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Buccaneers of the Week: vs. Falcons

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 48-25 win over the Falcons?

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

On Sunday afternoon, the Buccaneers followed their season-opening win over the Cowboys with a 48-25 win over the division rival Falcons at Raymond James Stadium.

Early on, it looked like Tampa Bay was going to cruise to another home win. But Atlanta fought its way back into it in the third quarter, even getting within 28-25 heading into the final 15 minutes. But from there, the Bucs took over. A great punt and a defensive stop led to a short punt by the Falcons, which the Buccaneer offense took advantage of to make it a 35-25 game. Two defensive touchdowns later, the game became a blowout win for the defending champions.

The Bucs’ 10th straight victory sets up a big matchup between two 2-0 teams next Sunday afternoon, as Tampa Bay heads west to take on the Los Angeles Rams. But before we get to Week 3, let’s take a look at our Bucs of the Week 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.

Honorable Mentions

Chris Godwin was once again Mr. Reliable for the Buccaneer offense, catching four passes for 62 yards and a key fourth-quarter touchdown… Leonard Fournette ran for 52 yards on 11 carries while adding four catches for 24 yards… Bradley Pinion built off of his NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor quite well on Sunday, especially with a booming 57-yard punt that was downed inside the Atlanta 5-yard line to flip the field early in the fourth quarter…

Lavonte David had a solid day both in coverage and against the run, finishing the game with eight tackles (five solo)… Devin White was a force all day, constantly presenting problems for the Atlanta offense on blitzes. He totaled three quarterback hits in addition to his six tackles (three solo)… Vita Vea once again proved to be one of the most important players on the Tampa Bay defense, serving as the key man behind the Falcons’ inefficiency on the ground. He also pushed the pocket plenty, coming up with a quarterback hit and a pass deflection that ended up as an interception… Speaking of that interception, it was Shaquil Barrett coming down with it to set up a Buccaneer touchdown early in the third quarter… In his 121st career game as a Buc, William Gholston delivered in a key moment when he registered a quarterback hit on Matt Ryan that led to the Tampa Bay defense’s first game-sealing interception… Rakeem Nunez-Roches came up with a massive tackle for loss on a big third-down attempt in the fourth quarter.

OK, now let’s see who took home the points this week, shall we?

5. Carlton Davis (One point)

Carlton Davis was a tough snub for the Week 1 edition of Bucs of the Week, but he earned himself a spot this week with a lockdown performance against Atlanta. He has long been Tampa Bay’s No. 1 corner and his steadiness has perhaps never been more badly needed than it is right now with Sean Murphy-Bunting out with an elbow injury. Despite a couple of costly penalties (one of which was objectively a very bad call), Davis put up yet another strong performance and did well with Calvin Ridley, one of the game’s toughest receivers. Atlanta’s top pass-catcher was held to seven receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown, though the score came on a play in which the Bucs brought the house and Ross Cockrell failed to pick up Ridley as Davis went to cover Olamide Zaccheaus. Plus, whatever faults Davis had in the game, he made up for them later as he came in on a blitz and batted a Matt Ryan pass into the air for Mike Edwards to bring down and return for a game-sealing touchdown. Davis opens his account for the season here with one point in the season standings.

4. Rob Gronkowski (Two points)

Early in the 2020 season, Rob Gronkowski wasn’t looking like the Rob Gronkowski of old. It even got to a point where the future Hall of Fame tight end told reporters he came to Tampa to be a blocking tight end. But eventually, everything came together and he put together a solid season. Gronkowski was a massive part of Tampa Bay’s season-ending winning streak and its eventual run to the Super Bowl. Fast forward to the start of the 2021 season and he hasn’t missed a beat. The 32-year-old caught another two touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Falcons, giving him four through the first two games of the season. And dating back to Super Bowl LV, Gronkowski has put together three straight multi-touchdown games. He was his usual self in the red zone against Atlanta, catching a 20-yard touchdown to open the scoring before bringing in a one-yard score to later make it 14-0. There was some stiff competition in the top five this week, but the veteran tight end still gets two points to bring his season total to six through two weeks.

3. Mike Evans (Three points)

After all of the complaints and worries about Mike Evans’ limited role in the Bucs’ Week 1 win over the Cowboys, the eighth-year veteran was a major part of things on Sunday against the Falcons. He got involved early with two catches on the team’s opening drive before ultimately finishing as the leading receiver. Evans caught five passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the win, making for an eerily similar two-week start as the one he had in 2020. He caught just one pass (it did go for a touchdown) in the season opener last year before putting up big numbers in Week 2 (seven catches, 104 yards and a touchdown). Now in 2021, he went for just 24 yards on three catches in the opener before a bigger day in the season’s second week. Long story short, don’t worry about Evans’ production in this offense. There’s only one ball to go around, and he has said himself that he just wants to do his job and win. He certainly did that on Sunday, and he gets three points in the season standings for his efforts.

2. Mike Edwards (Four points)

Without Sean Murphy-Bunting for what could be a considerable amount of time, the Buccaneer secondary will need others to step up. Ross Cockrell got his chance for much of Sunday’s game against Atlanta, but after he struggled at different stages of the day, Tampa Bay frequently went to a three-safety look down the stretch. That allowed Mike Edwards to make a massive impact on the game. He played 39 snaps—just over half of the defense’s total—and he managed to come away with three total passes defenses, including two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns. The first pick six extended the Bucs’ lead to 41-25 and the second put the stamp on the 48-25 victory. According to Pro Football Focus, Edwards played 24 of his 39 snaps in the slot, so we could see more of him in the coming weeks with Murphy-Bunting out. That would bode well, as Edwards has proven to possess a knack for taking the ball away. Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard wrote Monday that the former Kentucky Wildcat has five interceptions, 11 pass breakups and now two scores in his last 428 snaps (spanning the 2020 and 2021 seasons). Yeah, that’ll get you more playing time. What it also gets Edwards this week is four points in the season standings.

1. Tom Brady (Five points)

The G.O.A.T. has simply started the 2021 season by picking up from right where he left off at the end of the 2020 season and into the playoffs. An early-game fumble aside, Tom Brady was lights-out once again for the Bucs on Sunday afternoon. He threw three first-half touchdowns and eventually finished the day with five scores to pair with his 276 yards on 24-of-36 passing. Through two games, he has now thrown for nine touchdowns to put himself on an unbelievably ridiculous pace for the rest of the season. This comes after a season in which he threw for 40 touchdowns. He is already climbing the franchise’s quarterback records list and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. And, as he typically does, Brady spread the ball around well in Sunday’s win, completing passes to 10 different receivers. And with the victory, he moved his career record against the Atlanta Falcons to 9-0. Taking home another five points here in Week 2, Tampa Bay’s 44-year-old quarterback is already trying to gain some separation from the No. 2 spot in the Bucs of the Week Season Standings.

2021 Buccaneers of the Week Standings through Week 2:

  1. Tom Brady — 10 points
  2. Rob Gronkowski — 6 points
  3. Mike Edwards — 4 points
  4. Chris Godwin/Mike Evans — 3 points
  5. Antonio Brown — 2 points
  6. Vita Vea/Carlton Davis — 1 point