Last week’s installment of Buccaneers of the Week started with the following:
“Week 1: Down.
Week 2: Up.
Week 3: Down.”
Well, without further ado...
Week 4: Up.
Tampa Bay’s 2019 season — record-wise — has gone pretty much how everyone expected and hoped it would through four weeks. With games against the 49ers, Panthers, Giants and Rams to start the year, 2-2 seemed like the expectation.
The route to 2-2 might not have gone as expected, with the Bucs winning the two road games. The second of those road victories was their most impressive to date, coming on Sunday in Los Angeles. The Tampa Bay offense came out hot and stayed hot, going on to set the franchise record for points in a game — with an assist from a defensive touchdown — in a 55-40 win over the defending NFC champions.
There was so much to like about the game on the Bucs’ side of things, so let’s get to it. It’s time to find out who earned some points in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings during Sunday’s game. But first...
Ndamukong Suh nearly cracked the list this week thanks to his fumble recovery that he returned 37 yards for the game-sealing touchdown. He also had two tackles and two quarterback hits... William Gholston continued his impressive start to the season, picking up his first sack of the year, two quarterback hits and a pass defended... Kevin Minter had yet another good game, racking up nine tackles (five solo), two tackles for loss and a pass defended... Lavonte David registered two quarterback hits of his own and came up with an interception... Jordan Whitehead had an interception of his own... Mike Evans contributed late with a big 67-yard touchdown catch... Vita Vea was once again a force up the middle, putting together yet another nice game.
5. Matt Gay (One point)
Plenty of kickers at the college and NFL levels can suffer from somewhat of a snowball effect after missing big kicks. Matt Gay didn’t have that kind of spiral in Sunday’s game against the Rams. One week after missing two extra points (one blocked) and the potential 34-yard game-winning field goal, the rookie was perfect. He finished seven-for-seven on extra points and two-for-two on field goals, including a 58-yarder that matched a 58-yarder from Los Angeles’ Greg Zuerlein. It was the first time in NFL history that two teams both made field goals of 58-plus yards.
Sunday was an important bounce-back game for Gay. Considering the Bucs’ recent track record with kickers, it would’ve been easy for him to get into his own head and let things get out of control. He had a couple of close calls, including one extra point that hit the flag on the goal post and another going wide before a flag gave him another shot. But despite those, Gay needed a day like he had. With fans and deodorant companies criticizing him all week, his head coach continued to show confidence in him. And that translated to Sunday when Bruce Arians sent him out there for the 58-yard field goal. He paid off Arians’ confidence — and his own — in a big way. To top it all off, he gets a point in this week’s standings.
4. Ronald Jones (Two points)
Ronald Jones is starting to become a regular on Buccaneers of the Week, and it’s been a fantastic thing to see. Tampa Bay’s backfield was questioned all offseason, and the second-year pro is erasing those doubts week by week. This time around, he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, though he could’ve broken the 100-yard mark if not for a couple of seemingly questionable penalties called on long runs. Arians didn’t like the calls, and Jones surely didn’t either. He had 75 more yards nullified by those penalties.
Jones is clearly on his way to becoming the team’s RB1. Peyton Barber has been fine and serviceable when called upon this year, but Jones has shown more explosiveness and effectiveness. And he’s done it consistently. Perhaps that’s why he out-carried Barber 19-9 and out-snapped him 36-19. It’s unfortunate for Barber, who has been a steady, reliable presence for the Buccaneer backfield in the last few years. He won’t completely go away of course, but Jones is looking more and more like the go-to back for this offense. For his efforts against Los Angeles, Jones gets another two points this week.
3. Shaquil Barrett (Three points)
On to another mainstay in these standings... Shaquil Barrett just keeps showing up and putting up defensive player of the week performances. It’s legitimately hard to put him as low as third on this list, but it was just that good of a game for the Buccaneer offense. Barrett was once again the best player on the Bucs defense, coming up with four tackles (three solo), his ninth sack of the season (IN FOUR GAMES), his first career interception and the game-sealing forced fumble that Suh returned for a touchdown. Plus, it’s possible he gets credited for another half a sack when NFL scoring corrections come out later this week, as it looked like he was in on Gholston’s sack.
There’s not a lot to say about Barrett that hasn’t already been said in past weeks. With the pace he’s on, he could break not only the franchise record for sacks in a season but also the NFL’s single-season mark. He’s playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level right now, and it’s hard to argue that anyone has been better in the first four weeks. The 26-year-old has been a steal of a signing for Tampa Bay, making talks of getting him locked up longer term more than warranted. With three points in this week’s standings, he keeps his grip on the top spot through four games.
2. Chris Godwin (Four points)
Yet another tough break in these standings is Chris Godwin juuuuust missing out on the full five points. The third-year receiver took over the first half, catching nine passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The usually tough Rams defense had no answer for him, which allowed him to get into a great rhythm with his quarterback. The second half didn’t produce the same gaudy numbers as the first, but Godwin still contributed. He finished the game with 12 catches for 172 yards and the two scores, averaging 14.3 yards per catch. It was his second career multi-touchdown game and his sixth career 100-yard performance.
Is there anything that can make Godwin’s performance more impressive? Sure there is. How about the fact that he barely practiced during the week due to a hip injury? Luckily for him and the Bucs, that was a non-issue on Sunday, when he became the first Bucs wide receiver to make 12 catches in a game since Keyshawn Johnson did it in 2001. All 12 of his catches were either first downs or touchdowns. With a career performance in a Buccaneer win, he adds four more points to move himself up in the season standings.
1. Jameis Winston (Five points)
The engineer of Sunday’s huge win and this year’s top Buccaneer of the Week is none other than Jameis Winston. The 25-year-old was on fire from the start, getting the Bucs out to an early lead and refusing to let up as the game went on. He rolled over a tough defense, completing 28 of his 41 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns. His lone mistake of the day was a second-half interception that was returned for a touchdown, but that couldn’t put a damper on an otherwise fantastic day.
There aren’t many quarterbacks in the NFL that have played better football than Winston has in the last three weeks. In that stretch, he has completed 67 of his 103 passes for 973 yards and eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. Sunday’s game was the first time in his career that he has thrown for three-plus touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. It’s clear that he’s feeling comfortable and confident in this offense, which makes him and the Bucs a dangerous team going forward. He needs to stay efficient and consistent, but for now, he claims the top spot in this week’s standings, earning the full five points to pull into sole possession of second place.
Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 4:
1. Shaquil Barrett — 13 points
2. Jameis Winston — 10 points
3. Chris Godwin — 8 points
4. Ronald Jones — 7 points
5. Jordan Whitehead/Vernon Hargreaves III — 5 points
6. Lavonte David/Mike Evans — 3 points
7. Peyton Barber/Carl Nassib — 2 points
8. Vita Vea/Matt Gay — 1 point