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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Colts

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Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 38-35 win over Indianapolis?

Indianapolis Colts v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

For the the better part of this decade, the Buccaneers have been just good enough to stay competitive in games only to eventually find ways to lose. But you know what? With this decade coming to a close, this team might be figuring out ways to WIN close games. It’s too early to truly tell, but wouldn’t that be something?

At the very least, Tampa Bay did that on Sunday, beating the Indianapolis Colts 38-35 after trailing 35-21 at one point in the second half. The Bucs shot themselves in the foot plenty of times in this game — they turned the ball over four times — but they fought back with some big plays on both sides of the ball. It was ultimately a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Breshad Perriman with 3:51 left that made the difference in the team’s third consecutive win.

Before we move on to talking about the Bucs potentially winning their fourth straight next week to get to 7-7, let’s take a look at which players took home the points in the latest Buccaneers of the Week Standings. But first...

Honorable Mentions

Carlton Davis continued to rack up the passes defended this week, adding three to his season total. He now has 17 on the year... Chris Godwin finished as Tampa Bay’s leading receiver, catching seven of his nine targets for 91 yards... O.J. Howard continued to produce at a high level, bringing in four of his five targets for 73 yards... Before leaving with a hamstring injury, Mike Evans caught a 61-yard touchdown... Despite an early fumble, Dare Ogunbowale played a big role in the win. He caught five passes for 48 yards, including a key four-yard catch on a late 4th & 2. The conversion led to the Bucs’ game-winning touchdown. Cameron Brate found the end zone for the 26th time as a Buc, giving him sole possession of sixth on the franchise’s all-time receiving touchdowns list. He is one away from tying Mark Carrier for fifth... Matt Gay connected on all five of his extra point attempts and hit a crucial 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. According to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, Gay now has 106 points this season, which ties him with Martin Gramatica (1999) for the most-ever by a Bucs rookie... At one point in the game, Donovan Smith went down with an injury and had to come off the field, but later returned to play through the injury. Not only did he stick it out, he played well and didn’t allow a sack.

5. Devin White (One point)

Considering what he’s done in recent weeks, Devin White had a relatively quiet day on Sunday. Actually, until the fourth quarter, his name was rarely called. But he made a splash play that helped (briefly) turn the tide of the game. The Colts, already leading 35-31, were threatening inside the Bucs’ 30 after a 45-yard pass interference call on Jamel Dean. But to keep the score right where it was, White made a play on a Nyheim Hines catch, knocking the ball loose. Fellow rookie Mike Edwards recovered it, giving the ball back to the Buccaneer offense with a chance to take the lead. Of course, a turnover quickly gave the ball back to Indianapolis, but that doesn’t negate the fact that White made a huge play when his team needed it.

Those are the kinds of plays that the Bucs drafted him to make, and he’s been making them week in and week out during the second half of this season. He finished the afternoon with just five tackles (three solo), but the forced fumble was his third of the season. The reigning NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month, despite missing time early on in the season, has played himself into the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation at the very least. He may not win it, but he’s making the kind of impact Tampa Bay needs him to make from his spot in the middle of the defense. For making what could’ve (should’ve?) been a truly game-changing play, White picks up a point in these standings to break into sole possession of the No. 5 spot for the season.

4. Shaquil Barrett (Two points)

We’ve gotten so used to huge performances from Shaquil Barrett that what he did Sunday pretty much flew under the radar. But he put together a pretty nice day nonetheless, totaling seven tackles (five solo), half a sack and three quarterback hits. The half-sack brought his season total to 15, which means he needs just two more in the final three games of the season to break Warren Sapp’s single-season franchise record of 16.5. Barrett was one of the only Bucs to get much pressure on Jacoby Brissett in this game, which isn’t surprising. With a chance to play consistently for pretty much the first time in his career, he has developed into one of the league’s best pass rushers.

And as one of the league’s best pass rushers, Barrett is bound to get a huge payday this offseason. The Bucs, with all of the cap space that they have, should certainly make him a priority. They have been looking for a young pass-rushing force for quite some time, and Barrett is only 27. Whether it’s the increased playing time, playing in Todd Bowles’ defense or something else, he has put together quite a memorable season. And just last week, he said he would love to be back in Tampa next year because he doesn’t like to move his family. The Bucs should get that done because he can truly be a key component of their defense for years to come. With his two points this week, he inches closer to the top spot in the season standings.

3. Justin Watson (Three points)

For the first time, Justin Watson’s name is on this list. He certainly earned it, stepping up in a huge way after some key injuries for the Bucs. Even coming into the game, he was tasked with returning punts due to T.J. Logan’s season-ending injury. He didn’t do much of anything with the few return chances he did get, but he had to come through for the offense after Mike Evans left with a hamstring injury. The second-year receiver had a career day, catching five of his eight targets for 59 yards and his first NFL touchdown. The score came from 17 yards out to bring the Bucs within 35-28 after they trailed by two scores in the third quarter.

The ol’ cliche of “next man up” really applied here with Watson, who has been buried on the depth chart since he was drafted out of Penn last year. This was his first extended action, and he took advantage of it. With Evans potentially missing next week’s game in Detroit, Watson may get another chance to prove his worth heading into 2020. He would likely enter the game as the team’s No. 3 receiver, maybe depending on Scotty Miller’s health. Nonetheless, it seemed like he and Jameis Winston had a nice connection, which could mean good things for the future. For the present, Watson picks up three points and pulls into a packed tie for 11th in the season standings.

2. Breshad Perriman (Four points)

Speaking of guys who stepped up in Mike Evans’ absence, Breshad Perriman came through with another big performance for Tampa Bay. The speedy receiver finished with three receptions (on five targets) for 70 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch with under four minutes to go in the game. His longest catch of the day was a 31-yarder that set up the Bucs’ first touchdown, then he delivered when it mattered the most. His importance to the situation the team found itself in late in the game can’t be overstated. In the red zone and trailing by four, the Colts had to know Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate would get looks from Jameis Winston. So for Perriman to get open and bring in an impressive touchdown catch for the lead? It was massive.

It’s a good thing the Bucs didn’t listen to those on the outside of the building back when there was some noise about Perriman potentially being cut, huh? Plenty of folks (including myself at one point or another) questioned why the team wouldn’t just release him and claim a compensatory pick in return. Well, since that deadline passed, the former UCF standout has had an increased role in the offense. He has shown up more as a deep threat, but he’s also been reliable in the intermediate passing game. It may not lead to any long-term future for him in Tampa, but Perriman has put together a nice few weeks and played a key role in some strong offensive efforts by the Bucs. He takes home some Bucs of the Week points for the second straight week, pulling himself into a tie for seventh on the season.

1. Jameis Winston (Five points)

If there was one game that captured the very best and very worst of Jameis Winston, it was this one. The game started on as bad of a note as possible, with Winston’s first pass getting intercepted by Darius Leonard. Leonard got him again later in the first half, picking him off a second time and returning it 80 yards for a touchdown. Then, after a huge turnover faced by the Buccaneer defense in the fourth quarter, Winston was intercepted a third time on a ball tipped to Malik Hooker. With yet another three-interception game, his total for the year jumped to 23. He put on full display why the Bucs may still have serious concerns about signing him to a long-term deal.

But you know what else he did? He showed exactly why he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 and why there is still hope for him to be a franchise quarterback. Overall, the 25-year-old was 33-of-45 for a career-high 456 yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. It’s truly difficult to say that the Bucs win this game without him, despite his three turnovers. His 456 yards were also a franchise record for a home game. The former Heisman Trophy winner is now over 4,000 yards for the season as well. It’s truly puzzling how a quarterback can be so hot-and-cold. You seemingly never know what you’re going to get with him. On Sunday, the Bucs got some of the very best and some of the very worst. Tampa Bay will soon have to decide whether it wants to take the bad with all of the good Winston brings. Either way, he picks up the full five points here for the first time in a long time, pulling him into third place in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

Updated Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 14:

1. Chris Godwin — 23 points

2. Shaquil Barrett — 21 points

3. Jameis Winston — 20 points

4. Ronald Jones II — 17 points

5. Devin White — 14 points

6. Mike Evans/Lavonte David — 13 points

7. Jamel Dean/Vita Vea/Breshad Perriman — 7 points

8. Jordan Whitehead/Carl Nassib — 6 points

9. Vernon Hargreaves III — 5 points

10. Matt Gay/Cameron Brate/Sean Murphy-Bunting — 4 points

11. Ryan Smith/Jason Pierre-Paul/Scotty Miller/Carlton Davis/Justin Watson — 3 points

12. Peyton Barber/Alex Cappa/Mike Edwards/O.J. Howard — 2 points

13. Andrew Adams — 1 point