An early deficit immediately put people on edge, and it stayed close for a little too long, but the Buccaneers opened up a crushing 21-point fourth quarter to cement their 45-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Both sides of the ball found their respective grooves as the afternoon progressed, as a few Miami mistakes snowballed quickly. Ultimately, the Dolphins simply couldn’t keep pace with superior competition.
It’s the exact type of win elite teams pull off, so it’s encouraging to see it from the Bucs as they advance to a healthy 4-1 record. Let’s review some of the biggest performances that contributed to their success.
Offensive Top Performer: QB Tom Brady
You throw for 400+ yards, 5 touchdowns and no turnovers, you’re getting Top Performer of the week.
In my X-factor piece this week, I emphasized how critical it was for Brady to swiftly shake off an emotional, uneven Week 4 game and resume business as usual for the team to keep rolling. He did exactly that, looking unflappable the entire game and dissecting a hapless Fins defense from start to almost finish, as Blaine Gabbert relieved the 20-year vet with most of the fourth quarter remaining — the game well out of reach.
In fact, it’s the first time Brady has ever thrown for 400+ yards and 5 touchdowns in the same game.
He peppered the ball throughout all three levels of the field, getting 9 receivers involved and connecting with his top three targets for huge games. Speaking of whom, we have to give big shoutouts to Antonio Brown (7 catches, 124 yards, 2 TDs), Mike Evans (6/113/2) and Chris Godwin (7/70). When all three are involved like today, this offense is unstoppable.
We’ll also give props to Leonard Fournette for his second straight good game (16 touches for 110 total yards and touchdown) and the offensive line for having its way all day. The only two sacks were on Gio Bernard (who still scored a TD!) and OJ Howard (who still looks near-useless, unfortunately).
Defensive Top Performer: EDGE Shaquil Barrett
The Shaq Attack came through for the second week in a row, and it’s a glorious sight to see when Barrett has his arsenal working.
No. 58 logged 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble at a critical moment to halt the Dolphins, who were at the Bucs 30-yard line at the time. He also made a nice run stop where, in a rare moment, the edge rusher gets to utilize the truck stick on the running back.
The deficit reached a point where the pass rush got to tee off on a porous offensive line, which is what you like to see any week, and Barrett recorded multiple pressures because of it. Shaq logged one of the fastest sacks of the week thus far (3.2 seconds) and averaged an excellent 3.59 yards of separation on his pass rush, per Next Gen Stats — the league average is 4.52.
We’ll also give nods to Mike Edwards and Ross Cockrell, who both continue to play significant starter’s snaps as injury fill-ins and looked good while doing it Sunday. Cockrell in particular has looked better the last two games after struggling the first three weeks of the season.
Special Teams Player of the Week: K Ryan Succop
When you attempt six times the amount of extra points compared to field goals, it usually means you experienced a pretty stress-free day.
Succop didn’t need to kick this team to victory like last week. Instead, he filled his ideal role as the cherry top as opposed to being the whole sundae.
Meanwhile, Bradley Pinion launched only one punt, bombed a bunch of touchbacks, and even got a long field goal attempt, which barely missed FWIW. The Bucs had one kick return all day, and Miami didn’t have single one all day.
A nice, tidy Sunday for the special teams unit is always a plus.