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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Bills

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 33-27 overtime win over Buffalo?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Facing the Bills on Sunday afternoon in what was sure to be their biggest remaining test of the regular season, the Buccaneers walked away victorious, with a walkoff touchdown in overtime giving them a 33-27 win to improve their record to 10-3 on the year. The victory was Tampa Bay’s fourth straight—and ninth straight at home dating back to last December.

Sunday very well could have been a disastrous day for the Bucs as they blew a 24-3 halftime lead before heading to overtime. Buffalo winning the toss and having a chance to walk away with a win before Tom Brady could even touch the ball again made things look bleak, but the Tampa Bay defense got a stop and the offense responded by walking off with an electric 58-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Breshad Perriman.

The Bucs will now have a chance to clinch the NFC South next Sunday night when they host the Saints, but before we get there, we have some Bucs of the Week points to give out!

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

There’s no better way to start off the honorable mentions this week than by shouting out the hero of overtime. Breshad Perriman only had one catch on the night, but it was a big one and the Bucs don’t win without it. His 58-yard game-winning touchdown catch sent Raymond James Stadium into celebration as the Bucs moved to 10-3… Rob Gronkowski was once again a major factor for the Tampa Bay offense, catching five of his nine targets for 62 yards. He had a big 14-yard catch on 2nd & 17 just before Perriman’s game-winner one play later. Not to mention, he was a menace as a blocker in the run game…

Devin White’s game was the full-on Devin White experience. He had some rough moments, but he was still impactful, racking up 10 tackles (seven solo) and 1.5 sacks. He was a threat on the blitz, harassing Josh Allen throughout the night… Shaquil Barrett just barely misses out on the top five after totaling 1.5 sacks and five (!!!) quarterback hits. He also made life tough for Allen, especially in the first half… Antoine Winfield Jr. was impressive in coverage as usual, but what he did in run support was just as important to the defense’s effort… Andrew Adams was effective as a blitz threat at different points in the game, finishing with two passes defended and a key pressure that led to a sack… Richard Sherman intercepted a pass in his first game after being activated from injured reserve… Pat O’Connor and Grant Stuard both stood out on special teams for Tampa Bay.

OK, now let’s get on to the top five.

5. Leonard Fournette (One point)

The run that Leonard Fournette has been on since last year’s playoffs has been a sight to behold, and his latest impressive performance came against one of the toughest defenses in the league. Fournette sparked Tampa Bay’s 24-point first half with a 47-yard touchdown run in the first quarter before finishing the game with 113 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries while catching four passes for an additional 19 yards. The fifth-year running back later had a big 21-yard run, but what he really did well throughout the game was fight for tough yards. The toughest yard he got came in overtime, with the Bucs facing a crucial 3rd & Inches inside their own 20. Fournette pushed forward and got just enough, extending the drive that ended with the game-winning touchdown. Some more effective running in the second half might’ve helped the offense put the game away properly, but it was still a strong day for “Every Sunday Lenny” nonetheless. He earns a point this week, but slips into third in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings thanks to the way this week’s top five unfolded.

4. Offensive Line (Two points)

It’s beyond time for the Buccaneer offensive line to really get its credit. The fact that all five starters have a genuine case to make the Pro Bowl says a ton about the incredible play the unit has put on display this year, and that continued on Sunday against the Bills. There’s so much cohesiveness for the group as a whole, and it did a solid job of keeping the quarterback clean for the most part. But where the big men really made their impact was in the run game. There were impressive blocks left and right, notably from Donovan Smith (multiple times, but especially on Leonard Fournette’s 47-yard touchdown run) and Ali Marpet (on another Fournette run). Tristan Wirfs had some eye-popping pass block reps and both Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa did their thing as well. Individually, the offensive line had the top two highest-graded players on the roster, according to Pro Football Focus. Wirfs (87.2) was the top-graded Buc, while Marpet (74.1) was No. 2. The offensive line gets is first multi-point game of the season and brings its point total up to four, pulling into a tie for 11th in the season standings.

3. Tom Brady (Three points)

The 2020 Buccaneer of the Year—and the soon-to-be 2021 Buccaneer of the Year—was his typical self for much of Sunday’s game against the Bills. He was on fire in the first half, with some big-time throws—including a 13-yard touchdown to Mike Evans—but also some drive-extending scrambling. Yes, Tom Brady extended drives with his legs like crazy at times in the first half. On Tampa Bay’s second scoring drive, Brady snuck forward for two yards on a 3rd & 1 before taking off for a 12-yard run and then converting a 3rd & 2 with a three-yard run. Overall, the 44-year-old ran for 16 yards and a touchdown to go with his 363 yards and two touchdowns on 31-of-46 passing. He missed some throws in the second half, but when given a chance to win the game in overtime, he did just that. His first read may have been Evans, but he said he saw Breshad Perriman out of the corner of his eye before hitting him for what turned out to be the game-winning 58-yard touchdown. It was the 700th passing touchdown of Brady’s career and it improved his career record against Buffalo to 33-3. Not to mention, it added three points to his total in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

2. Chris Godwin (Four points)

After a 15-catch performance in Week 13, Chris Godwin came out and led the way again for Tampa Bay’s passing attack. The always-reliable receiver caught 10 of his 15 targets for 105 yards, with four of his catches going for first downs. There was the typical short-to-intermediate success for the Penn State product, plus there were some big plays, with receptions of 20 and 23 yards. There was a lot to love about what Godwin had to offer in the passing game, but what shouldn’t get overlooked is the contributions he had as a blocker. The man is a top-five—if not top-three—blocking receiver in the league for a reason, and he certainly showed that on Sunday. He made a key block on Leonard Fournette’s long touchdown run before making another impressive block on Micah Hyde to clear the way for another nice gain on a Fournette reception. Every week, Godwin gives the Bucs’ front office even more reasons to pay him whatever he wants this offseason. He has been one of the NFL’s best this year, and he went over 1,000 yards on Sunday for the second time in his career. That made him the sixth player in Buccaneer history with multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and he’s up to 92 receptions on the year—which is good for second in the league. And another four points this week gives him 20 on the year, putting him within range for that No. 2 spot as the season winds down.

1. Mike Evans (Five points)

It’s not as if Chris Godwin has outshined Mike Evans this season—it’s more that he’s hd the advantage of target and catch volume. Well, on Sunday, Evans reminded everyone of just how good he is, making a monstrous impact on the Tampa Bay win. First, it was drawing a defensive holding call just ahead of Leonard Fournette’s long touchdown run. Then, it was a dazzling 13-yard touchdown catch that saw him stretch out and pull the ball in with his fingertips to give the Bucs a 14-0 lead. There was also a clutch 20-yard catch near the sideline on a 3rd & 2, and that reception led to another touchdown. Receptions of 24 and 18 yards—the first on 2nd & 8 and the second on 3rd & 6—led to a fourth-quarter field goal that gave the Bucs a 27-10 lead at the time. And, of course, he wasn’t done. He drew a defensive pass interference penalty—something he’s so good at doing—on the game-winning drive in overtime a few plays before the walkoff touchdown. Overall, Evans caught all six of his targets for 91 yards and a phenomenal touchdown. He’s up to 63 catches, 885 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year. An eighth straight 1,000-yard season is well within reach with four games to go, as is a claim to the No. 2 spot in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings, as he passed Fournette to take it this week.

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 14:

  1. Tom Brady — 41 points
  2. Mike Evans — 24 points
  3. Leonard Fournette — 22 points
  4. Chris Godwin — 20 points
  5. Rob Gronkowski — 15 points
  6. Antonio Brown — 10 points
  7. Shaquil Barrett — 9 points
  8. Antoine Winfield Jr./Devin White — 7 points
  9. Mike Edwards— 6 points
  10. Vita Vea — 5 points
  11. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka/Jason Pierre-Paul/Tyler Johnson/Offensive Line — 4 points
  12. Ryan Succop — 3 points
  13. Giovani Bernard/Cyril Grayson Jr./Lavonte David/Ndamukong Suh — 2 points
  14. Carlton Davis/William Gholston — 1 point