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Buccaneers of the Week: at Eagles

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Thursday night’s 28-22 win over Philadelphia?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Just over 96 hours after a 45-17 win over the Dolphins in Tampa, the Buccaneers were back on the field Thursday night for a primetime matchup against the Eagles in Philadelphia. Being the road team on a short week is never an easy task, but Tampa Bay jumped out to a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter and held on late for a 28-22 win, getting to 5-1 on the season.

The Buccaneer defense was the story for much of the game, as it seemingly had an answer at almost every turn for Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia offense. The offense, of course, did its thing as well. A 21-point first half, an insurance touchdown in the third quarter and some key conversions late were enough to extend the Bucs’ winning streak to three games ahead of a 10-day break before their next game.

Before we move on to the Chicago Bears, who will be in town on Oct. 24, let’s award some Buccaneers of the Week points!

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

O.J. Howard had his best game of the season—and perhaps his most productive outing since 2019. His six catches were the most he’s had in a single game since December 2019 against Jacksonville, and he put up 49 yards and his first touchdown of the year to go along with them... Chris Godwin wasn’t flashy on Thursday night, but he was steady and reliable as always. He caught all five of his targets for 43 yards... The offensive line was strong once again for the Bucs, allowing zero sacks and opening up some massive running lanes throughout the night...

Devin White tallied five tackles (four solo), a pass defended and a quarterback hit... Jason Pierre-Paul picked up half a sack and a full tackle for loss in the game... Ndamukong Suh totaled two quarterback hits of his own in addition to a tackle for loss... Jamel Dean may have been called for a costly pass interference penalty early in the game, but he finished the night with four passes defended and his second interception in as many games.

OK, on to the top five.

5. Shaquil Barrett (One point)

Shaquil Barrett was all over the field on Thursday night, and his stat line probably doesn’t even properly display the impact he had on the game. He was getting after Jalen Hurts all night, forcing him out of the pocket and into off-balance throws that often fell incomplete. He was inches away from sacks on multiple occasions, and on another night with a less mobile quarterback, he may have finished with three or four. As it was, though, his line in the box score was still plenty solid. He finished with five tackles (four solo), a half sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit. After somewhat of a slow start to the 2021 season, Barrett has looked more like himself in the last few weeks, and he now stands at four sacks after totaling three in the last three games. Especially with the injuries in Tampa Bay’s secondary, it’s hard to quantify how important the team’s top pass rusher is to the defense right now. With another point this week, he pulls himself into an eighth-place tie in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

4. Tom Brady (Two points)

For much of the 2021 season, Tom Brady has dominated opposing defenses, putting up ridiculous numbers that have him in the midst of the NFL MVP conversation. But on Thursday night, Brady was impressive in a different way. His numbers were still good, but he wasn’t throwing the ball all over the field like he has in past weeks. He made his throws when he needed to and helped the Bucs maintain possession of the ball with timely third-down conversions. And with the way the team’s running game was going, the 44-year-old really didn’t need to take over the game himself. That’s not to say he didn’t put up a performance worthy of some more Bucs of the Week points, though. He was especially sharp in the first half before finishing the night with 297 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception) on 34-of-42 passing. Not to mention, his third-down quarterback sneak late in the fourth quarter put the game away for Tampa Bay and helped push the team to its fifth 5-1 start in franchise history. He may not be taking home the full five points this week, but two more keeps him comfortably atop the season standings through six games.

3. Vita Vea (Three points)

Week after week, Vita Vea makes at least one play that leaves everyone marveling at how massive and powerful he is. We got several “how are you supposed to block that guy?” plays from the big nose tackle this week. When he wasn’t dancing on the sidelines or struggling to take his jersey off after the game, he was making life difficult for Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders, often fighting through double teams to do so. Totaling three tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits, Vea had what was perhaps his best game of the season so far. What he does on the interior of Tampa Bay’s defensive line in eating up multiple blockers is integral to the team’s pass rush and run defense. It often doesn’t lead to eye-popping stat lines for the 2018 first-round pick, but on Thursday night, it did. Dominating the trenches is especially key when your secondary is as banged up as it is, and with Vea manning the middle, the Bucs are in good shape. Three points in the standings this week brings him into a tie for sixth in the season standings and you can bet that we’ll only see more and more impressive performances from him as the year goes on.

2. Antonio Brown (Four points)

For the second straight week, Antonio Brown made the biggest impact of any Buccaneer receiver. He continued to be one of Tom Brady’s go-to guys, leading the team in targets by a pretty wide margin with 13 (the next closest was O.J. Howard, who finished with seven). Brown caught nine of those targets for 93 yards and a touchdown, proving to be a difficult man for Philadelphia’s defense to stop. He got wide open for a 23-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to give Tampa Bay a 14-7 lead that it never relinquished. He was consistently involved in the game, but what was arguably his biggest catch of the night came late in the fourth quarter. After the Eagles had closed the gap to 28-22, the Bucs needed to kill some clock to escape with the victory. On 3rd & 7 with just under three and a half minutes to go, Brown was there to make a great catch on a tight throw for 27 yards and a first down. A short while later, Tampa Bay was able to drain the clock with some kneel-downs. Without that third-down completion from Brady to Brown, Philadelphia very possibly gets the ball back with a chance to win the game. Instead, the Bucs got their third straight win and Brown was a big reason why. With four points this week, he takes the No. 3 spot in the season standings.

1. Leonard Fournette (Five points)

The revival of Leonard Fournette’s career continued in Week 6 with the birth of “Thursday Night Lenny.” Once again, Fournette was the key to Tampa Bay’s offensive success as he put up his biggest game of the season, totaling 81 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries as well as six catches (on six targets) for 46 yards. What the former No. 4 overall pick did for the flow of the game was extremely important as well, as his ability to pick up hard-fought yards and keep the chains moving allowed the Bucs to dominate in time of possession, holding the ball for 39:56 to the Eagles’ 20:04. Being able to control the clock was a big help for the defense, as that unit could stay fresh despite being depleted by injuries. Plus, with Tom Brady nursing a thumb injury, the fact that the Bucs were able to lean a little more on the run game was huge. Since his heart-to-heart with Bruce Arians late last season, Fournette has been a completely different player and one that has been influential in the success of Tampa Bay’s offense. When he’s going the way he was going on Thursday night, the Buccaneer offense has a new level of balance that makes it even more dangerous than it already is. With five full points for the second time in the last three weeks, “Thursday Night Lenny” is up to No. 2 in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 6:

  1. Tom Brady — 22 points
  2. Leonard Fournette — 13 points
  3. Antonio Brown — 10 points
  4. Mike Evans — 9 points
  5. Rob Gronkowski/Chris Godwin — 6 points
  6. Mike Edwards/Joe Tryon-Shoyinka/Vita Vea — 4 points
  7. Ryan Succop — 3 points
  8. Giovani Bernard/Antoine Winfield Jr./Shaquil Barrett — 2 points
  9. Carlton Davis/Tyler Johnson/William Gholston — 1 point