa Bay uniform when the 2019 season comes around, regardless of who the quarterback is. For his performance against the Cowboys, he takes the full five points in these standings and moves into the top five for the overall season standings.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through week 16:

  1. Mike Evans— 30 points
  2. Jason Pierre-Paul— 27 points
  3. (TIE) Lavonte David/Peyton Barber— 20 points
  4. (TIE) Ryan Fitzpatrick/Carl Nassib/Jameis Winston— 17 points
  5. (TIE) Adam Humphries/DeSean Jackson— 11 points
  6. Vita Vea— 9 points
  7. O.J. Howard— 8 points
  8. Chris Godwin— 7 points
  9. (TIE) Kwon Alexander/Chandler Catanzaro— 6 points
  10. (TIE) Andrew Adams/Cameron Brate— 5 points
  11. Carlton Davis— 3 points
  12. (TIE) Offensive Line/Jacquizz Rodgers— 2 points
  13. (TIE) Vernon Hargreaves/Bryan Anger— 1 point