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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Dolphins

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 45-17 win over the Dolphins?

Miami Dolphins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Following two weeks on the road, the Buccaneers returned home to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon for a quick home game before hitting the road yet again. Playing host to the Miami Dolphins, they took care of business in a big way, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points on their way to a 45-17 victory.

It was a complete performance for Tampa Bay, despite the injuries the team is currently dealing with. The offense clicked better than it has all season and the defense bottled up the Miami offense, but it was still just a seven-point game at the start of the fourth-quarter. Needing a strong finish, the Bucs got exactly that. The offense scored 21 points in the final quarter and the defense dominated the rest of the way to get the team to 4-1 ahead of a Week 6 trip to Philadelphia.

Before we turn the page to Thursday’s game against the Eagles, let’s give out some Buccaneers of the Week points, shall we?

A reminder of how this works: 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. In 2020, Tom Brady was the Buccaneer of the Year and, for the first time ever, we had a Buccaneers of the Playoffs series that ended with Devin White earning the top spot. OK, let’s get it going. But first...

Honorable Mentions

After being sidelined with a knee injury last week in New England, Giovani Bernard came through early in Sunday’s game with a 10-yard touchdown catch to give the Bucs a 7-3 first-quarter lead... Chris Godwin caught seven passes for 70 yards in the game... Tyler Johnson came up with some big catches on the day, bringing in three for 42 yards... The Buccaneer offensive line was exceptionally effective in the run game... Tristan Wirfs had the most pass-blocking snaps in the league in Week 5 without allowing a pressure (48)... Ryan Succop was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points and made his only field goal attempt of the afternoon, drilling one from 42 yards out...

Jamel Dean made a triumphant return to the field after missing last Sunday’s game, finishing the day with five tackles (all solo) and two passes defended, with one of those being his first interception of the year... Jason Pierre-Paul also returned from injury against the Dolphins, picking up three tackles (two solo) and a quarterback hit... Vita Vea did what Vita Vea does, stifling the Miami run game while putting solid pressure on the quarterback throughout the day, splitting a sack in the fourth quarter... Joe Tryon-Shoyinka continued to impress, getting to the quarterback on multiple occasions despite not registering a quarterback hit... Ndamukong Suh recovered a fumble in the first half, marking his fifth as a Buccaneer.

OK, let’s see who took home the points.

5. Shaquil Barrett (One point)

The story of Sunday’s game was largely the Tampa Bay offense, but the Buccaneer defense played its best game of the season as well. Shaquil Barrett was a driving force behind that, picking up four tackles (three solo), with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. The sack-fumble came in a key moment, too, as the Dolphins were driving late in the first half in hopes of cutting into the Bucs’ 14-point lead before halftime. After the drive reached Tampa Bay territory, Barrett got to Jacoby Brissett and knocked the ball loose for Ndamukong Suh to recover it, giving the ball back to the Bucs. And while the offense didn’t extend the team’s lead before halftime, the turnover was still significant as it meant the Dolphins’ touchdown to open the second half only cut the lead to 24-17—and that was the closest they got. And just for good measure, Barrett got to Brissett again later in the day, splitting a sack with Vita Vea in the fourth quarter. The Bucs’ top pass rusher hasn’t been the same explosive threat he was in 2019 or 2020 so far this year, but he’s still been solid. This week, he picks up his first point in the 2021 Bucs of the Week Standings.

4. Mike Evans (Two points)

It feels like a long time ago that Bucs fans were worried about Mike Evans’ usage in this offense, doesn’t it? Ever since a quiet Week 1, the seven-time 1,000-yard receiver has put up strong performance after strong performance. His latest was a six-catch, 113-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Dolphins on Sunday. He played something of a background role early on, notably coming up with a 26-yard catch on Tampa Bay’s first touchdown drive of the day, before taking off in the fourth quarter. He really helped the Buccaneer offense put the game away, first catching a 34-yard touchdown to make it a 38-17 lead before hauling in a 22-yarder to put the finishing touches on the 45-17 victory. It feels rather harsh for Evans to land fourth on this list and take home just the two points in the season table, but it felt like the top three guys on this list had a more consistent and wide-ranging impact on the game. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay’s No. 1 receiver finds himself in the No. 2 spot for the season after earning points for the third time in the last four games.

3. Leonard Fournette (Three points)

The Buccaneer run game felt like it was in a bad place early in the season, Ronald Jones II struggling to replicate his 2020 form and Leonard Fournette failing to play like “Playoff Lenny.” But in recent weeks, Fournette has been that guy, serving as a legitimate catalyst for Tampa Bay’s offense. He went for over 100 total yards against the Patriots last week and managed to do so again against the Dolphins on Sunday, rushing for 67 yards on 12 carries while catching four passes for 43 yards. He also ran for a touchdown to open the fourth quarter to get the Bucs’ lead to 31-17, allowing them to start pulling away with what turned to be a blowout win. Fournette was crucial to the flow of the game for the offense, picking up key first downs and providing an outlet in the passing game. His growth as a receiver has been increasingly evident week by week and it’s clear that he’s distanced himself from Jones as a priority in the team’s offense at this point in the season. A week after taking home a full five points in the Bucs of the Week Standings, he gets three more to take third place for the season.

2. Antonio Brown (Four points)

It’s almost as if Sunday was destined to be Antonio Brown’s day—and it certainly turned out to be. Brown entered the day needing one catch to become the fastest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. He got it out of the way early, and that was far from the biggest moment of the afternoon for him. With the game tied 10-10 in the second quarter, the Bucs faced a 3rd & 2 at their own 38-yard line. Not only did Brown get open for the first down—he caught a nice pass from Tom Brady and outran the Miami defense for a 62-yard touchdown that gave Tampa Bay a lead that it didn’t look back on. A short while later, he caught a four-yard touchdown from Brady to extend the Bucs’ advantage to 24-10 before halftime. But his impact wasn’t isolated to the first half, as he came up with another one of the game’s biggest catches, bringing in a 12-yard catch on 3rd & 10 to extend the offense’s drive just after Miami had gotten within a touchdown. After that catch, the Bucs marched on to a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:59 off the clock and restored their two-touchdown lead. In total, Brown caught seven passes for a team-high 124 yards and two scores. It’s quite a treat that the Bucs have a likely future Hall of Famer as their No. 3 receiver, and he looked every bit like his prime self on Sunday. With four points, he’s up into a fourth-place tie in the season standings.

1. Tom Brady (Five points)

The performances Tom Brady puts up week after week continue to defy Father Time. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even surprising anymore when the 44-year-old goes out there and dominates the game from start to finish. He did exactly that on Sunday against Miami, posting 411 yards and five touchdowns on 30-of-41 passing. It was a masterful afternoon from the seven-time Super Bowl champion, as he completed passes to nine different receivers and threw touchdowns to three different guys. He also broke his own franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception (previously set at 199 last year), getting up to 203 before being relieved late in the game by Blaine Gabbert. Brady very clearly wants no drama in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings, as he takes home the full five points for the fourth time this season. He now leads second-place Mike Evans by 11 points through just five games as he looks to repeat as Buccaneer of the Year in grand fashion. At this point, it feels like it would take something quite insane to stop him from holding on to the No. 1 spot from coast to coast this season.

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 5:

  1. Tom Brady — 20 points
  2. Mike Evans — 9 points
  3. Leonard Fournette — 8 points
  4. Rob Gronkowski/Chris Godwin/Antonio Brown — 6 points
  5. Mike Edwards/Joe Tryon-Shoyinka — 4 points
  6. Ryan Succop — 3 points
  7. Giovani Bernard/Antoine Winfield Jr. — 2 points
  8. Vita Vea/Carlton Davis/Tyler Johnson/William Gholston/Shaquil Barrett — 1 point