For the first 30 minutes of Sunday’s Buccaneers-Bills showdown, life felt really good after Tampa built an impressive 24-3 lead.
The following 30 minutes brought a great deal of anguish, as we had to watch them blow said lead in excruciatingly gradual fashion — culminating in the Bills tying the game on a chip shot field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Then overtime just got silly.
An exhausted defense, which saw them on the field for more than 20 minutes of game time in the second half, somehow forced a 3 and out on the opening drive. The following possession saw Tampa benefit from a dubious pass interference penalty, and then Breshad Perriman — of all people — played the hero with a 58-yard walkoff TD to give the Bucs their first OT victory in three years.
As up and down as Tampa’s 10th win was, it featured plenty of strong performances across the board. We’ll run down a few of them...
Offensive Top Performer: WR Mike Evans
“Top performer” usually entails more than just one play, even it’s the most important one, so Perriman merely gets a shoutout for his lone catch of the evening. But is the biggest shoutout!
Instead, we will recognize great player and even better person, Mike Evans, for producing in some key moments throughout the game. Evans went off for 6 catches, 91 yards and a highlight-reel, fingertip TD.
To recap: @MikeEvans13_ is really good at football.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 12, 2021
: #BUFvsTB on CBS
: 1 RT = 1 #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/DtPJN8jSQq
He also drew the aforementioned DPI in overtime that put the Bucs in favorable position to win. No. 13 is closing in on his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season (currently at 885) and is tied for the NFL lead in TD receptions with 11.
Chris Godwin gets more recognition for another double-digit catch performance one week after setting the team record for receptions in a single game. After his 105-yard, 10-catch outing, he now has 25 receptions over the last 8 quarters.
Fournette played a huge role too by logging 113 rushing yards on 19 carries, with a big chunk coming on his 47-yard house call. He chipped in an additional 19 yards on 4 catches as he continues to be involved in all facets of the offense.
Of course, Brady showed up when it mattered most despite some bad misses throughout the second half. Finishing 31 of 46 for 363 yards and 3 total scores without a turnover will only strengthen his MVP case.
Defensive Top Performer: LB Devin White
We all need to see more games like this from White down the stretch. With 10 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks, White was a consistent presence throughout the game. He also made some sure-handed open-field stops when missed tackles in general have been a nagging issue during the last month.
Shaq Barrett harassed Josh Allen throughout the first half, notching 1.5 sacks, before the Bills started sliding more protection his way during the second half to protect overwhelmed rookie Spencer Brown. Sitting at 9 sacks for the season, Shaq’s chances of another double-digit sack season are looking very good.
Antoine Winfield, Jr. darted all around the field and made some pivotal tackles, finishing with 9 total. Without Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards, the team really needed him to step up and he did just that. Winfield is having a Pro Bowl season, even if the perpetually flawed fan voting system fails to recognize that.
Special Teams Top Performer: K Ryan Succop
Succop produced the team’s only points of the second half, and the Bucs would’ve lost without that cushion. Going a perfect 5 for 5 on kicks will keep getting Succop recognition here until somebody does literally anything else.
Unfortunately, Pinion continues to be a mediocre punter and Jaelon Darden generally continues to struggle as the primary returner.
That said, Pat O’Connor made an excellent stop of Matt Breida during the rarely seen fake punt attempt. If Tampa scored on the ensuing drive, he probably would’ve gotten top honors here but alas.