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Buccaneers of the Week: at Falcons

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 30-17 win over Atlanta?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Fresh off of a thrilling 38-31 win in Indianapolis in Week 12, the Buccaneers won their third straight game on Sunday afternoon, beating the Falcons 30-17 in Atlanta to finish off a season sweep and get to 9-3.

Tampa Bay started hot and held a 20-10 lead late in the first half before a pick six cut the advantage to three heading into the locker room. The defense got a key stop to start the second half and pitched a shutout the rest of the way while the offense helped the team pull away for a comfortable 13-point road victory.

The Bucs will now return to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday for a big Week 14 contest against one of the AFC’s top contenders, the Buffalo Bills. But before we turn the page to that potential Super Bowl preview, let’s give out our Bucs of the Week points from Sunday’s win over the Falcons!

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

Leonard Fournette was once again a dynamic presence for the Tampa Bay offense on Sunday, rushing for 44 yards on 13 carries while catching seven passes for 48 yards and a touchdown… Mike Evans just barely misses out on Bucs of the Week points this week, catching seven of his 10 targets for 99 yards… Cameron Brate only caught one pass, but it was a three-yard touchdown that tied him with Kevin House for the third-most receiving touchdowns in franchise history… Tampa Bay’s offensive line was once again a big plus for the team, allowing zero sacks and just one quarterback hit. Tristan Wirfs (78.4) and Ryan Jensen (76.8) were two of the Bucs’ five highest-graded players in the game according to Pro Football Focus, plus Donovan Smith continued his dominant season with another great day…

Carlton Davis returned to the lineup for the first time since October and had a solid day, racking up three passes defended… Antoine Winfield Jr. finished with 10 tackles (six solo), with one going for a loss. He also picked up a pass defended and a fumble recovery… William Gholston registered two quarterback hits… Cam Gill earned his second sack of the season in the first half… Pierre Desir stepped in for an injured Jamel Dean in the second half and made an immediate impact, forcing a fumble to stop the Falcons’ first drive of the third quarter. He finished out the game and players well in coverage.

5. Vita Vea (One point)

Week after week, Vita Vea’s presence on the interior of the Buccaneer defensive line makes a difference. He is an imposing figure against the run, but we’ve seen him make some strides as a pass rusher as of late. On Sunday in Atlanta, the big nose tackle got after Matt Ryan, sacking him twice and finishing with three quarterback hits in total. Vea was key in last week’s win against the Colts and he played perhaps an even bigger role in Atlanta. In addition to his pass-rushing performance, he added 1.5 run stuffs. He is up to three sacks and four run stuffs on the year, plus he now has five points and a top 10 spot in the Buccaneers of the Week Season Standings.

4. Ndamukong Suh (Three points)

The interior of the Buccaneer defensive line was the team’s only real source of pass rush on Sunday. Vita Vea was not the only difference-maker, as Ndamukong Suh made his mark on the game as well. He finished the afternoon with two sacks, both of which came in big moments for the Bucs. His first of the day came on the Falcons’ second drive and forced the game’s first punt, while his second came at a pivotal moment in the second half. Trailing by just three, Atlanta was driving down the field before facing a 3rd & 7 at the Tampa Bay 40-yard line. Suh got to Ryan on that play and dropped him for a loss of eight, pushing the Falcons out of field goal range. On the next possession, the Bucs scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 10 and never looked back. For his game-changing sacks, Suh earns his first two Bucs of the Week points of the season.

3. Rob Gronkowski (Three points)

By watching him play week in and week out, it’s hard to believe that Rob Gronkowski was retired two years ago at this time. And it may be even harder to imagine where the Bucs might be without him, as he has proven to be one of the most impactful members of their offense in the last two years. They sorely missed him while he was sidelined with his injury, then they got spectacular performances from him in the two weeks leading up to Sunday. He continued his hot streak against the Falcons, catching four passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. The first of his scores was a 27-yarder in the second quarter to put Tampa Bay up 20-10, and it came on a play where he was schemed open. There wasn’t a defender around him and he strolled into the end zone with ease. His second touchdown catch came from 11 yards out and extended the team’s lead to 27-17 late in the third quarter, and it was a much tougher catch than the first one. Both plays illustrated the mismatch that the future Hall of Fame tight end presents, especially for the Atlanta defense. In two games against the Falcons this season, Gronkowski caught four touchdowns. And for the third straight week, he earns three Bucs of the Week points, getting him to 15 points and a top-five spot in the season standings.

2. Chris Godwin (Four points)

As well-rounded as Tampa Bay’s passing attack was on Sunday, there wasn’t a receiver more integral to the team’s success than Chris Godwin was. The fifth-year pro worked his way into the Buccaneer record books with his performance in Atlanta, setting a new mark for receptions in a single game with 15. His 15 catches went for 143 yards, and seven of them resulted in first downs. Godwin’s importance in the short-to-intermediate passing game can’t be overstated, but he is also good for the big play every once in a while as evidenced by catches of 25 and 36 yards on Sunday. The Penn State product is well within range for his second career 1,000-yard receiving season, as he is up to 949 yards with five games to play. Not to mention, his 82 receptions have him with the fifth-most in the league. It’s been quite the year for Godwin, who is playing on the franchise tag. It was already clear—but it’s clearer by now—that the Bucs absolutely have to find a way to pay the man. He is a major factor for Tampa Bay’s offense and has remained Mr. Reliable week in and week out for whoever has been under center in his career. For the good of the present and the future, Godwin has to stay a Buc. For now, he gets four points to move into sole possession of the No. 4 spot in the Bucs of the Week Season Standings.

1. Tom Brady (Five points)

Tom Brady finished atop the 2020 Buccaneers of the Week Standings by seven points. There are still five weeks to play, but he leads the 2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings by 17 points. His latest five points come from Sunday’s performance in which he completed 38 of his 51 pass attempts for 368 yards and four touchdowns. His one blemish was a pick six late in the second quarter that allowed the Falcons to get back in the game, but Bruce Arians said after the game that it was both poor execution and a poor call by offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. It’s easier to forgive Brady (and Leftwich) given what unfolded during the rest of the afternoon. The day started with an absolute bang, as the 44-year-old signal-caller went 11-of-13 for 75 yards and a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. He was on fire all day, completing 38 passes spread out among nine different pass-catchers. That’s what the G.O.A.T. does, as he hit Chris Godwin (15 times), Mike Evans (seven), Leonard Fournette (seven), Rob Gronkowski (four), Giovani Bernard (once), Tyler Johnson (once), Breshad Perriman (once), Cameron Brate (once) and Ronald Jones II (once). Everyone got in on the action to help Brady improve to 10-0 all-time against the Atlanta Falcons. The separation he has atop the Bucs of the Week Season Standings is making for a drama-less finish to the year, but perhaps it should add another layer to his case for NFL MVP?

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 13:

  1. Tom Brady — 38 points
  2. Leonard Fournette — 21 points
  3. Mike Evans — 19 points
  4. Chris Godwin - 16 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 — 4 points
  12. Ryan Succop — 3 points
  13. Giovani Bernard/Cyril Grayson Jr./Lavonte David/Offensive Line/Ndamukong Suh — 2 points
  14. Carlton Davis/William Gholston — 1 point