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Bucs Nation Reader Awards: Defensive Play of the Year

Takeaways galore as we set up the table for Buccaneers fans to pick their favorite defensive play of the year

Divisional Round - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Continuing our series of postseason awards for the 2020-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we’re on to Defensive Play of the Year!

We pick the candidates, you pick the winners. If you missed either of our previous two award posts, check out the Newcomer of the Year and Offensive Play of the Year to drop your votes and your takes.

So let’s get to it, and unveil our five nominees for the 2020-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Play of the Year!


Shaquil Barrett spent his first five seasons with the Denver Broncos before heading to the Buccaneers in free-agency before the 2019 season. When he did, he told James Yarcho and I he left Denver because he wanted to be on the field at the most important times in the game, and he knew he wasn’t going to get a chance to do so there.

He certainly has gotten his opportunities with the Bucs, and he made well on each of them. Including his return to Denver in Week 3 of the 2020 NFL Season.

Two sacks and one safety later, Barrett and his teammates left Colorado with a 28-10 win in hand, with the former back-up knowing full well there was some regret from the team that watched him walk away.


Jamel Dean’s first interception of the season was Aaron Rodgers’ first as well. In fact, it was the first turnover by the Green Bay Packers’ offense altogether. The fact it came in Week 6 makes it all the more impressive.

Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter the Buccaneers needed a spark and they needed it soon. Dean gave it to them by breaking beautifully on an intended out route to Davante Adams and promptly turned on the jets for a pick-six, and the comeback was on.

The comeback turned into a route, and the Bucs followed up a disappointing Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears with a dominant win the next week. Fast forward to the NFC Championship Game and a lot of the ‘anomalies’ from Week 6 reappeared as Tampa Bay ensured each squad would be home for Super Bowl weekend.


It was the back-and-forth game Buccaneers fans expected and Saints fans never saw coming. No lead got bigger than six points until less than five minutes left in the game and Tampa Bay came away victorious.

With just over seven minutes left in the game and a three-point lead for the Buccaneers, Drew Brees was looking to lead his offense back down the field for yet another lead change.

Instead, on 2nd and 8 he got every bit of No. 45 in white as Devin White intercepted a pass intended for Alvin Kamara and returned it deep into Saints territory.

Not only did White get the takeaway, but he prevented Kamara from catching a pass which would have gotten New Orleans into Buccaneers territory at a minimum, and possibly could have gone for a big touchdown play.

Just a few minutes later Bucs quarterback Tom Brady pushed the ball over the goal line from the one, and gave his team a ten point lead they would march our of New Orleans with.


This one is a bit more on the emotional side, but it’s still significant. I couldn’t find a standalone clip of this play, so attached is the complete YouTube highlight video from the NFC Championship Game between the Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers.

Vita Vea was a surprise activation ahead of the game, and not only did he play, he played well. On his first snap of the game, the Buccaneers defensive front got solid pressure and collapsed the pocket forcing Aaron Rodgers to scramble to his right.

When he did so, Shaquil Barrett shed his blocker and caught up with the quarterback, bringing him down for a big sack on third down and giving the ball back to his offense.

It was the first of three sacks on the day for Barrett and five total for the Bucs defense. It was also the prequel to what we all witnessed in Tampa, Florida just two weeks later. The return of Vita Vea certainly helped spark the defense, and reinvigorated some of the creativity we saw early in the season, from Todd Bowles.


Perhaps this one doesn’t meet the criteria. But my bosses said I can do it, so I’m doing it. The final nomination is the entire defensive performance for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.

Like the game’s MVP decision, it’s hard to pinpoint just one defender who had a bigger impact than another, so we’re going with the whole stinking unit. We don’t have the limitations the NFL does on these awards, so why not take advantage of it?

Three sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble against arguably the most talented quarterback in the NFL today, and this unit kept the Chiefs’ number one offense completely out of the end zone.

A masterful performance. One worth breaking the rules for.

Playoff heavy on this one, but when we think of defensive plays that stand out among the rest, it’s hard not to think about January and February before all else.

Cast your votes, and come on back as we continue our award categories throughout the week.


Which play was the 2020-21 Defensive Play of the Year?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Shaq Barrett vs Denver
    (2 votes)
  • 6%
    Jamel Dean’s Pick Six
    (19 votes)
  • 16%
    Devin White’s Interception
    (48 votes)
  • 8%
    Vita Vea’s Return
    (24 votes)
  • 67%
    Buccaneers’ Super Bowl Defense
    (191 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now