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Buccaneers Week 17 Top Performers: Escape from New York

Tom Brady and an unlikely hero stepped up in Tampa’s whirlwind comeback.

Syndication: The Record Kevin R. / USA TODAY NETWORK

Well, the Buccaneers probably ruined several people’s New Year’s resolutions that focused on drinking less, smoking less, or living healthier lives in general just two days into 2022.

A stressful, infuriating game for the first 55 minutes or so gave way to a heart-racing finish that included a 4th down stop and a subsequent go-ahead touchdown drive that total 97 yards in about 2 minutes to give Tampa Bay the 28-24 win over the New York Jets.

Sunday included its share of truly baffling moments, from Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting’s private plane fiasco to Antonio Brown’s final antics as a Buccaneer, but what’s important is that Tampa kept pace with its conference rivals. After the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Arizona Cardinals, the Bucs moved up into the 3rd seed and still remain in the hunt for the second seed.

They have several players on both sides to thank for that, so let’s hand out some commendations.

Offensive Top Performer: WR Cyril Grayson

Yes, Tom Brady threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns as he continued to torment the Jets and drive up his career 4th quarter comeback total. He absolutely gets his props, but Tampa signed him because those performances are expected.

What we all didn’t expect was Cyril Grayson to rise from the practice squad after a few minor appearances the last couple years and become a pivotal piece in the offense. Down Chris Godwin and Brown, Grayson caught 6 passes for 81 yards and the game-winning touchdown (along with getting multiple key first downs).

Grayson’s story of going from college sprinter to Brady confidant in a key game is remarkable, and he deserves the attention more than any now ex-teammates. He’s assured himself a permanent spot on the roster going into the playoffs, and they’ll need him to help take pressure off Mike Evans.

Speaking of whom, Evans looked good coming back from his hamstring injury to catch 4 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. He’ll have a good chance to keep his 1,000-yard season streak going next week — he’s 54 yards away.

Rob Gronkowski also bounced back from a couple bad games to the tune of 7 receptions for 115 yards.

Defensive Top Performer: EDGE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

The rookie faced a big task this week stepping up as the primary edge rusher with Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul absent.

While he didn’t record a sack, Tryon-Shoyinka made the the most important defensive play of the game when he stopped Zach Wilson short of converting on 4th down deep in Buccaneers territory with the clock ticking down. A conversion would’ve nearly assured a Jets victory, and JTS came screeching in to grind Wilson’s forward progress to a halt.

While Tryon-Shoyinka made the biggest splash play, his running mate Anthony Nelson logged the more complete game. Making just his third career start, Nelson played his best game as a pro with a sack, two tackles for loss, a pass defensed, and recovering a fumble on the final play. After having one sack his first two years, Nelson now has four this season.

Antoine Winfield Jr. played a solid game returning from injury, recording 8 tackles and a pass defensed.

Special Teams Top Performer: K Ryan Succop

Two field goals, two extra points, and Succop once again delivered on all that was asked of him in a game where every point counted.

Sterling Hofrichter filled in well for Bradley Pinion after being asked to make slightly more meaningful punts compared to last week’s blowout of the Carolina Panthers. He pinned two of three kicks inside the 20, with one getting downed at the 9 late in the game.