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Buccaneers of the Playoffs: vs. Chiefs

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday night’s Super Bowl win over Kansas City?

Well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually went and did it. Being the first team to host a Super Bowl at their home stadium wasn’t enough, as the team went on to dominate the defending champion Chiefs 31-9 on Sunday night to earn the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy.

Super Bowl LV wasn’t the high-scoring shootout everyone quite expected to be. It wasn’t even the competitive battle most projected it would be. Instead, Tampa Bay took a late-first quarter lead and never looked back, with its offense doing more than enough to complement an outstanding defensive effort. Todd Bowles’ defensive game plan was phenomenal and his players executed it flawlessly while the offense took advantage of countless Kansas City miscues to complete what was a fairytale season in every sense of the term.

After a year that would’ve sounded like a fever dream if you were to describe it to someone last February, the Bucs are Super Bowl champions. That’s still a bit surreal to think about, isn’t it? Well, there is plenty to talk about coming out of Sunday’s game and—of course—there are some Buccaneers of the Playoffs points to award! The overall standings for the postseason were close heading into the Super Bowl, so let’s see how things finished out, shall we?

If anyone’s new around here for the playoffs, here’s how this works: I’ll rank the top five Buccaneers from each week’s game, assigning point values for each. No. 5 gets one point, No. 4 gets two and so on. The cumulative totals will be added up in the Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings. For reference, the past Buccaneers of the Year winners are as follows: Mike Evans (2018), Shaquil Barrett (2019) and Tom Brady (2020). OK, let’s get it going.

Honorable Mentions

Ronald Jones II played a great role in Tampa Bay’s run game against Kansas City, posting 61 yards on 12 carries (5.1 yards per carry)... Antonio Brown caught five passes for 22 yards and a key first-half touchdown that helped the Bucs go up 21-6 right before halftime... The Buccaneer offensive line was once again very solid, holding the Chiefs to just one sack and two quarterback hits... Tristan Wirfs was especially impressive for the Bucs on Sunday night. The rookie finished the game as the team’s highest-graded player according to Pro Football Focus, earning a 91.7 grade... Donovan Smith graded out well, too, earning an 81.6 grade to make him the Bucs’ third-highest graded player in the game...

Lavonte David totaled six solo tackles and two passes defended in the game, and perhaps no one deserved to see his hard work finally pay off in the form of a Super Bowl ring than him... Antoine Winfield Jr. shined in the spotlight, racking up six tackles (four solo), two passes defended and an interception... Mike Edwards came up with a massive tipped pass to allow for that Winfield interception in the second half... Ndamukong Suh was a massive part of the front seven’s pressure on Patrick Mahomes. He put up 1.5 sacks in the game and just missed out on some points in these standings... Vita Vea did his thing once again, finishing with an 81.7 grade from PFF to become the second-highest graded Buc on the night... Per PFF, Carlton Davis played 54 snaps in coverage on Sunday night and allowed just two catches for 14 yards on four targets... Ryan Succop continued to be one of Tampa Bay’s best signings from last offseason, connecting on all four of his extra point attempts as well as a 52-yard field goal.

5. Rob Gronkowski (One point)

How harsh is it for Rob Gronkowski to only end up with one point in these playoff standings? In the Bucs’ first three postseason games, Gronkowski was asked to primarily work as a blocking tight end and he did his job exceptionally well. And after doing that so well for three games, the future Hall-of-Fame tight end showed up for the Super Bowl as a dangerous pass-catching threat. He led the Bucs in targets (seven), receptions (six) and receiving yards (67) while also catching a team-high two touchdowns. His first touchdown, an eight-yarder, made history. It was the 13th postseason touchdown connection between him and Tom Brady, which is an NFL record. Plus, it also moved Gronkowski into second all-time in postseason touchdown receptions, and he now trails only Jerry Rice (22) on the all-time leaderboard. The second touchdown, a 17-yarder, made him the second player in league history with multiple Super Bowl performances with two-plus touchdown catches, with Rice being the only other. That’s elite company to be in for the four-time Super Bowl champ.

4. Leonard Fournette (Two points)

For much of the 2020 season, Leonard Fournette was a frustrating presence in the Buccaneer backfield. He would have his moments here and there, but more often than not, it felt like he was taking snaps away from Ronald Jones II. But then came the playoffs, and Forunette transformed into one of the most productive players on the offense. After “Playoff Lenny” shined against Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay, “Super Bowl Lenny” was on another level. In the Bucs’ 31-9 win, the former Jacksonville Jaguar ran for 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries (5.6 yards per carry) while catching four passes for 46 yards. His 27-yard touchdown run in the third quarter felt like an important one, as it came just after the Chiefs had cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 21-9. With 135 total yards and that big touchdown, Fournette capped off an impressive playoff run that saw him and Jones provide a much-needed spark out of the backfield. The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft and the 38th overall pick in the 2018 draft were instrumental in wearing down the Kansas City defense in the second half, and for Fournette’s efforts, he picks up two big points in the Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings.

3. Tom Brady (Three points)

Tampa Bay’s defense was so dominant against Kansas City that the Super Bowl LV MVP is landing at No. 3 on this week’s edition of Buccaneers of the Playoffs. Nonetheless, Tom Brady’s performance was obviously a huge key for Tampa Bay, as he threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over on 21-of-29 passing. His three first-half scoring passes helped give the home team a 21-6 halftime lead that the defense went on to protect the rest of the way. Playing in his 10th Super Bowl, Brady brought a level of poise to the Bucs that they definitely needed. Having not made the playoffs since 2007, the franchise needed a proven winner to come in and restore belief in the locker room. The greatest to ever do it certainly did that throughout the season and his presence throughout the playoffs guided the Bucs to glory. By winning his seventh ring—and his fifth Super Bowl MVP—Brady even further cemented his already-solidified legacy on Sunday. Not to mention, he became the first starting quarterback in league history to win Super Bowls both in the AFC and NFC. There’s simply no matching Brady’s resume, though his three points in this week’s standings mean he juuuust misses out on the top spot for the overall postseason leaderboard.

2. Shaquil Barrett (Four points)

As efficient as the Bucs were on offense in Sunday night’s game, the defense was the story. For the first time under the direction of Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs were held without a touchdown. It was also the first time in the Mahomes era that they lost a game by more than eight points. The biggest key was the pressure that Tampa Bay put on the quarterback. Leading that effort was 2019 NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett, who finished the game with one sack, four quarterback hits and a season-high eight quarterback pressures. According to Next Gen Stats, the two-time Super Bowl champion racked up those eight pressures on 41 pass-rush snaps, leading to a 19.5% pressure rate. And while Mahomes was often able to escape and fire off throws, those were typically low-percentage throws. After a while, it was clear that the pressure was just too much. There was no time to throw and execute the plan in place, which is why Kansas City looked so flustered on offense throughout the night. Barrett was seemingly always in the backfield, putting up a huge performance and likely earning himself even more leverage for contract negotiations this offseason. With four points, he ties Tom Brady for second in the Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings.

1. Devin White (Five points)

The defense as a whole blew the Chiefs away on Sunday night, which is perhaps the reason why the MVP voting committee couldn’t nail down one specific defender to give the award to. But no one likely would’ve batted an eye had Devin White gotten the honor. The heartbeat of Tampa Bay’s defense, White was once again all over the field in this game and finished with a team-high 12 tackles (10 solo), two tackles for loss and the game-sealing interception. His pick in the end zone with just under two minutes to go kept Kansas City without a touchdown on the night and it served as a fitting start to the celebration at Raymond James Stadium. White engineered the Bucs’ impressive defensive display and put the finishing touches on what was a spectacular second season in the NFL. He didn’t earn a Pro Bowl nod or an All-Pro selection this year, but winning a ring makes all of the individual recognition moot. And despite not playing in the first round of the playoffs due to COVID-19 protocols, the first-time captain did enough over the next three games to take home the top spot in the final Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings!

FINAL Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings

  1. Devin White — 10 points
  2. Tom Brady/Shaquil Barrett — 9 points
  3. Leonard Fournette — 7 points
  4. Sean Murphy-Bunting — 5 points
  5. Donovan Smith/Chris Godwin — 4 points
  6. Carlton Davis/Jason Pierre-Paul — 3 points
  7. Mike Evans/Vita Vea — 2 points
  8. Cameron Brate/Rob Gronkowski — 1 point

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