At long last, the Buccaneers returned to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon. And at long last, they returned to the win column, beating the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 30-27.
The win wasn’t pretty by any means, as it took a go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes to go and another defensive stop to do the trick against a team that had the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Regardless, the Bucs got the W to snap their four-game losing streak and move to 3-6 on the year. Wins have been hard to come by for this team, so it’s hard to complain too much. We’ll get on to who took home the Buccaneers of the Week points in a minute, but first...
Vita Vea seems to be a constant fixture in the honorable mentions this season, as he continuously has made an impact up the middle on defense. He got after Kyler Murray on Sunday, putting some pressure on the rookie. He finished the day with three tackles (all solo) and a pass defended... Mike Evans was the Bucs’ leading receiver, catching four of his six targets for 82 yards... Chris Godwin wasn’t overly dominant, catching six passes for 74 yards, but his 49-yard reception late in the fourth quarter was key in Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive... Shaquil Barrett picked up another sack on Sunday, bringing his total to 11.5 on the year.
5. Jameis Winston (One point)
There might be some pushback in response to Jameis Winston’s inclusion in the top five this week, but he quietly had another pretty good game for the Bucs. His stats were a mixed bag, as he completed 30 of his 48 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions. With the 358 yards, he became the first Buccaneer quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards in four straight games. He also played a big role with his legs, extending a couple of drives with first down runs. His 40 rushing yards on just three carries made for a 13.3 yards per carry average.
But Winston’s stats didn’t really tell the full story. Instead, it was his ability to keep his composure in the face of pressure and his overall leadership of the offense that made a difference in the game. The fifth-year quarterback looked especially poised in the two-minute drill, which was huge for Tampa Bay. Just after Arizona took the lead late in the first half, Winston led a seven-play, 75-yard drive in 55 seconds to get the lead back in the Bucs’ favor. Then, with the game on the line, he engineered a six-play, 92-yard drive in 1:57 to win the game. It was another 30-point effort for the Buccaneer offense, and the quarterback was a significant part of it. For that, Winston gets a point in the standings this week.
4. Matt Gay (Two points)
It’s not often that a kicker makes this list in a week where there were plenty of options, but Matt Gay was just that important in Sunday’s win. The rookie connected on all three of his field goal attempts and all three of his extra point tries. That reliability was huge for Tampa Bay, as the offense had a few promising drives eventually stall out. It’s always big to still get points on those strong drives, and the Bucs were able to do that thanks to Gay. He made field goals from 30, 45 and 41 yards out in the win, continuing his strong first year in the NFL.
Everyone remembers the rough game Gay had against the Giants, a performance that included a missed extra point, a blocked extra point and a missed 34-yard game-winning field goal. But that game aside, the fifth-round pick has put together a nice start to his professional career. After a perfect day against Arizona, he is now 19-of-22 on field goals (86.4%) and 23-of-25 on extra points (92%). After such a long stretch of worrying every time a kicker trotted out onto the field, it’s nice to have confidence in a Tampa Bay kicker for once. Gay’s six-for-six game earns him two points in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings this week.
3. Ronald Jones II (Three points)
For much of Sunday’s game, the Buccaneer offense was carried by the hands of Ronald Jones II. The second-year running back got his first start against the Cardinals, and it was his contributions in the passing game that were more notable than what he did on the ground. He finished the afternoon with just 11 carries, going for 29 yards and an early touchdown. But with Arizona bringing so much pressure, offensive coordinator dialed up a ton of screen passes. Jones responded. He caught all eight of his targets for 77 yards, averaging 9.6 yards per catch and recording a long of 17 yards, which he picked up twice.
Jones is looking more and more like a star by the week, and if it wasn’t for his late fumble that could’ve been costly, he might’ve had a chance to place higher in these standings. But forgetting about the fumble, it was an encouraging day for RoJo, who looks to be the lead guy going forward. The Bucs were pass-heavy, so his quiet game on the ground isn’t much to worry about. He will likely continue to see split carries with Peyton Barber, but expect to see Jones break out more and more as the rest of the season unfolds. With three Bucs of the Week points this week, he passes Shaquil Barrett for second in the season standings.
2. Lavonte David (Four points)
The Buccaneer defense rightfully receives a lot of criticism, as it ranks dead last against the pass and now sits in last for points allowed per game. But there is so much talent in the front seven, and the group’s best player is having yet another fantastic season. Lavonte David has been leading the way for Tampa Bay’s young defense week in and week out, and he did so again on Sunday. The veteran linebacker finished the game tied with M.J. Stewart for the team lead in tackles with eight (six solo), but it was a game-changing play that made the biggest difference.
Just after Jameis Winston’s second interception of the game, David made the type of play we’re used to seeing from him. After allowing a catch by David Johnson, No. 54 knocked the ball loose and recovered it himself. The Bucs went on to get three points off the turnover, taking a 23-20 lead. The forced fumble was the 19th of David’s career, which ties him with Simeon Rice for second-most in team history. He also moved into third all-time in solo tackles, passing Hardy Nickerson. David’s place in Bucs history has already been heavily cemented, but he just keeps going. With four points in this week’s standings, he moves into the top four for the season.
1. Jamel Dean (Five points)
What a difference one week makes. Rookie cornerback Jamel Dean was thrown straight into the fire last week in Seattle as a result of Carlton Davis’ injury. He came up with four passes defended in that game, but was targeted a ton. He gave up three touchdowns and by the end of the game, he was one of the biggest scapegoats for the loss. It was a tough spot to be in, and it’s hard to fault Dean for struggling the way he did. But man, he came back with a big response on Sunday. Despite only getting into the game after Vernon Hargreaves III and Ryan Smith were benched, Dean made a significant impact on the game. In 32 snaps (just 48% of the defense’s total), he picked up another four passes defended and his first career interception.
That first career pick also happened to come at the most opportune time possible. After a Tampa Bay turnover nearly finished off the chances of a win for the home team, it was Dean that stepped up. The Cardinals were threatening to score again and go up 30-23 at best and 34-23 at worst. But the rookie made a huge play, intercepting Kyler Murray near the Bucs sideline to give his offense another chance. The turnover set up the game-winning 92-yard drive for Jameis Winston and the offense, and it was an emphatic exclamation point on a huge bounceback game for the third-round pick. With eight passes defended in the last two games, Dean is now tied with Jordan Whitehead for the team lead. And with the full five points, he makes a splash of a debut in the Buccaneers of the Week Standings.
Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 10:
1. Chris Godwin — 18 points
2. Ronald Jones II — 17 points
3. Shaquil Barrett/Jameis Winston — 15 points
4. Mike Evans/Lavonte David — 13 points
5. Jordan Whitehead/Carl Nassib — 6 points
6. Vernon Hargreaves III/Jamel Dean — 5 points
7. Sean Murphy-Bunting/Ryan Smith/Vita Vea/Jason Pierre-Paul/Matt Gay — 3 points
8. Peyton Barber/Alex Cappa/Devin White — 2 points
9. Andrew Adams — 1 point