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Best and Worst of Week 16: Winning in two phases, Bucs are playoff-bound

Not perfect, but perfection isn’t required as Tampa Bay runs Detroit

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

People outside of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been looking for a complete game from the uber-talented team since the 2020 NFL Season began. They came close against the Green Bay Packers early this season, and almost pulled it off again in Week 16 against the Detroit Lions.

It wasn’t perfect, however, but when you have a team playing as well as the Bucs are in the final stretch of the regular season, it’s a little encouraging actually to think they could be even better.

Of course, the objective is to eventually have that complete game and continue to find relative success while trying to put it together.

At 10-5 the Buccaneers have one more week where a loss isn’t fatal. After that, everyone is all-in, every hand.

Here are your best and worsts, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Week 16 win over the Detroit Lions.

THE BEST

FRANCHISE GOAT

In fifteen and a half games this year, Tom Brady has done what no other quarterback in Buccaneers history has done by throwing his 35th and 36th touchdown passes of the year on Saturday.

He started with his customary high pass missing an open receiver, but quickly settled in after a penalty on their first third-down of the game gave the Bucs offense new life. The end result was a pair of 33-yard connections.

The second of those was to tight end Rob Gronkowski and gave them six of the eight points they needed to win the ball-game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Playing just the one half, Brady finished with a perfect quarterback rating after completing twenty-two of twenty-seven pass attempts for 348-yards and four touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy past his prime.

HOME COOKING

Sean Murphy-Bunting has had a bad year. Nothing is going to change the fact his second regular season as a professional pass defender isn’t going to be talked about as a highlight when he looks back.

Perhaps it’ll be looked at as a catalyst for growth, etc, but nobody should be putting SMB’s sophomore tape on a highlight reel.

The postseason is a new season though, and as we’ve seen time and time again, players have a funny way of stepping up big when the stakes are highest.

While I’ll fall short of predicting this to happen with Murphy-Bunting, I will say he and the entire Bucs defense played about as well as you can against an opposing NFL offense.

Sure, there was no Matthew Stafford after the first drive. No Kenny Golliday. And about half the coaching staff was told to stay home. Still, holding professional offenses to zero points and under 200-yards of offense is impressive. And they deserve credit.

PLAYOFFS?!

I predicted the Buccaneers to go 11-5 in the preseason, and while I was confident in the prediction, it’s still weird to sit here writing the following sentence: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playoff-bound.

Bucs Nation has a team to root for past Week 17 for the first time in a long time. Like, if you’re under the age of fifteen you likely don’t remember seeing the Bucs playing a meaningful game in January.

All of that is about to change though, and there’s a good chance they’ll also be favored to win their Wild Card match-up. Wild, indeed.

THE WORST

PROTECT THE SHIELD

The saying usually extends to references about off-field conduct, but in this case, it also applies to being a nationally televised analyst on the league’s flagship network.

This is James Yarcho’s nominee for the week, so we’ll let him explain it to you.

“This guy is the worst,” Yarcho said of NFL Network’s Steve Smith. “He is a card-carrying Buccaneers hater. In the pre-game, he talked about how Matthew Stafford was going to hyper-target and attack Carlton Davis - who at the time had already been declared inactive. Then, following the game, he talked about how this was not a Buccaneers win, but it was a combination of things that led to Detroit not being allowed to be competitive...”

Of course, he goes further into explaining why Smith is his worst of the week, but you get the idea. For more on why Yarcho hates Smith, check out the post-game episode of the Locked On Bucs Podcast.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When you work for the NFL’s own network there’s a bit of an elevated expectation. Not knowing the inactives before talking about literally the only game going on, is not ever going to live up to them.

RETURN DEFICITS

Special teams was so bad in this game they get two of the three worst nominees this week. First up is the return and coverage squads.

The only score of the day for Detroit came on a 74-yard punt return by Lions wide receiver Jamal Agnew.

Of course, this is a problem. In close games, which playoff games tend to be, special teams plays can make or break a team’s chances of advancing to the next round.

Through fifteen games Bradley Pinion has been called on to punt 55 times with the one returned. So if it’s a one out of every fifty-five tries kind of thing, I think they’ll be alright.

What won’t be alright however is the tendency Kenjon Barner has to make kick and punt returns more adventurous than they need to be.

Barner returned five of Detroit’s eight punts on Saturday and averaged four-yards per return with a long of eight. Not good.

He also returned one punt off the bounce, came very close to trying to do the same on another, and nearly had the ball bounce into him causing a live ball situation deep in his own territory. One that he did catch was done so on the run creating yet another opportunity for a potential live-ball situation.

Not only was Barner doing some weird things as a return specialist which very often lead to mistakes and turnovers, but he also wasn’t getting substantial returns between the weirdness.

It’s one thing when the risks result in an occasional biscuit, but an eight-yard long return is more like a crouton and is not worth the risk.

RYAN SUCCOP

Nope. Not going to turn the man’s name against him. Not going to do it.

You had to know Succop was going to be on this list, right? After having a career season leading into Week 16, the Buccaneers’ reliable kicker went five for seven on extra points and missed his only field-goal try of the weekend.

There’s not much more to say about this one. Five points left on the field can certainly be the difference between losing and winning. While it wasn’t this week, here’s hoping he got it all out of his system.

I’m curious to see if the voters give him a pass since the Bucs won by so much.

Poll

What was THE BEST part of Week 16?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Tom Brady
    (299 votes)
  • 2%
    Buccaneers Defense
    (16 votes)
  • 46%
    Clinching a Playoff Spot
    (276 votes)
591 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What was THE WORST part of Week 16?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Steve Smith Sr.’s Uninformed Prediction/Analysis
    (214 votes)
  • 20%
    Return Problems
    (106 votes)
  • 38%
    Succop’s Bad Day
    (204 votes)
524 votes total Vote Now