It took a 17-point comeback, but the Buccaneers were able to collect their third straight win on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, beating the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 38-31. With the victory, Tampa Bay improved its record to 3-1 and stayed on top of the NFC South.
While they will be happy with the victory, especially with a short week ahead before a Thursday night game in Chicago, the Bucs didn’t come by this one easily. The Chargers got out to a 24-7 lead and looked poised to head into halftime with that lead intact, but a costly fumble led to an easy score for Tampa Bay. Then, out of the locker room, the Buccaneer offense came out firing to win what ended up being a shootout. Whereas the defense carried the load in the team’s previous two triumphs, it was the offense coming through this time.
Before we shift our focus to the Bears game that is just a few days away, it’s time to give out some Buccaneers of the Week points for Sunday’s win over Los Angeles. Let’s find out which five guys cracked the list this week...
A reminder of how this works, for anyone who hasn’t been around in 2018 or 2019: 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.
With injuries to Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Kenjon Barner, rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn saw the field quite a bit on Sunday. He didn’t get much on the ground, but he did catch what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown from nine yards out in the fourth quarter... O.J. Howard hauled in three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, though he eventually left with what is believed to be an incredibly unfortunate season-ending injury... Justin Watson stepped up and had a pretty good day in Chris Godwin’s absence, catching four passes for 40 yards... With his first-quarter touchdown catch, Cameron Brate tied Joey Galloway for fourth-most touchdown receptions in team history... The Buccaneer offensive line as a whole played impressively well, allowing zero sacks on the day and playing a big role in Ronald Jones’ 100-yard rushing day. Rookie right tackle Tristan Wirfs was a standout, doing an outstanding job against a tough opponent in Joey Bosa... Ali Marpet continued to have a fantastic 2020 season...
Jordan Whitehead picked up another sack, his second in two weeks... Ndamukong Suh kept his strong start to the season going, with a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble... Devin White recovered that momentum-changing fumble... Carlton Davis had somewhat of a tough day (as did the whole secondary), but he did come up with the game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter... Bradley Pinion only punted three times, but he averaged 57 yards per punt and had one downed at the 5-yard line, with another going out of bounds at the 9.
5. Lavonte David (One point)
Tampa Bay’s defense struggled to contain rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in Sunday’s game, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Lavonte David. The veteran linebacker once again led the Bucs in tackles, totaling 11 (10 solo), with one tackle for loss and a pass defended. He continued to thrive in his middle linebacker role within Todd Bowles’ defense, living up to his NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in a big way. The Bucs surely benefitted from an unfortunate injury to Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler early in the game, as they went on to allow just 46 rushing yards from his backups. David, of course, was a big reason for that stifling performance.
Coming into the 2020 season, it was said time and again that David would benefit from the Bucs getting more of the spotlight. And so far, it seems that has been the case. With the monthly honors and the constant praise from broadcasters, analysts and writers, it seems he’s finally getting his due. It’s just a shame that so many are late to the party because this is nothing new for the 30-year-old. He has been one of the NFL’s best linebackers since coming into the league in 2012, and Tampa Bay fans and media have been pounding the table for him all the while. Now—finally— he’s getting some recognition. Better late than never, huh?
4. Scotty Miller (Two points)
The Tampa Bay offense could not have been more efficient and effective in the second half, scoring on four straight drives (three touchdowns and a field goal) before running out the clock on its fifth drive. The second of those possessions led to the team’s first lead since the first quarter, and that possession was all about the connection between Scotty Miller and the greatest quarterback of all time. The second-year receiver finally got involved in the game after a quiet first half, announcing his presence in a big way. First, it was a 44-yard catch, and on the next play, it was a 19-yard touchdown reception that put the Bucs on top. For the game, Miller had five catches for 83 yards and that score, which was his first of the season.
With Chris Godwin out and Mike Evans playing through an injury he picked up early in the game, the Buccaneer offense needed someone to step up. It got contributions from just about everyone, but Miller’s play perhaps stood out the most. That’s because, for much of the week, he was dealing with injuries of his own. But his ability to stick it out and play after receiving treatment from the medical staff was massive for the offense. It gave the unit the deep threat that it needed and although it took a while for a deep ball opportunity to present itself, Miller came through. And for that, he grabs a couple of points in this week’s standings.
3. Ronald Jones II (Three points)
The Bucs’ run game has been wildly inconsistent for years now. There are plenty of weeks that go by without much of anything happening on the ground. But when things are going well, they’re going well. That was the case on Sunday, with Ronald Jones II stepping up and delivering a massive, gutsy performance that was desperately needed. With Leonard Fournette missing and both LeSean McCoy and Kenjon Barner going down early in the afternoon, this game was all on Jones. With rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn the only one available to give him a break, the third-year running back ran for 111 yards on 20 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He also caught six of his nine targets and despite only picking up 17 yards on those six grabs, that was an important part of the offensive effort as well.
Jones was one of the lone bright spots early on in the game. He got the first four touches of Tampa Bay’s opening drive, which was a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted five minutes. And from there, he stayed heavily involved in what the Bucs were doing on offense. He was obviously up to the task, as he put up his second career 100-yard game. While he didn’t find the end zone, his role in a 38-point day for the offense can’t go overlooked. He kept drives alive, ran hard and fought for the extra yards when possible. It was an impressive display for a guy still looking to find some consistency. He may need some more performances like this one to truly find that consistency, but for now, he’s found his first three points in this year’s standings.
2. Mike Evans (Four points)
You don’t just replace a receiver like Chris Godwin. But coming into Sunday, a lot was made about who could step up and produce in place of the injured Pro Bowler. What was perhaps more important than that, though, was that Tampa Bay was going to need Mike Evans to be Mike Evans. He was heavily involved on the game’s opening drive, making two big catches to set up a touchdown. But adversity struck from there, as he picked up an ankle injury that temporarily saw him leave the game. He eventually came back and fought through it, putting up 122 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, averaging 17.4 yards per catch. That’s Evans being Evans, and the Bucs sorely needed that.
A lot was made in the offseason about Evans’ place in the pecking order of receivers in the NFL. Los Angeles’ Keenan Allen even went as far as calling Evans out as someone he felt he was better than. For my money, and for plenty of folks’ money, Evans is not only better than Allen—he’s better than most in this league. The guys that always get that top-five and top-three love? He’s right up there with them, and performances like the one he had on Sunday are proof as to why. His 26th career 100-yard receiving game spoke for itself, as he proved once again that he is absolutely deserving of elite status. On top of that status, he takes home four points in this week’s standings.
1. Tom Brady (Five points)
There couldn’t be any other No. 1 this week. What Tom Brady did on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium should be enough to shut down anyone who thought he was done and finished because he’s 43 years old. The GOAT completed 30 of his 46 pass attempts for 369 yards and five touchdowns. He did throw a pick six early in the game, but his second-half performance wildly overshadowed that mistake. On his final 20 throws of the game, Brady was 18-of-20 for 269 yards and four touchdowns. That was good enough for a perfect passer rating of 158.3. For the game, his passer rating was 117, even after a slow start. It was Brady’s best game as a Buc to date, and it was a statement to anyone out there who had any doubt about his ability.
Despite a rough first half, Brady turned things around for his team on Sunday. He was electric in the second half, doing it all for the offense. He was hitting the short throws, the intermediate ones and the deep balls, too. If there was a throw to be made, he was making it. For having a “weak arm” and “no longer having the deep ball,” it’s pretty impressive that Brady had the most deep passing yards in the league heading into Monday night (per PFF). He led Tampa Bay on a 17-point comeback on Sunday, and even after the Chargers re-took the lead, 31-28, there was no panic. Of course there wasn’t. He just responded by leading a seven-play, 75-yard drive to get the lead right back. The Bucs didn’t relinquish that one, and it’s Brady taking home the full five points in this week’s Buccaneers of the Week Standings.
2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 4:
- Antoine Winfield Jr. — 8 points
- Devin White/Tom Brady — 7 points
- Mike Evans/Lavonte David — 6 points
- Leonard Fournette/Shaquil Barrett/Scotty Miller — 5 points
- Mike Edwards/Ronald Jones II — 3 points
- Chris Godwin/Jordan Whitehead — 2 points
- Sean Murphy-Bunting — 1 point