The Buccaneers wrapped up the 2020 regular season on Sunday with a 44-27 win over the Falcons at Raymond James Stadium, jumping out to an early lead before needing a 21-7 fourth-quarter surge to pull away.
With the win, Tampa Bay earned its first 11-win season since 2005 and clinched the NFC’s No. 5 seed. And with the Washington Football Team’s win over Philadelphia on Sunday night, the Bucs now have an NFC Wild Card Round matchup in the nation’s capital on Saturday night. Coincidentally, the last time they won 11 games, they also opened the playoffs against Washington. That one ended poorly for Jon Gruden and his team as they were one-and-done in their first postseason appearance since the Super Bowl season.
The Bucs are surely hoping for a better result this time around, especially after going all in and fueling Super Bowl talk leading into—and throughout—the season. But before we flip the switch and turn our attention to Saturday, let’s take one last look back at Week 17 and put a bow on the 2020 Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings, 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.
Ronald Jones II put together a nice return to the field on Sunday, running for 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He finished the regular season 22 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard rushing season... Before an unfortunate injury held him out for the remainder of game, Mike Evans made history by becoming the first player in NFL history to start his career with seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons... The Falcons totaled just one sack and two quarterback hits, so it was a pretty solid day for the Buccaneer offensive line... Ali Marpet earned an 85.1 grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the third-highest grade of any Buc in Sunday’s game...
With Devin White sidelined, Kevin Minter stepped in and led the Bucs in tackles, totaling nine (six solo) and a pass defended... Antoine Winfield Jr. picked up his first career fumble recovery, plus he totaled his sixth pass defended of the season... Ndamukong Suh finished three tackles (three solo), a sack and two quarterback hits... Ross Cockrell picked up a pass defended and a quarterback hit in the game.
5. Ryan Succop (One point)
One week after missing three kicks in a 47-7 win over the Lions, Ryan Succop bounced back and was perfect against the Falcons. He connected on all eight of his kicks, making three field goals and five extra points for a total of 14 points. As a result, he finished the season with a franchise-record 135 points, breaking the previous mark of 131 set by Matt Bryant in 2008. But perhaps more importantly, Succop recovered nicely from his poor showing in Detroit and now looks solid heading into the playoffs. In addition to his five extra points against Atlanta, he made field goals from 29, 38 and 25 yards out to finish 28-of-31 on the year, including a 20-of-20 clip from 39 yards and closer. It was an impressive season for Succop, who was on the street until just before the season. With a point this week, he finishes in sole possession of sixth place in the Bucs of the Week Season Standings.
4. Sean Murphy-Bunting (Two points)
Back in Week 15, Sean Murphy-Bunting had one of his worst games as a pro. He was picked on all day, giving up two touchdowns and looking lost throughout the afternoon. But on Sunday, against the very same Falcons team, the second-year cornerback bounced back with one of his best games of the season. He totaled six tackles (five solo), a tackle for loss, a pass defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. That forced fumble and the subsequent recovery came at a huge moment for Tampa Bay, as it effectively finished off the team’s victory late in the fourth quarter. After a Calvin Ridley catch, Murphy-Bunting knocked the ball loose and recovered it to get the ball back to the Bucs. From there, the offense turned the fumble into points to go up by 17 and put Atlanta away for good. It was good to see the 2019 second-round pick redeem himself against the Falcons and pick up some momentum heading into the playoffs. With two points in this week’s standings, he jumps up to a 12th-place tie in the season standings.
3. Chris Godwin (Three points)
With Mike Evans going down early in Sunday’s game, the rest of the Bucs’ receiving corps had to step up if the team was going to get its 11th win. And they certainly did, with Chris Godwin being a huge part of Tampa Bay’s 44-27 win. The fourth-year receiver caught five of his seven targets for 133 yards and two touchdowns, averaging an insane 26.6 yards per catch. His first touchdown of the day—a 29-yarder—got the Bucs on the board on their first drive. Then, as Atlanta fought its way back into the game in the fourth quarter, Godwin struck again. He caught a four-yard touchdown to extend Tampa Bay’s lead back to 37-27 with 3:54 to go. It was Godwin’s first 100-yard game of the season, and it definitely came at a good time. He made big play after big play, including a late catch that helped Tampa Bay turn the tide back in its favor down the stretch. With three points this week, Godwin finishes with 12 on the season, which is good for a top-five finish.
2. Antonio Brown (Four points)
Ever since he signed with the Bucs, Antonio Brown has been a steady presence at receiver. He has been key in the screen game and has made big plays here and there, but Sunday he broke out in a big way. With Mike Evans out, Brown needed to come through and he did. The veteran caught 11 of his 14 targets for 138 yards and two touchdowns, making for his biggest game as a Buc by far. His first score extended Tampa Bay’s first-half lead to 17-3. After his defender slipped on the play, Brown came streaking across the goal line to make the catch. And to put the exclamation point on the victory, Brown caught a 30-yard score to put the Bucs up 44-27. He also put the exclamation point on his season by reaching 45 catches on the year, helping him meet a $250,000 incentive in his contract. Overall, it’s been a successful return to the league for Brown, and he may be heavily relied on in the NFC Wild Card Round, especially if Evans is unable to go. But for now, Brown grabs four big Bucs of the Week points to finish in a top-10 spot for the season.
1. Tom Brady (Five points)
Tom Brady put the finishing touches on his age-43 season the only way he would know how. He went out and torched the Falcons, completing 26 of his 41 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Regrettably, he was charged with his 12th interception of the year, but he still took his passing touchdown total for the year to 40, which is an incredibly impressive feat. It’s been well-documented that quarterbacks tend to struggle a bit during their first year in Bruce Arians’ system, and while Brady had his down moments, a 4,633-yard, 40-touchdown season with just 12 interceptions is nothing short of phenomenal. Not to mention, he’s done what he was brought here to do: He helped get Tampa Bay back into the playoffs. And from here, it wouldn’t shock anyone if he led this team on a January run that ended in a Super Bowl appearance at Raymond James Stadium in February. Fittingly, a full five points from Brady in Week 17 helps cement him as the 2020 Buccaneer of the Year.
FINAL 2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings:
- Tom Brady — 30 points
- Ronald Jones II — 23 points
- Devin White/Mike Evans — 22 points
- Jason Pierre-Paul — 14 points
- Lavonte David/Shaquil Barrett/Chris Godwin — 12 points
- Ryan Succop — 10 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr. — 9 points
- Scotty Miller — 8 points
- Ndamukong Suh — 7 points
- Carlton Davis/Leonard Fournette/Antonio Brown — 6 points
- Jordan Whitehead/Rob Gronkowski — 5 points
- Mike Edwards/William Gholston/Jamel Dean/Sean Murphy-Bunting — 3 points
- Vita Vea/Offensive Line — 2 points