As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue their pursuit of the perfect game, they’ll settle for winning more games than they’re losing in the process.
Coming out of another half of bad football, the Bucs entered halftime against the Atlanta Falcons trailing by seventeen and having been shut out for the first two quarters.
A completely different team came out of the locker rooms however as Tampa Bay went on to outscore the Falcons by a margin of 31-10, and left Atlanta with a four-point win. Their ninth win of the year, and has them one win away from clinching a playoff spot.
As good as getting the win was, there are obvious flaws to what’s happening with the Buccaneers. Another week in the books, another week of plenty to choose from for our Best and Worst of the week.
RIDING WITH DEVIN WHITE
"The @Buccaneers needed a hero on Sunday, and they got one in LB @DevinWhite__40. Three sacks in the fourth quarter and flying all over the field, White had the best individual defensive performance of any player in football this weekend." --@Pschrags pic.twitter.com/w99ibBmeT6— GMFB (@gmfb) December 21, 2020
As with everyone on the team, Sunday wasn’t a great day from a complete game standpoint. However, what White did for the Buccaneers defense in the second half can’t be understated.
With three sacks (at least at the time of this writing) and leading the team with twelve combined tackles, White was absolutely instrumental in shutting the door on the Atlanta Falcons in the second half.
EVEN LATE, THERE’S ALWAYS TIME FOR GOAT
After two quarters Tom Brady had completed just ten of sixteen pass attempts for seventy yards and zero points. Not good.
In the second half, Brady completed twenty-one of his twenty-nine pass attempts for another 330-yards and two touchdowns.
He finished with a quarterback rating of 110.4, and not only caught up to Matt Ryan who had 165-yards more passing in the first half, but Brady also surpassed him by thirty-four.
Ryan still finished with the better QBR and did have three touchdowns on the day, but I promise you he’d rather have the win, which goes home with Brady.
Both Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tristan Wirfs deserve to be on a list of positives for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No, neither has been perfect and Wirfs’ rookie season has been better when you compare the two side-by-side.
No matter how you look at it though, the Bucs now have two players at key positions who could provide them Pro Bowl or better level play for the better part of the next decade.
In this game alone, both players came up big in pivotal moments.
Ludicrous rep from Tristan Wirfs. Digging Fowler out of that bend is obnoxious, and then planting Grady Jarrett for good measure. pic.twitter.com/PUkFZ1zjLh— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) December 21, 2020
First, with Wirfs, Ben Solak of The Draft Network pointed out a great rep for Tampa Bay’s rookie offensive lineman.
Not only is the rep impressive from a singular right tackle evaluation standpoint, but the effort and ability displayed by Wirfs here also allow Brady the time to find Mike Evans inside the Falcons five-yard line.
The completion was just the second chunk play of the game for the Buccaneers offense. It also led to a score two-plays later when Brady found Chris Godwin in the end zone on a quick hitter out of a bunch formation.
Godwin’s touchdown cut the Atlanta lead to ten, and the comeback was on.
Part of any comeback of course is not only scoring, but preventing the other team from putting up their own points, and this is where Tampa Bay’s second-round pick comes in.
After the Bucs’ first score of the second half, the Falcons came back and put up a touchdown of their own to stay ahead. After the second score we just spoke about, the Buccaneers defense absolutely had to keep Ryan and Company from getting back on the scoreboard again.
They did so and did enough to allow the offense a chance to draw even at 24-points a piece in the fourth quarter.
With the game tied the Falcons came out looking to prevent yet another late-game collapse and drove from their own twenty-five-yard line to the Buccaneers’ twenty-seven-yard line in just three plays.
On second-and-six, Ryan tried to get another touchdown on the board targeting Calvin Ridley as his partner for doing so.
As the ball sailed through the air it appeared the duo would connect and take a mid-fourth quarter lead. It appeared that way anyway until Winfield found a way to sprint into the back corner of the end zone and extend just enough to break up the pass.
On the next play, Devin White got the sack which forced Atlanta into a 52-yard field goal which was converted by Younghoe Koo. Points and a lead for sure, but in a four-point loss, that touchdown-saving play stands out, big.
PASS PROTECTION - OR LACK THEREOF
In the first half of Sunday’s game Buccaneers quarterback, Tom Brady was hit or sacked on 18% of his dropbacks.
By the end of the game that number would rise to 21% with Brady getting hit on ten of his 48 dropbacks.
Having a 43-year old quarterback get hit on almost one-quarter of his dropbacks isn’t good, and granted the Bucs’ offensive line was playing without starting left tackle, Donovan Smith.
Still, every hit is one more chance Tampa Bay has to move forward with Blaine Gabbert, and no shade to him, but he’s not GOAT.
Murphy-Bunting’s career is far from over, so let's not get into a second-round bust conversation.
The conversation we do need to get into though is the fact SMB is becoming the weak spot in a secondary not known for keeping NFL quarterbacks under wraps as it is.
On the Falcons’ first drive of the game alone the second-year cornerback gave up a 27-yard completion from Ryan to Russell Gage, and then later got beat to the corner of the end zone by Gage on Atlanta’s first score of the game.
Atlanta’s second score of the game went to Calvin Ridley with Murphy-Bunting in coverage again. The defender would look towards the official at the goal line wondering why there wasn’t a flag for offensive pass interference, but I suppose my question would be: Why is your back turned towards the line of scrimmage as you’re approaching the back of the end zone in the first place?
The technique was bad, the leverage was non-existent, and it’s just a few examples of the day Murphy-Bunting had, and those were just from the first twenty-three minutes of the game.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett were nearly invisible in a critical NFC South divisional game which not only had playoff implications but divisional crown ramifications as well.
With the New Orleans Saints on a two-game slide, there’s an outside chance the Bucs could actually be playing for a divisional title in Week 17. Of course, it takes a third-straight loss for the Saints - so Bucs fans are Vikings fans next weekend.
It was no surprise Barrett and JPP didn’t leap off the screen in the first half. No Buccaneers did. But in the second half? That’s a whole other story.
In two-quarters of excellent play by the team as a whole, the two edge rushers still failed to make any splash plays or momentum shifting tackles.
Barrett and Pierre-Paul appeared on 59 and 56 of a possible 65 defensive snaps respectively. With those 115 combined snaps, the duo produced three combined tackles, just one for a loss, and just one hit on Matt Ryan.
Even more disappointing is the fact all of those stats came from Barrett. Jason Pierre-Paul didn’t record a single point of data in the stat box.
Of course, the world isn’t collapsing in on itself and next week is another week. It’s important to note as well that JPP was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday of last week before sitting out all of Friday, listed with a knee injury.
Still, we’re not used to seeing him on the field without making at least an emotional impact. And the lack of teeth of the edge against Atlanta certainly didn’t help matters as Tampa Bay fell to a 17-0 deficit.
What was THE BEST part of Week 15?
This poll is closed
Devin White’s Second Half
Tom Brady’s Second Half
Contributions from Wirfs and Winfield Jr.
What was THE WORST part of Week 15?
This poll is closed
Lack of EDGE Pressure