Coming out of their Week 9 bye, the Buccaneers hoped to replicate what they did out of last year’s bye week. Of course, after hitting the bye at 7-5 last season, they won eight straight to take home the Lombardi Trophy.
Entering Week 10 with a record of 6-2, Tampa Bay looked to be in good position to bounce back from its pre-bye loss against the Saints. On the road to face the 2-6 Washington Football Team, the Bucs certainly had a favorable matchup… or so everyone thought.
The defending Super Bowl champions came out extremely flat against Washington on Sunday afternoon, turning the ball over twice early to fall in a hole. The offense never found a rhythm and the defense didn’t put up enough of a fight, leading to a disappointing 29-19 loss to drop the team to 6-3 ahead of next week’s primetime matchup against the Giants.
Before we turn the page to Week 11, we begrudgingly have some Buccaneers of the Week points to award.
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...
Tom Brady wasn’t at his best on Sunday, but like he normally does, he brought the Bucs back late and gave them a chance to win. If not for the defense allowing a 19-play, 10-minute touchdown drive to end the fourth quarter, he would’ve had a chance to help the team steal a win when it didn’t really deserve one. He did throw two interceptions, but he finished 23-of-34 for 220 yards and two touchdowns… Chris Godwin posted seven catches on eight targets for 57 yards in the loss… The Buccaneer offensive line didn’t allow a sack in the game…
Anthony Nelson totaled four tackles (two solo), a sack and two quarterback hits… Ndamukong Suh and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka both tallied sacks in the game… Jordan Whitehead had a solid game, recording nine tackles (five solo), with a tackle for loss. He should’ve had a first-half interception, but he couldn’t come up with the ball and it turned into a completion for Washington.
5. Mike Evans (One point)
It wasn’t a banner day for Tampa Bay’s passing game, thanks in large part to Washington running a lot of two-high coverages. However, in the limited opportunities that Mike Evans got, he made the most of them. He was targeted three times on the day and caught two of them for 62 yards and a touchdown. Both receptions turned into points for the Bucs, with the first being a 22-yarder at the end of the first half that ended with Evans getting grabbed by the facemask. With that penalty, the offense got 15 more yards and one untimed down to end the half. With that untimed down, the Bucs kicked a field goal to get within 16-6 heading into the locker room. Later in the game, Evans struck for another big play, getting one-on-one coverage and blowing by his man for a 40-yard touchdown catch that got Tampa Bay within 23-19. That touchdown was the 71st of his career, tying him with Mike Alstott for the franchise record. And with another point in the Bucs of the Week Standings, he holds on to the No. 2 spot for the season.
4. Lavonte David (Two points)
The Buccaneer defense was a significant part of Sunday’s loss, especially given that it failed to give the offense a shot to win the game—or even tie it—late by giving up a touchdown drive that lasted 10 minutes and consisted of third-down conversion after third-down conversion. But the unit had some strong performances littered throughout it, and one of those belonged to Lavonte David. The veteran linebacker finished with 14 tackles—the most he’s had in a game since 2017–with five of them being solo tackles. He also forced a key fumble early in the fourth quarter, helping to set up the Tampa Bay offense’s three-play, 47-yard scoring drive that closed the deficit to four points. That forced fumble was the 25th of David’s career, which allowed him to surpass Derrick Brooks (24) and claim the franchise record for himself. Plus, the 25 forced fumbles since he entered the league in 2012 are the fourth-most by any player during that span. The legendary linebacker earns two points for his effort on Sunday, getting him on the board in the season standings.
3. Leonard Fournette (Three points)
On the same field that “Playoff Lenny” was born back in January, Leonard Fournette was a large part of the Buccaneer offense on Sunday. With Washington playing so much two-high defense, a lot of Tampa Bay’s offense consisted of check-downs to Fournette, which is why he led the team in targets (nine) and receptions (eight). He posted 45 receiving yards, plus he added 47 rushing yards on 11 carries. It was pretty quietly a big day for the running back, with 92 total yards on 19 touches, which was good for 4.8 yards per touch. It wasn’t the smoothest afternoon for the offense, but Fournette picked up four first downs, managing to keep the chains moving in the moments that the unit was being productive. And with Ronald Jones II inexplicably getting just one snap, the onus was on Fournette to be the go-to guy. He did well enough with what he was afforded, earning him three points to get him back up to No. 2 in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.
2. Antoine Winfield Jr. (Four points)
Since returning from his concussion, Antoine Winfield Jr. has been one of the most reliable players on the Buccaneer defense. That continued on Sunday against Washington, as he racked up 11 tackles (seven solo), with two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. One of those tackles for loss was a sight to be seen, as the second-year safety came flying in to stop Antonio Gibson for a loss of eight yards. That play helped push the Washington offense back and forced an eventual field goal try to keep the game at 6-0 early. Later on, it was Winfield who was there to recover a fumble forced by Lavonte David, and that was the turnover that helped keep the Bucs in the game. It gave the offense a short field, which resulted in a touchdown to get the game to 23-19. Overall, it’s typically not good to see your safety needing to make so many tackles, as that shows that the offense is reaching the second and third level of your defense a little too frequently. But Winfield didn’t have any glaring issues in coverage and made some big plays, earning him four big points in the season standings, jumping him up to seventh.
1. Devin White (Five points)
For a guy who was one of the biggest letdowns of the first half of the season, Devin White sure made a difference on Sunday. He still wasn’t without his faults, but White has typically been the kind of player whose low moments you can live with as long as he’s making some splash plays. Through the first eight games of the season, the third-year linebacker hadn’t made many big plays and was missing tackles and blowing coverages. His coverage wasn’t great against Washington, but the volume of tackles alone showed that he had his fingerprints all over the game. He finished with a career-high 18 tackles (13 solo). But the big plays were what really made an impact, as he picked up his first two sacks of the season and finished with a total of three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. White’s speed on blitzes has always been an asset for Todd Bowles, and it was on display in Week 10. Going forward, the Bucs would surely love to see this kind of production from a guy who is one of their defensive captains. And if he can clean up the other areas of his game while still making game-changing plays, we could see a revival of the Devin White who was so impressive throughout the team’s run to Super Bowl LV. It’s telling that these five Bucs of the Week points are his first of the season, but perhaps they’ll be a springboard toward more in the second half of the season.
2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 10:
- Tom Brady — 28 points
- Leonard Fournette — 16 points
- Mike Evans — 15 points
- Chris Godwin — 11 points
- Antonio Brown — 10 points
- Antoine Winfield Jr. — 7 points
- Rob Gronkowski — 6 points
- Shaquil Barrett/Devin White — 5 points
- Mike Edwards/Joe Tryon-Shoyinka/Vita Vea/Jason Pierre-Paul/Tyler Johnson — 4 points
- Ryan Succop — 3 points
- Giovani Bernard/Cyril Grayson Jr./Lavonte David — 2 points
- Carlton Davis/William Gholston/Offensive Line — 1 point