Tampa Bay’s offense clicked early and caught fire late in Sunday’s game while the defense had its tough moments before ultimately buckling down and getting the job done when it truly mattered. The win has the Bucs at 5-2 for the first time since 2010 and puts them in a great position to be 6-2 heading into their next matchup against the Saints—as long as they can get by the Giants next Monday night of course.
Before we turn our attention to that primetime game against New York, it’s time to reflect on Sunday’s performance and give out some Bucs of the Week points!
A reminder of how this works, for anyone who’s new around these parts: Each week, I’ll rank the top five Bucs of the Week and assign them point values, which will determine their place in the “Buccaneers of the Week Standings.” No. 5 gets one point, No. 4 gets two and so on. The 2018 Buccaneer of the Year was Mike Evans, while Shaquil Barrett was the 2019 Buccaneer of the Year. OK, let’s get it going.
Leonard Fournette was a key contributor in his return from injury, rushing for 50 yards on 11 carries while also catching six of his seven targets for 47 yards... Rob Gronkowski continued to look like Rob Gronkowski this week, catching five passes for 62 yards and his second touchdown in as many weeks... Tyler Johnson also caught his second in as many weeks, with this one helping his quarterback reach the top of the all-time regular season passing touchdowns list...
Newcomer Steve McLendon, who just joined the Bucs via trade this past week, immediately made an impact against the Raiders. He totaled five tackles (four solo), with one going for a loss... Mike Edwards made a couple of big plays, with the first being an interception of Derek Carr that was unfortunately negated by an offsides penalty. However, he came back later and made another crucial play, tipping a pass that ended up as a Tampa Bay interception... The interception that was assisted by Edwards ended up being the first of Antoine Winfield Jr.’s career, and it couldn’t have come at a better moment. The turnover gave the offense a short field, which it used to its advantage to put the game away at 38-20... It’s easy to overlook it, but Ryan Succop has quietly been doing a good job for Tampa Bay. On Sunday, he made all six of his extra point attempts and connected on a 29-yard field goal.
5. Offensive Line (One point)
For plenty of football fans, the offensive line is only ever a talking point when it’s making mistakes. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as credit should be given where credit is due. The Buccaneer offensive line allowed zero sacks on Sunday against the Raiders, which is the second straight game it has done so. Even more than that, though, Las Vegas only registered one quarterback hit after Green Bay totaled just four last week. In terms of run blocking, this week wasn’t as dominant as the previous few, but Tampa Bay still ran for 85 yards and put together some big runs when it needed them. And perhaps best of all, no one on the offensive line has been called for a penalty since that disastrous Week 5 game in Chicago. That’s huge.
As if you should need any proof that improved offensive line play makes a difference, simply look at the offensive performances the Bucs have had in the last two weeks. They scored 31 points on offense in last week’s win over the Packers before putting up 45 this week against the Raiders. Tom Brady has been kept upright and given time. When that happens, good things will come for Tampa Bay, especially with the talent it has on offense. If the big men up front continue to play like they have been, the sky is the limit for this offense. There’s no doubt that the collective unit of Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa and Tristan Wirfs deserve some props right now, so the big heavies pick up a point in the standings this week.
4. Chris Godwin (Two points)
The Tampa Bay offense has finally come around in the last couple of weeks, and it has to be due—at least in part—to the return of Chris Godwin. He came back from injury in last week’s win over the Packers and put up a steady performance, but this past Sunday, he was truly back. He led the team in catches with nine, putting up 88 yards and a touchdown in the win. Unsurprisingly, he was a reliable go-to whenever the Bucs needed a conversion of some kind, and he nearly had a second touchdown late in the fourth quarter as well. It was a great sign to see the fourth-year receiver deliver a strong performance this week, as it seems he is ready to put his early-season injuries in the rearview mirror and move ahead into the rest of the year.
It’s been a frustrating start to the season for Godwin, who is coming off of a breakout year in 2019. He had 1,333 receiving yards and nine touchdowns last year, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. But 2020 hasn’t been kind to him thus far, as he hasn’t been able to consistently stay on the field with Tom Brady. First, it was a concussion suffered in Week 1 that put him on the sideline, then he returned briefly but ended up picking up a hamstring injury that cost him more time. But he returned last week and now this week, he put up a Godwin-like performance. He’s likely still dealing with that hamstring issue, but if he can stay on the field, that’s only going to help the Buccaneer offense. He returns to Bucs of the Week with a couple of points in the standings.
3. Scotty Miller (Three points)
While Godwin had a nice performance on Sunday, he wasn’t the receiver that stole the show for the Bucs. Instead, that was Scotty Miller, who reemerged with a big day after a couple of quiet weeks. He put up his first career 100-yard game, totaling 109 and a touchdown on six catches. If math isn’t your thing (it’s not mine either), that’s an average of 18.2 yards per catch for the second-year receiver. He has been the deep threat the Bucs drafted him to be so far this year, presenting all kinds of problems for opposing defenses. His 33-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half was massive, as it was the difference between a 21-10 halftime lead for Tampa Bay and a lead of only 17-10 or, worse, 14-10. It also says something that the speedy Bowling Green product tied for the team lead in targets, matching Godwin’s nine.
Miller’s first 100-yard day probably couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the news of Antonio Brown signing with the team. Miller has been a favorite of Tom Brady’s for parts of this year, but he had gone quiet as of late and the addition of Brown seemed like bad news for him. It still could be, as his target share will likely go down when the four-time All Pro joins after his suspension ends in Week 9. But the same can be said for just about every receiver, as there will only be so many targets to go around. Miller’s performance in Vegas was a big reminder of the undeniable value he brings to the Buccaneer offense. There’s simply no phasing him out right now. He grabs three big points in the season standings to join Antoine Winfield Jr. in fifth place.
2. Devin White (Four points)
Speaking of reemerging... Devin White has been playing like an absolute mad lad in the last two games. He had a phenomenal start to the season before a couple of uninspiring performances had him feeling like somewhat of an afterthought. But after asking to be unleashed last week against the Packers and paying it off with a big day, he had an even better game against the Raiders. The second-year linebacker and first-year defensive captain led the team in tackles with 11 (nine solo) and put up THREE sacks. He was all over the field, and his massive fourth-down hit on Derek Carr in the final quarter served as the exclamation point on Tampa Bay’s victory. White, who is never one to lack confidence, showed why he said Vegas shouldn’t have passed on him with the fourth overall pick last year. Thankfully for the Bucs, he fell to fifth.
It was strange for White to have a couple of quiet games earlier this month, especially considering the types of performances he has had since arriving in Tampa Bay last year. But he’s been back to producing at a high level in the last two weeks, something the Buccaneer defense needs him to keep doing the rest of the way. With Vita Vea out for the season, there’s more pressure on White and Lavonte David to shore up the middle of the defense (though the addition of Steve McLendon and the solid play of Rakeem Nunez-Roches also helps). There’s truly no better guys for that pressure to fall on than White and David. Those two make up the best linebacker duo in the league, and as long as White improves in coverage and Todd Bowles doesn’t put him and David in unfavorable matchups, we could see some real dominance from them going forward. For now, it’s White taking four points and the top spot in the season standings.
1. Tom Brady (Five points)
At the center of the Bucs’ 25-point victory on Sunday was none other than Tom Brady himself. The six-time Super Bowl champ put on a show in Vegas, completing 33 of his 45 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns, plus he added a rushing touchdown. It was the 43-year-old’s latest rebuttal to the “he’s washed up” crowd, with the fourth passing score putting him at the top of the all-time regular season passing touchdown list (he’s currently one ahead of Drew Brees). But more important than the stats for Brady were the types of throws he was making. He connected with nine different receivers on the day, with checkdowns, intermediate routes, and deep balls all working in his favor. If anyone still wants to question his ability at this stage in his career, just go back and watch his touchdown throw to Scotty Miller at the end of the first half. That’s just Brady.
It’s funny. People have been gleefully writing Brady’s obituary all offseason and even dating back to his last few years with the Patriots. And with every missed throw or interception early in his time with the Bucs, those same people were all over the place claiming how right they were to write this guy off. Well, all of those people look like absolute fools right now. The GOAT, even at 43 years old, is putting up big numbers and winning games. He has helped the Bucs get to 5-2 for the first time in a decade, plus he is creeping into the MVP conversation. Through seven games, he has 1,910 yards and 18 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns just for good measure. Brady is having fun right now, and that’s great for Tampa Bay. There’s still a long way to go, but to this point, the team’s plan is coming together beautifully. It’s just about keeping it going from here on out. With the full five points this week, TB12 has 12 points on the year, which is good enough for second place in the season standings.
2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 7:
- Devin White — 15 points
- Tom Brady — 12 points
- Lavonte David — 11 points
- Ronald Jones II — 10 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr./Scotty Miller — 8 points
- Mike Evans — 6 points
- Leonard Fournette/Shaquil Barrett — 5 points
- Ryan Succop/Chris Godwin — 4 points
- Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean — 3 points
- Jordan Whitehead/Vita Vea — 2 points
- Sean Murphy-Bunting/Carlton Davis/Jason Pierre-Paul/Offensive Line — 1 point