We’re going to try an experiment.
I’m going to present you the following list of plays. It’s up to you to tell me what each one of them has in common. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know what it all means at the end.
Here we go:
- Antoine Winfield Jr. and Shaquil Barrett sack Kirk Cousins on back-to-back plays. Then on Minnesota’s next drive, Jason Pierre-Paul strip-sacks Cousins on 4th down. Pierre-Paul also recovers the fumble to give the ball back to Tampa Bay.
- Antonio Brown’s 46-yard touchdown reception against the Falcons in Week 15.
- Devin White’s 3.0 sacks against the Falcons in Week 15.
- Herb Miller intercepts a David Blough pass in Week 16.
- Chris Godwin’s 47-yard reception on 3rd and 12 against the Falcons in Week 17.
- Sean Murphy-Bunting forces a Calvin Ridley fumble and recovers it a la JPP.
- Tom Brady survives a low snap and throws a perfect pass to Mike Evans for a 35-yard gain that would help put the Bucs up, 31-23, against Washington.
- Lavonte David sacks Taylor Heinicke on 3rd down.
If you follow the Bucs, odds are you caught on to this pretty quick. If you’re still searching for clues, however, let me help: The one common thread with all of these plays is the fact that they all occurred in the fourth quarter. Every one of them either closed out a game or put the Bucs on track to win the game. Who knows where the Bucs would be without these plays.
And they weren’t derived from dumb luck, another team’s mistake (for the most part), or any other outside circumstance. They happened because the Bucs made them happen.
Don’t look now, but this team has figured out how to close out games in the fourth quarter, which is the one of ultimate trademarks of a good team. And you could certainly argue that this is the most important trait for a playoff team to have.
The Bucs have even more plays to add to the list after Sunday night’s win over the Saints. Tyler Johnson’s 15-yard reception on 3rd and 11, Scotty Miller’s 29-yard reception to set up Ryan Succop’s go-ahead field goal, and Devin White’s and Mike Edwards’ interceptions are all now part of the club.
As a result, Tampa Bay is on the doorstep of its second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. There is still plenty of work left to be done, however, and the Bucs know this.
“Right now we’re celebrating the moment,” Leonard Fournette told reporters after the game. “That’s going to come when Monday comes, right now we’re just getting this excitement out [of] our system, and then when Monday hits we know it’s on to the next.”