Not many - including fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - predicted a 2-0 start. Partially because of diminished confidence following a disappointing 2017, and mostly because just about everybody was making predictions for the first few games, not the first couple.
We’re two weeks into the three game suspension being served by quarterback Jameis Winston, and back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing like a man possessed.
He isn’t alone though as the whole team seems to be clicking at the right time instead of floundering at the wrong times.
Every scoring play is key, we all know that, but here are five plays which really steered the Bucs towards victory - including the most important scores.
In chronological order -
The Play: Bucs take an early shot, and it lands!
In New Orleans, Tampa Bay’s offense dialed up a play-action pass for the first throw of the game and it went yard for their first score of the game.
The deep ball to DeSean Jackson from Fitzpatrick was a thing of beauty and got the Bucs faithful excited early.
Copy and paste this to Week 2 against Philadelphia, and here’s what you get, another beautiful connection between Fitzpatrick and Jackson, and another big score which got Bucs fans excited in a hurry.
Starting games fast was a big issue last year, so seeing the offense rolling so quickly is great. Seeing them do it two weeks in a row is amazing.
As the Fox broadcast team pointed out on Sunday, coming out swinging really seemed to knock Philadelphia off balance early.
Of course, the Eagles are the champs for a reason, so it would take more than just one hay-maker to knock them down for good.
The Play: JPP gets a clutch sack
Some criticism was hurled in the direction of Jason Pierre-Paul when he was traded to the Buccaneers. There were some who said he’d lost some of his talent and failed to get sacks in key spots during early parts of games.
Well, at least for this week, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, Tampa Bay was still leading via the Fitzpatrick to Jackson salvo, and moving into Eagles territory when disaster struck.
Normally sure-handed and focused, tight end O.J. Howard failed to secure a pass while getting hit, leading to a tip-drill interception giving Philadelphia the ball in Bucs territory.
It looked to be a key moment for the Eagles, but JPP quickly turned in his own clutch play to swing the tide back to the good-guys.
The sack not only prevented the Eagles from building on the momentum stemming from the interception. It also led to the team outright squandering the chance to put up points while getting the ball in Bucs territory altogether.
Three plays after this sack, Philadelphia punted, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held on to their early lead.
The Play: Classmates convoy to the end zone
O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin are both in the early stages of their second-year as professional football players, and both are off to a great start.
Howard didn’t get a score last week, but he showed some of the trademark athleticism and receiving ability which made him the 19th overall pick in the first place.
Godwin has continued to bring exponential return on investment after somehow slipping to the third-round of the NFL Draft in 2017.
The first two offensive players added to the Bucs roster in last spring’s selection meeting joined forces in the late minutes of the second-quarter in this one.
After coming out of a timeout, which honestly had me a bit annoyed, Fitzpatrick hit Howard on a slant. The tight end then made Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby miss and proceeded to follow Godwin down the opposing sideline as the former Penn State star effectively sealed former Buckeyes safety and current Eagle, Malcolm Jenkins away from his teammate.
The end result was a touchdown. The second big strike of the afternoon, and a very impressive way of recapturing the lead after Philadelphia had tied the game at seven.
Scoring is always key, but this one is just a little more impactful given the length of the play, the length of the run after the catch, and the teamwork which made it happen.
The Play: Another timeout, another score
When the Buccaneers had to spend a timeout on the play proceeding the Howard score, I experienced a small emotional event. Why the team was unable to execute a play coming out of a natural timeout was beyond me. It showed a lack of focus. A lack of preparation. This was NOT how you beat Super Bowl Champions! Yep.
The Buccaneers spent another timeout later in the second quarter and while this one was much more reasonable and sparked a much lesser response from me personally, the result was the same. A touchdown.
This time Chris Godwin was on the receiving end of the touchdown pass as Tampa Bay extended their lead to two possessions before hitting the locker room for halftime.
Important, because points are King in the NFL, and because the Eagles got the ball first to start the second half.
Scoring two touchdowns coming out of two timeouts just supports what Bucs fans have all been saying. This team is just better than others at adjusting and calling plays which exploit the opposition.
Well, maybe we should start saying it.
The Play: A Browns blessing
Up to this point I think an argument can be made saying Carl Nassib has benefited from being let go by the Browns more than the Bucs have from picking him up. Which is fine.
Nassib wasn’t brought in to dominate the opposition and become a Pro Bowl defensive end. No, he was brought in as a role player.
Well, nearing midway through the fourth quarter, Nassib played his role well.
There are three defenders involved immediately in this play: Nassib, Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy.
David is the one who makes contact with Eagles tight end Zach Ertz as he tries to make the catch. McCoy almost intercepts the deflected pass. What does Nassib do? He forces the whole thing to happen.
Players in Nassib’s position can sometimes over extend themselves. Get a bit of a free release and they just run full steam towards the quarterback only to have the ball sail over their heads into the waiting arms of a Pro Bowl tight end for big yards and a momentum swinging result.
Not Nassib and not here. Instead, Nassib and his teammates read the play and the former Browns waiver victim denies Ertz his outside release where his blockers were preparing to pave the way downfield.
Instead, Ertz gets bottled up inside with an offensive lineman and David, and when Foles throws the ball there isn’t an analytic anywhere which would predict success.
Nassib didn’t make the hit or nearly grab an interception on the play, but he was most definitely the key to it all.
The play led to an obvious passing situation on 3rd-and-10, and another on 4th-and-10. Keeping Foles in predictable situations aided in the Bucs’ defense coming up big, up two scores, with the Eagles again in Tampa Bay territory.
Given how the game turned out, I think we can all agree denying the Eagles the opportunity to convert field position into points was crucial to this Week 2 win.
Which of these plays had the biggest impact on the outcome of the Buccaneers’ win over the Eagles?
This poll is closed
First play touchdown to DeSean Jackson
JPP’s sack to cease the Eagles’ momentum following a turnover
Godwin and Howard teaming up for a go-ahead touchdown
Timeout strategy leading to another score
Nassib containing Ertz and keeping the Eagles out of comfortable late-game situations
These are my key plays from Week 2, which ones are yours?