The Buccaneers took the field on Saturday afternoon in Detroit with a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and all it would take was a win over the short-handed Lions to do so.
Whatever ghosts of past seasons may have been in the minds of those in the fan base, it was very clear from the start of this Week 16 matchup that nothing was going to stop Tampa Bay from getting to the postseason. A resounding 47-7 victory over Detroit guaranteed a spot in the dance for the Bucs, and now they have just one more game before they get a chance to start their run to Super Bowl 55 in Tampa.
Before all of the attention shifts to the Week 17 home game against Atlanta or who the team’s postseason opponent will be, let’s take a look back at Saturday’s clincher and give out some Buccaneers of the Week points, shall we?
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 played a big role in Tampa Bay’s 34-point first half, rushing for 34 yards and a touchdown on nine carries while also catching three passes for 32 yards. In the absence of Ronald Jones II, the Bucs were able to rely on Fournette to get some tough yards for a second straight week... With Jones out, rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn had an expanded role and he played well as a result, rushing 15 times for a team-high 62 yards... Tampa Bay’s offensive line was pretty solid throughout the day, though Ali Marpet was the standout according to Pro Football Focus. He earned a 93.5 grade—the second-highest grade of any player across the three Saturday games... Blaine Gabbert played the entire second half of the game and performed well, completing nine of his 15 pass attempts for 143 yards and two touchdowns...
Lavonte David played another strong game, racking up his 23rd career forced fumble. That leaves him one away from tying Derrick Brooks for the most in franchise history... Jordan Whitehead recovered the fumble that was forced by David, plus he added a pass defended to his stat line... Herb Miller, who was just called up from the practice squad in Week 16, came up with his first career interception late in the fourth quarter... Jeremiah Ledbetter picked up a sack against the team that drafted him, giving him the first full sack of his career... Anthony Nelson notched his first career sack as well... In his return to his home state, William Gholston had a big day. He picked up a sack and a pass defended... Jason Pierre-Paul, days after being named to the Pro Bowl, totaled two passes defended and two quarterback hits.
5. Rob Gronkowski (One point)
With the Bucs trying to clinch their first playoff berth since 2007, they got some big contributions from a guy who has seen plenty of postseason action in his career. Rob Gronkowski may have only been targeted twice in Saturday’s game, but he caught both of them for 58 yards and two touchdowns. The first, a 33-yarder, gave Tampa Bay a 6-0 lead in the first quarter. It was a beautiful display of what has made Gronkowski so difficult to defend throughout his career. His size and strength got him the necessary separation before he hauled in a nice throw from his longtime quarterback to get his team on the board early. Later on, with the Bucs already leading 34-0, Gronkowski pushed the lead to 40-0 thanks to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert. With nearly 600 receiving yards and seven touchdowns this season, the veteran tight end has already had a successful return from retirement.
4. Chris Godwin (Two points)
At times, it’s been a difficult year for Chris Godwin. He has been sidelined with various injuries throughout the season and when he’s been in the lineup, it’s sometimes been easy for him to get lost in the shuffle. But he was greatly involved on Saturday as he caught five passes for 84 yards and his fifth touchdown of the season. He found the end zone with 4:52 left in the first half to make it a 27-0 lead for the Bucs, capping a seven-play, 91-yard drive with a beautiful one-handed grab. The fourth-year receiver became the third different Buc to catch a touchdown pass in the first half, and it was his second score in as many weeks. He may be finding his stride at the right time for Tampa Bay—and for himself, as he is looking for a contract extension from the team this offseason. And with two points this week, Godwin pulls himself into a tie for sixth place in the season standings. He may very well be on track for a top-five finish in the season standings for the second consecutive year.
3. Devin White (Three points)
While the offense has understandably gotten the bulk of the attention for its performance in Detroit, the defense deserves its share of credit as well. The unit took advantage of the Lions’ unfortunate situation as Matthew Stafford left the game early in the first quarter, and Devin White led the way. The second-year linebacker, fresh off of a Pro Bowl snub, totaled a game-high 10 tackles (10 solo), with two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and his ninth sack of the season. It was yet another impressive afternoon for White, who has proven time and again to be a threat to opposing quarterbacks. His tendency to make splash plays has been huge for Tampa Bay’s defense over the last two years and with some more development in coverage, he very well could become widely known as one of the league’s best. His speed and awareness was on full display again throughout Saturday’s game, earning him three Bucs of the Week points that will allow him to carry a top-three spot into next Sunday’s season finale.
2. Tom Brady (Four points)
If you were to look at Tom Brady’s stat line from Saturday’s win without having watched the game at all, you’d likely think he played four full quarters of football. But he actually went 22-of-27 for 348 yards and four touchdowns in just two quarters of play. That earned him a perfect 158.3 passer rating for just the third time in his career, plus he made some history in the process. He is up to 36 passing touchdowns on the year, which is a new single-season franchise record (beating Jameis Winston’s previous mark of 33 that was set last year). His 348 passing yards were also the most in a single half by any Bucs quarterback ever, and this all came in a game in which he tied Brett Favre for the most starts in NFL history (298). It was a masterful day (half?) for Brady, who accomplished one of the big goals that the team brought him in for: Take the team to the playoffs. Now that Tampa Bay is in, anything can happen, right? With Brady, a guy who has won six Super Bowls and played in nine, a deep run isn’t off the table for this team.
1. Mike Evans (Five points)
Speaking of history, Mike Evans made some of his own in Saturday’s 40-point win over the Lions and he has a great chance to make even more in Week 17. The seventh-year receiver caught 10 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. His first score was historic on two different fronts. For one, he tied his own franchise record for touchdown catches in a single season, plus he joined Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Sterling Sharpe and Jerry Rice as one of seven players in league history to total 8,000 receiving yards and 60 receiving touchdowns in their first seven seasons. And with his second touchdown catch, Evans set a new franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a single season (13). On an even bigger note, he is now only 40 yards away from becoming the first player in NFL history to break 1,000 receiving yards in seven consecutive seasons to start a career. Just a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t look like Evans had a great chance to pass that 1,000-yard mark, but 110- and 181-yard performances in the last two weeks have him closer. And with five full points this week, he jumps into the top three in the season standings with one week to go.
2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 16:
- Tom Brady — 25 points
- Ronald Jones II — 23 points
- Devin White/Mike Evans — 22 points
- Jason Pierre-Paul — 14 points
- Lavonte David/Shaquil Barrett — 12 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr./Ryan Succop/Chris Godwin — 9 points
- Scotty Miller — 8 points
- Ndamukong Suh — 7 points
- Carlton Davis/Leonard Fournette — 6 points
- Jordan Whitehead/Rob Gronkowski — 5 points
- Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean — 3 points
- Vita Vea/Offensive Line/Antonio Brown — 2 points
- Sean Murphy-Bunting — 1 point