It was the win in Atlanta in 2020 that sparked the Bucs’ run through the rest of the regular season all the way to hoisting a Lombardi Trophy. This time around, it didn’t take a miraculous comeback. In fact, the Buccaneers never trailed in the game. Instead, it was another solid defensive performance while Tom Brady put on a show - with a little help from a new Buccaneers record holder.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Keep Chris Godwin, at all costs. Okay, maybe not all costs. I mean, you don’t want to trade away Mike Evans in order to keep Godwin, but the Buccaneers have to find a way to ensure Godwin is in pewter and red for 2022 and far beyond. Godwin set a franchise record for receptions in a game as he hauled in fifteen catches for 143 yards. He also did it on just seventeen targets, the fewest targets of any player in NFL history to have fifteen or more catches. Simply unbelievable. Godwin is an elite receiver in the NFL and if the Bucs want to continue their string of success both during and beyond the Tom Brady years, Godwin is a player you need to have on your roster.
2.) Unbeaten Brady. Tom Brady remains perfect against the Atlanta Falcons, now sitting at 10-0 against the Falcons, including the postseason, and Atlanta remains one of five teams Brady has never lost against. He finished with 368 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception on 51 pass attempts. The offense was dead set on passing early and often as they continue to get in a bit of a rhythm down the stretch.
3.) Good, not great. The Buccaneers played a really good game, but it was far from great. The second half was a bit of a mess as they only scored twice and the offense found themselves stalling on a few drives. Twice the Bucs had five plays or less and had to punt the ball away, keeping the Falcons in it from a score standpoint. Now, the defense had some good stops as the Falcons failed to score any points offensively after the field goal on their third drive. The Falcons, on that possession, had first and goal from the 1-yard line but had to settle for a field goal attempt. This was another game where the Bucs could and should have put at least 40 points on the board, but there were too many missed opportunities. Things like that need to get cleaned up against their upcoming opponents like the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints.
4.) Tough back-to-back plays to end the game. The Buccaneers lost Jamel Dean to a head injury in the third quarter which was not something anyone wanted to see. Then, on back-to-back plays during Atlanta’s final drive with under a minute left Tampa Bay lost Sean Murphy-Bunting and William Gholston. Head coach Bruce Arians had no update on either player after the game, so it’s something to monitor heading into next week. For what it’s worth, it appeared as though Gholston’s injury was more severe than Murphy-Buntings, but you certainly hope it’s not something that will keep either player out. With the loss of Jordan Whitehead and suspension of Mike Edwards, it was nice to see Dean, Murphy-Bunting, and Carlton Davis all out there together for the first time since week one. Going to be really disappointing if this is the only week that happens.
5.) No more talk about opportunities for RoJo. Look, I like Ronald Jones. I was really excited for him last season as he looked to be the feature back the Bucs needed. I was excited for him heading into the season. He’s looked good in his limited opportunity the last few weeks in wins against the Colts and Giants. Against the Falcons, however, RoJo had one carry for two yards. In fact, of the Bucs’ first four possessions, the only time they didn’t score was when RoJo was on the field as the running back. I’m not saying that was the cause, but it’s more than coincidental that Fournette was the feature back on three of the first four drives and all of them ended with touchdowns. Fournette has proven himself a more reliable runner, a more effective pass catcher, and a bigger playmaker than RoJo in 2021. Both of these players are free agents after the season and if the Buccaneers were smart, they would do whatever they could to keep Fournette while RoJo looks for more opportunity on another team.
6.) So what (needs to) had happened, was... So here’s the scenario; with a win against the Bills on Sunday, as well as a Saints loss to the Jets, and a Falcons win over Carolina. It’s a big ask for the Jets to beat the Saints, but the Saints have been in a tailspin since their win over the Buccaneers on Halloween, having lost five straight games. Taysom “Diet Tebow” Hill looked bad on Thursday, throwing four interceptions. Alvin Kamara might return, but at this stage it isn’t out of the question that the Jets come away with an upset victory. It’s more likely the Bucs clinch the NFC South with a win over the Saints in week fifteen, but the door is open for it to happen next week.
Six Numbers To Consider
5 - Sacks by the Bucs defense, the most sacks allowed by Atlanta all season
15 - Receptions by Chris Godwin, a franchise record
4 - Brady’s place on Buccaneers’ all-time passing touchdowns leaderboard (74) and is just seven touchdowns from second place (Josh Freeman - 80)
15 - Completions by Brady in the first quarter, most by a quarterback in the first quarter of a game since Peyton Manning in 2009.
3 - Straight wins by the Bucs in Atlanta
90 - Brady to Gronkowski touchdowns, second-most in NFL history by a duo (Manning/Harrison - 112)
Six Best Tweets
Locked-In, Lenny. Great shot from the Brady to Fournette touchdown pass, by @Photog_JohnB.#TBvsATL #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/6FritfDy16— Locked On Bucs (@LockedOnBucs) December 5, 2021
ATL Lenny— Evan Closky (@ECloskyWTSP) December 5, 2021
I swear it's over for y'all as soon as the Bucs' defense figures out how to get off the field on third down.— Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV) December 5, 2021
Swimming all the way back to Tampa with the W pic.twitter.com/NXyxZ2farR— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 5, 2021
& yes, i’m good!!— Sean Murphy-Bunting (@seanbunting_) December 5, 2021
Vita Vea needs more conversation about his greatness.. Big Uce is a GAME WRECKER— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) December 5, 2021
Six Most Important Players This Week
6.) Jamel Dean - They need him back. If Dean misses time against the Buffalo Bills, that means yet another week the Bucs will be without their top three corners while they face a high powered offense. With weapons like Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Dawson Knox, the Bucs need all the help they can get in the secondary.
5.) Leonard Fournette - Time of possession is the name of the game. The Bucs need long, sustained drives that end in points and the key to that is a successful running game. For the Buccaneers, that means a heavy dose of Fournette. He has to be the central focus of the offensive game plan.
4.) Tom Brady - This seems kind of obvious, but there’s a reason for it. Brady has now turned the ball over five games in a row and in six of the last seven. The Buffalo Bills are sitting with a +9 turnover differential and are second in the NFL with 25 takeaways. Protecting the ball is more important in this game than its been in any game this season. Giving the Bills more offensive opportunities is a recipe for disaster and protecting the ball starts with number 12.
3.) Devin White - Josh Allen loves to run the ball and he’s really, really good at it. Devin White needs to stay disciplined and in position to minimize any and all rushing opportunities Allen has. If the Bucs can stop contain Allen in the run game, it will open up their ability to hit him behind the line of scrimmage with their pass rush. However, if Allen has lanes open he will make the Bucs pay time and time again.
2.) Vita Vea - Vea is so good at blowing up the interior of the opposing offensive line that he will be called upon to do it over and over again. His ability to crash the pocket is an Ace in the pocket of Todd Bowles and maximizing that will lead to hurried passes and takeaway chances. They have to make Allen uncomfortable early in this game so that Allen’s internal clock runs a little quick, leading to a lack of production.
1.) Shaquil Barrett/Jason Pierre-Paul/Joe Tryon-Shoyinka - The edge rush must get home in this one. The only quarterback in the NFL sacked less than Josh Allen is Tom Brady. If the corners are left on an island while Allen scrambles around and buys time, the Bucs will be in for a long day. It’s on Barrett, JPP, and Tryon-Shoyinka have to utilize that speed and elusiveness they all possess to get the Bills’ signal caller on his back and kill drives.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Green Bay Packers - On a bye, but still leading the charge
2.) Arizona Cardinals - Dominant win, Kyler and Nuke are back
3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Back-to-back big time road wins
4.) New England Patriots - I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and show they aren’t for real and it just isn’t happening
5.) Buffalo Bills - A chance to knock the Pats down a peg tonight
6.) Dallas Cowboys - Amari is back, Lamb is coming back, and Pollard is an absolute weapon