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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Saints

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday night’s 9-0 loss to New Orleans?

New Orleans Saints v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Sunday night was supposed to be a night of celebration for the Buccaneers, who could clinch the NFC South for the first time since 2007 with a win over the Saints in front of the home fans at Raymond James Stadium.

Instead, Tampa Bay looked absolutely hopeless on offense in what turned out to be a 9-0 shutout loss. The defense did everything it possibly could to keep the team in it, but injuries, weird decisions and poor execution piled up on the other side of the ball, meaning the Bucs will have to wait until after Christmas for another chance to win the division.

Before we move on to Christmas—and then next Sunday’s game in Charlotte against the Panthers—we have some Bucs of the Week points to award.

It was hard enough to find a top five out of Sunday’s contest, so let’s skip the honorable mentions this week and get right into the top five.

5. Chris Godwin (One point)

The Buccaneer offense didn’t get much going at any point on Sunday night, but its best moments came early on in the game and essentially ended the moment that Chris Godwin exited after a brutal hit that cut him down at the knees. Before leaving the game with what we now know is a season-ending ACL injury, Tampa Bay’s leading receiver caught six of his seven targets of 49 yards. With the pressure coming early and often on Tom Brady, Godwin was that reliable outlet in the quick screen and short passing game. He was well on his way to another game with double-digit receptions before his unfortunate injury. Early news on Monday sounded promising, so much so that he was reportedly going to be back for the playoffs. Instead, the MRI came back with bad news and the fifth-year pro will be out the rest of this season and into next. It’s unbelievably disappointing for Godwin, as he had gotten his season totals up to 98 catches, 1,103 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games.

4. Ronald Jones II (Two points)

The injury bug bit Tampa Bay’s offense in a significant way on Sunday night, requiring a number of guys to step up into bigger roles. At receiver, the Bucs didn’t get enough from the next guys up, but Ronald Jones II gave the team a spark in relief of the injured Leonard Fournette. With the Saints leading just 6-0 in the third quarter, Jones tried to get something going for the Buccaneer offense. Following his blocks, he started picked up a 12-yard gain before breaking free for a 30-yard run on the next play. Those two runs got the offense inside the New Orleans 40-yard line, but unfortunately the drive ended in a Tom Brady fumble. Jones’ absence on a key 3rd & 1 later in the game—with Ke’Shawn Vaughn getting a carry and going nowhere—remains a mystery, but he finished the night with 63 yards on eight carries and two catches for eight yards. After being an afterthought for much of the season, the former second-round pick was one of the lone bright spots for the offense on Sunday. With that, he gets his first two Bucs of the Week points for the season.

3. Jordan Whitehead (Three points)

Lost in the misery of a 9-0 loss was the fact that the Tampa Bay defense played extremely well. Granted, it was against a limited passer in Taysom Hill, but the unit still did enough to get the win. Jordan Whitehead was a key part of the effort, providing solid run support—as he usually does—and racking up eight tackles (five solo), with one going for a loss. He was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest-graded Buc of the game (78.8) and his solid performance was certainly much needed given the state of Tampa Bay’s safety group. Mike Edwards had to serve the final game of his three-game suspension on Sunday, while Antoine Winfield Jr. missed the game with an injury. So, it was up to Whitehead (who was returning from an injury of his own) and Andrew Adams (who played well and finished as PFF’s third-highest-graded Buc at 80.5), and the duo more than held up. Whitehead gets the three points here, getting on the board in the season standings.

2. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka (Four points)

The Tampa Bay pass rush didn’t get home a ton against New Orleans, but there was certainly a good deal of pressure coming from the front seven throughout the night. Getting in the backfield most frequently was rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who finished the game with four tackles (two solo), two tackles for loss and his fourth sack of the season. He was the team’s most effective pass rusher on the night, getting in the face of Taysom Hill constantly. He had at least two pressures that forced third-down incompletions from Hill and nearly got to the quarterback multiple other times. Throughout his rookie campaign, it has often felt like Tryon-Shoyinka is getting in the backfield just a fraction of a second too late, costing him a chance at higher sack numbers. That and some missed tackles have been regrettable, but the No. 32 overall pick in this year’s draft has largely been very promising in year one. He has continued to make a case to earn more playing time than Jason Pierre-Paul is getting, especially considering Pierre-Paul’s injury situation. At the very least, he has been getting on the field more as of late (he played 43% of the snaps on Sunday) and as a result, he’s finding more of a rhythm. He’s also finding four big Bucs of the Week points this week, getting him up to eighth in the season standings.

1. Lavonte David (Five points)

In a lot of ways, Sunday night felt like a vintage Lavonte David performance. He was flying all over the field and making plays, finishing as the team’s leading tackler with 11 (eight solo), with three tackles for loss and a sack. The longtime captain nearly added a turnover to the stat sheet as well, but the ball ended up rolling out of bounds after he knocked it loose from Tre’Quan Smith. As the Tampa Bay defense continued to get stops and give the offense chances to get a lead, it was often the veteran linebacker in the middle of the action. He had some big tackles early on, then late in the third quarter, he made a key stop on 2nd & 2 to set up a third down that eventually resulted in the defense getting off the field. It was somewhat fitting for David to have such an impressive performance, as Sunday marked his 149th game with the Bucs, moving him ahead of Shelton Quarles for the eighth-most in franchise history. He—and the defense—deserved better than what they got out of the game, but if we continue to see more games like this from David down the stretch and into the playoffs, it could be huge for the Buccaneer defense. With the full five points this week, he gets up to seven on the season, meaning a ninth-place tie in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 15:

  1. Tom Brady — 41 points
  2. Mike Evans — 24 points
  3. Leonard Fournette — 22 points
  4. Chris Godwin — 21 points
  5. Rob Gronkowski — 15 points
  6. Antonio Brown — 10 points
  7. Shaquil Barrett — 9 points
  8. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka — 8 points
  9. Antoine Winfield Jr./Devin White/Lavonte David — 7 points
  10. Mike Edwards— 6 points
  11. Vita Vea — 5 points
  12. Jason Pierre-Paul/Tyler Johnson/Offensive Line — 4 points
  13. Ryan Succop/Jordan Whitehead — 3 points
  14. Giovani Bernard/Cyril Grayson Jr./Ndamukong Suh/Ronald Jones II — 2 points
  15. Carlton Davis/William Gholston — 1 point