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Buccaneers of the Playoffs: vs. Eagles

Which five players were Tampa Bay’s best in Sunday’s 31-15 Wild Card victory over Philadelphia?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It was quite the scene at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the Buccaneers hosted their first true home playoff game since 2008. With battle flags waving, the defending Super Bowl champions got their quest for a repeat underway with a convincing 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 16-point margin may look convincing enough on the surface, but the game really wasn’t even that close. Tampa Bay took a 17-0 lead into halftime and then earned a 31-0 lead going into the fourth quarter, which left little to do in the fourth quarter. It marked the Bucs’ first home playoff win since 2003 and earned them a spot in the NFC Divisional Round next Sunday afternoon.

With their win over the Cardinals on Monday night, it will be the Rams coming to town next weekend for a second-round contest. But before we move on, let’s give out some Buccaneers of the Playoffs points!

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, 2021). Last year’s Buccaneer of the Playoffs was Devin White. OK, let’s get it going.

Honorable Mentions

Both Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard stepped up admirably with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II missing from the backfield. Vaughn rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while Bernard added 44 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, plus 39 catches on five yards… Josh Wells looked to have his share of struggles in place of the injured Tristan Wirfs, but he was playing through an injury himself and still managed to earn the fifth-highest grade of any Buc in the game from Pro Football Focus (72.3)… Rob Gronkowski unsurprisingly factored in heavily for Tampa Bay, catching five of his six targets for 31 yards and a second-half touchdown that helped put the game away…

Devin White was flying around on Sunday, getting after Jalen Hurts to the tune of three quarterback hits. He also added a tackle for loss and a pass defended… Shaquil Barrett didn’t have much to show for his pass rushing efforts on Sunday, but he did tip a Hurts pass up into the air and came down with a big interception that led directly to a Buccaneer touchdown… Both Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis were fantastic in coverage. Dean picked up a pass defended, and Davis came through with a few of his own en route to earning a PFF grade of 72.4 (the fourth-best for any Buc)… Steve McLendon was credited with one of Tampa Bay’s two sacks on the afternoon… Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Anthony Nelson both notched two quarterback hits apiece…

Scotty Miller made significant contributions as a gunner on the punt coverage team, most notably being there to take Jalen Reagor out of the play after he muffed a Bradley Pinion punt… Ross Cockrell was there to recover Reagor’s fumble… Ryan Succop was perfect on his extra points and connected on a 34-yard field goal… Pinion had a nice game of his own, averaging 48.7 yards per punt, landing three inside the 20 and finishing with a long of 61 yards.

OK, now for the top five.

5. Jordan Whitehead (One point)

Coming into Sunday’s game, a lot was said about the threat of Philadelphia’s run game. Tampa Bay’s run defense is obviously no joke either, and it showed as the Bucs got the better of the matchup. The Eagles had nowhere to run for much of the afternoon, with Jordan Whitehead playing a big role in run support for the Bucs. He had two early tackles for loss, both of which contributed to the Eagles’ back-to-back three-and-outs to start the game. For the game, he totaled six tackles (all solo). The level of intensity and tackling ability that Whitehead brings to Tampa Bay’s defense has proven to be so valuable throughout this season, especially amid all of the injuries to the Bucs’ secondary. He’s more than earned himself a nice payday this offseason, but for now he gets a point as we kick off the second-ever installment of the Bucs of the Playoffs Standings.

4. Antoine Winfield Jr. (Two points)

It’s no big shock that Antoine Winfield Jr. had one of the biggest days of any Buccaneer on Sunday afternoon. The second-year safety was all over the place for Tampa Bay, playing exceptionally well in run support and putting on an impressive display as a blitzer. Of course, his work in coverage was also good, but his biggest plays of the day came when rushing the quarterback. He picked up one sack and nearly had another, totaling two quarterback hits to go with his five tackles (three solo). It was huge to have him out there against the Eagles after he missed the previous matchup between the two teams during the regular season. Winfield, who shined throughout last year’s playoff run, got his second career playoff campaign underway in a big way. He posted a PFF grade of 74.3, the third-highest for any Tampa Bay player in the game, and gets two Bucs of the Playoffs points to carry into the NFC Divisional Round.

3. Mike Edwards (Three points)

With Sean Murphy-Bunting missing from his normal nickel cornerback spot due to a hamstring injury, Mike Edwards saw a lot of action against Philadelphia. He responded by leading the defensive effort with a team-high nine tackles (all solo), with a tackle for loss and a key second-quarter interception that kept the Eagles scoreless before halftime. It was a key play in the game, as Philadelphia started to find its stride offensively and threatened to cut into the Bucs’ 17-0 lead before getting the ball again to start the second half. And without Edwards making an excellent play on the ball right at the pylon, the Eagles would’ve carried some momentum into the locker room. Jamel Dean fell down in coverage and DeVonta Smith made his way to the goal line, but Edwards came streaking over to jump the pass and bring it in while dragging his second foot to complete the interception. It was a massive play and a great effort on the whole for Edwards, who gets three points in the standings as a reward.

2. Tom Brady (Four points)

With the Buccaneer offense missing some key contributors from last year’s Super Bowl run, much was made about whether or not the unit would have enough to make another run this January. On Sunday, we saw why perhaps some of those questions were overblown. When you have Tom Brady as your quarterback, you stand a great chance. The seven-time Super Bowl champion was, as Bruce Arians described him, “surgical” against the Eagles. He started hot and spread the ball around impressively well, hitting nine different receivers in the first half. For the game, he totaled 271 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-37 passing. And of his eight incompletions, very few—if any—of them were really off the mark. He had to overcome a number of drops by his receivers, but he did so admirably. It was yet another Brady-like performance for the G.O.A.T., who is now three wins away from ring No. 8.

1. Mike Evans (Five points)

In a lot of ways, Mike Evans is one of the biggest keys for Tampa Bay’s repeat hopes over the next month. With Chris Godwin (injury) and Antonio Brown (released) not in the picture, it’s up to Evans to lead the team’s receiving corps. He certainly did that on Sunday against the Eagles, setting a new franchise playoff record with nine receptions and totaling 117 yards and a touchdown. Not only that, but the eighth-year receiver was used to attack the Philadelphia defense in a number of different ways, moving around and even playing some snaps in the slot. He made a few key third-down catches before putting the exclamation point on the afternoon with an electrifying 36-yard touchdown catch to extend the Tampa Bay lead to 31-0. The Bucs will need him to continue carrying the load next week and beyond—if they get that far—and judging by his display in the Wild Card Round, he’s up to the challenge. For that, he’ll get the full five points in the standings this week.

2022 Buccaneers of the Playoffs Standings Through Wild Card Weekend:

1. Mike Evans — 5 points

2. Tom Brady — 4 points

3. Mike Edwards — 3 points

4. Antoine Winfield Jr. — 2 points

5. Jordan Whitehead — 1 point