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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Atlanta

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s season-closing loss to the Falcons?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers finished their disappointing 2018 season on Sunday with a 34-32 home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Things looked great for Tampa Bay throughout much of the first half. The home team held a 17-0 lead late in the second quarter, but a late touchdown for Atlanta sparked a 31-3 run. A 31-20 deficit didn’t put the Bucs away, as back-to-back scores got them the lead back with 5:10 to go. From there, the Falcons killed the clock and won the game with a field goal as time expired.

The Bucs put up a strong fight against their division rivals to close the season. There were plenty of guys that were important in the overall effort, so let’s get going with the final installment of Buccaneers of the Week for the 2018 season.

Honorable Mentions

The secondary was shredded by Matt Ryan for most of the second half, but the first-half performance for the group was solid. Brent Grimes was especially good in the first 30 minutes, racking up three passes defended. His 2018 season as a whole was completely forgettable, but he did wrap it up with a nice day in what was surely his final game as a Buc... The secondary wasn’t great over the final 30 minutes, but Andrew Adams came up with a key interception to set the Tampa Bay offense for a go-ahead touchdown. Adams finished the season with a team-high four picks... Peyton Barber had a pretty nice day on the ground, rushing for 66 yards on 15 carries. With those numbers, he finished the 2018 season with 871 yards and five scores on 234 carries.

5. Jason Pierre-Paul (One point)

Sunday wasn’t a standout day for Jason Pierre-Paul, but it was still a solid one to cap off a very good season. It was the final game of the veteran’s first season in Tampa, and fittingly, he came up with a sack. That brought his 2018 total to 12.5, which was just four shy of the franchise record for most sacks in a single season. What Pierre-Paul did for the Buccaneer defensive line this season was huge. The unit was the worst in the NFL in 2017, and while it wasn’t the best one in 2018, it certainly improved greatly. Pierre-Paul also had a profound impact on the locker room, bringing some leadership that the defense badly needed. The fact that he came up with four tackles and a sack in the season finale was big, but a quarterback pressure in the fourth quarter that forced an interception was even bigger.

Overall, Sunday’s game against the Falcons was pretty much a standard JPP game. Since the start of the year, Bucs fans have gotten used to production from the USF product. With an offseason of change coming, having Pierre-Paul in the locker room to usher in the transition will be a major plus. His leadership is backed up by his production. With a culture change needed, there aren’t too many better guys to have leading the way. One final point for Pierre-Paul to end the season wraps up the No. 2 spot in the overall Buccaneers of the Week Standings.

4. Adam Humphries (Two points)

Adam Humphries was another guy who had a fitting end to the season. He had a solid day against the Falcons, but his performance went under the radar. He caught five of his six targets for 66 yards, averaging 13.2 yards per catch. Week 17 for the 25-year-old worked as a microcosm of his overall season. Considering the numbers for the top two guys on this week’s list, it was easy for Humphries to get lost in the shuffle. In the same way, the fact that he caught 76 passes for 816 yards and five touchdowns this season could be easily forgotten. He had a big year for the Tampa Bay offense, and he capped it with a classic Adam Humphries day.

Especially with Jameis Winston officially set to return in 2019, there should be no question about Humphries’ future in Tampa. The former undrafted free agent from Clemson has been an important part of the Buccaneer offense over the last four seasons. He is one of Winston’s top targets. He was No. 2 in targets this season with 105, trailing only Mike Evans. Regardless of who comes in as the team’s new head coach in the coming weeks, Humphries should fit into that person’s scheme. With two points this week, No. 10 secured a top-five finish in the season’s overall standings.

3. Jameis Winston (Three points)

The Tampa Bay offense had such a strong day against the Falcons that it almost feels wrong for Jameis Winston to only be No. 3 on this list. Usually, the offense goes as he goes. He was at his best on Sunday, clicking with his receivers throughout. The soon-to-be 25-year-old completed 22 of his 35 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted once, though it went off the hands of a receiver. It was one of those picks that, even though it goes next to the quarterback’s name in the box score, felt like it was more of the receiver’s fault/just a good play by the defender. Despite the one turnover, Winston was on fire early on and especially down the stretch. In no way was he to blame for Tampa Bay’s 11th loss.

The Jameis Winston that the Bucs got over the final stretch of the season is the one they’re going to need in 2019 if a turnaround is to happen. Upon his return from being benched, Winston threw for 13 touchdowns to four interceptions in 6 about 12 games. Numbers aside, the Florida State alum played smarter football overall. He took sacks when he had to and threw the ball away when necessary in addition to making smarter throws instead of going for the big play every time. This offseason will be huge for No. 3, as he has one more year to prove that he deserves a second contract with the team. With three points in the final game of his up-and-down season, Winston got himself tied for a top-three finish in the overall standings.

2. Chris Godwin (Four points)

Chris Godwin has made it more than clear that the Bucs will be just fine without DeSean Jackson. The second-year pro put together the best game of his career, catching six passes for a team-high 114 yards and two touchdowns. His 114 yards were also a career-high, surpassing the 111-yard performance he had against the Saints to close out the 2017 season. Godwin averaged 19 yards per catch against the Falcons, making some big-time grabs. His first touchdown was a 30-yarder at the end of the first half that put the Bucs up 17-0, while his second score came late in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a 32-31 lead.

2018 proved to be a huge year for the Penn State product. Overall, he caught 59 passes for 842 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished as the team’s second-leading receiver Mike Evans, who is a top-five receiver in his own right. He had some bumps in the road late in the year, but Godwin’s second season in the NFL further proved what a steal he was in the third round of the 2017 draft. He has a bright future as Tampa Bay’s No. 2 guy, that’s for sure. With four points this week, he pulls into a tie with Jackson for the No. 6 spot in the overall season standings.

1. Mike Evans (Five points)

While he may have had eight fewer yards than Chris Godwin, Mike Evans undoubtedly earned the top spot in this week’s standings. The Buccaneer captain caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns while making history in the process. With his first catch of the day, he broke Mark Carrier’s franchise record for receiving yards in a season. He also broke the 6,000-yard mark for his career, becoming the fastest player in NFL history to do so. Plus, the combination of his and Godwin’s performances made for a franchise first— the first time the Bucs have ever had two receivers go over 100 yards and score two touchdowns in the same game.

Evans making history may feel normal by now, but what he has done in his first five years with Tampa Bay has been nothing short of remarkable. Through five seasons, he already holds franchise records for career receiving yards, career touchdown catches, single-season receiving yards and touchdown catches in a season. He isn’t far off from the career receptions record, as he needs just 36 more to break James Wilder’s record of 430. Evans has all of this under his belt at the age of 25. That truly is impressive. With another week of earning five full points in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings, he unsurprisingly earns the top spot for the overall season standings.

FINAL Buccaneers of the Week Standings for 2018

  1. Mike Evans— 35 points
  2. Jason Pierre-Paul— 28 points
  3. (TIE) Lavonte David/Peyton Barber/Jameis Winston— 20 points
  4. (TIE) Ryan Fitzpatrick/Carl Nassib— 17 points
  5. Adam Humphries— 13 points
  6. (TIE) Chris Godwin/DeSean Jackson— 11 points
  7. Vita Vea— 9 points
  8. O.J. Howard— 8 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