Starting slow against good teams makes it tough to win, but starting slow against elite teams? That’s a completely different level of difficulty. The Buccaneers dealt with that firsthand on Sunday, falling behind the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs 17-0 at Raymond James Stadium before eventually falling short of a comeback and losing 27-24.
With its second consecutive loss—both by scores of 27-24—Tampa Bay dropped to 7-5 on the year, meaning it would head into the bye week with a bad taste in its mouth. With a playoff berth still well within range, there’s plenty for this team to figure out during the time off. The schedule for the final quarter of the season appears to be favorable for the Bucs, with games against the Vikings (5-6), Falcons (4-7), Lions (4-7) and the Falcons again. But if the slow starts, play-calling woes/offensive inconsistencies and defensive struggles against the pass don’t get fixed, there could still be plenty of disappointment in store during the rest of the year.
Before we move past Week 12 and get into the bye week and the rest of the 2020 slate, it’s time to give out some Buccaneers 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.
Two interceptions and early struggles aside, Tom Brady helped the Bucs get back in the game in the second half. He finished the day with 345 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 27-of-41 passing... William Gholston recovered a key fumble in the first half, keeping the Chiefs from going up 24-0. He also had a quarterback hit... Jason Pierre-Paul continued his impressive season, posting another sack, bringing his 2020 total to 8.5.
5. Chris Godwin (One point)
The Buccaneer offense was a frustrating mess for much of Sunday’s game, but when it was having success, it was often Chris Godwin finding himself right in the middle of it. The fourth-year pro caught eight of his nine targets for 97 yards, averaging 12.1 yards per catch. Despite not finding the end zone, it was an impressive effort for him, as he came up with four first-down catches and provided a consistent outlet for Tom Brady, especially when the veteran signal-caller was under pressure. In the first 12 games, Godwin hasn’t quite reached the heights that he did in his breakout 2019 season, but he has still been an important key for what is a Tampa Bay offense that isn’t lacking options. For him to remain a solid go-to says plenty about his skillset and rapport with Brady. After a strong game against Kansas City, he gets a point and jumps into eighth in the season standings.
4. Mike Evans (Two points)
There was a point in Sunday’s game where Tom Brady and Mike Evans could be seen having a discussion about something on the sideline. Whatever was said, it seemed to have positive results for the two, as they connected for two big touchdowns the rest of the way and helped the Bucs’ comeback effort. While that effort eventually fell short, it was good to see the two link up when the team’s collective back was against the wall. Overall for the game, Evans caught just three of his nine targets, but touchdowns from 31 and seven yards out were huge. The veteran receiver would need to average about 100 yards per game the rest of the way in order to break the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh straight season, but even if he doesn’t, he is well on track to break his own team record for touchdown receptions in a single season. He has 11 on the year, meaning he needs two in the next four games to surpass the 12-touchdown mark, which he hit in 2014 and 2016. With two Bucs of the Week points this week, he finds himself fourth in the season standings.
3. Shaquil Barrett (Three points)
Tampa Bay’s defense certainly played its part in the team’s slow start against the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill just about beat the Bucs on their own, putting up first-half numbers that haven’t been seen in quite some time. But with Kansas City up 17-0 and threatening to score again, it was Shaquil Barrett who stepped up and made a big play that may have changed the game. The Bucs may very well have gotten blown out if not for Barrett getting to Mahomes for a sack-fumble. With William Gholston coming up with the fumble recovery, it was a big swing. Tampa Bay went on to score, getting within 17-7 after it looked like it was about to be 24-0 in favor of the Chiefs. For the game, Barrett totaled three tackles (three solo), the sack-fumble and an additional quarterback hit. On a forgettable day for the team’s pass rush, Barrett stood out and got himself three points in the season standings. Heading into the bye, he finds himself in a seventh-place tie.
2. Rob Gronkowski (Four points)
Throughout this season, the Buccaneer offense has gotten sparks from a number of different guys. On Sunday, the passing offense got its spark from none other than Rob Gronkowski. After a couple of early catches, Gronkowski caught a 29-yarder to get the Bucs inside the Chiefs’ 40-yard line. On the next play, Tampa Bay found the end zone for the first time on the night. Later on, the veteran tight end hauled in a 48-yard reception to get the offense inside the five. It should’ve set up another touchdown, but it’s not his fault that the team had to settle for a field goal after that. Overall, Gronkowski led all Bucs receivers with six catches for 106 yards on seven targets. With those two big catches that put the offense in favorable positions, it’s not surprising to see that his yards per catch average was all the way up to 17.7. It also wasn’t surprising for him to be the go-to for Tom Brady early in what was a difficult game for the 43-year-old quarterback. Perhaps the big surprise for Gronkowski this week is the fact that these four Bucs of the Week points he picked up are his first four points of the season.
1. Ronald Jones II (Five points)
The top spot this week goes to Ronald Jones II, who deserved far more than he got in Sunday’s game. With the limited touches he did get, the third-year running back made a significant impact. He ran just nine times, but totaled 66 yards for an average of 7.3 yards per carry. Falling behind 17-0 obviously played a part in the Bucs only running the ball 13 times in the game, but still, there has to be more for Jones, especially with the season he’s been having. He only got two targets in the passing game, too, and he took one of them for a 37-yard touchdown. So, on 10 total touches, the former USC man went for 103 yards and a touchdown. Why, then, did the team go with Leonard Fournette on back-to-back plays inside the 5-yard line during the third quarter? It simply made no sense, and the Bucs having to settle for a field goal there killed them. Instead of a 20-14 game, it was 20-10. The Chiefs promptly drove down the field and scored after that, putting the game back out of reach. Jones’ usage continues to be baffling, but he continues to put up numbers in the chances he does get. He made the most of his touches on Sunday, earning him five points and the top spot in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.
2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 12:
- Ronald Jones II — 20 points
- Tom Brady — 16 points
- Devin White — 15 points
- Mike Evans — 14 points
- Lavonte David/Jason Pierre-Paul — 12 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr./Ryan Succop — 9 points
- Scotty Miller/Shaquil Barrett — 8 points
- Chris Godwin — 7 points
- Carlton Davis — 6 points
- Leonard Fournette/Jordan Whitehead — 5 points
- Rob Gronkowski — 4 points
- Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean — 3 points
- Vita Vea/Ndamukong Suh — 2 points
- Sean Murphy-Bunting/Offensive Line — 1 point