It feels like deja vu every time the Buccaneers manage to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat: Do nothing for three quarters, get down double digits, then find out their normal operating philosophy is garbage and that they’re actually the best hurry-up offense in football.
The only minor difference was that this Christmas coal bin of a game didn’t end in regulation, as the Bucs squeaked out a 19-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals to remain in control of their own NFC South destiny heading into their key tilt against the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Day.
The defense once again played well, allowing only six points through three quarters, so we’ve got some shoutouts to give there. Rest of the team...not so much. Let’s get into it.
Offensive Top Performer: WR Russell Gage
Gage has experienced terrible injury luck all season, and that even held true toward the end of Sunday’s contest, too. However, he’s played well the last couple weeks now and he soldiered through multiple nicks against the Cards to come up with clutch receptions in the in overtime.
Big catches of 23 and 13 yards helped position the team for the game-winning field goal. Gage finished with five catches for 65 yards total, so hopefully his injuries aren’t anything too serious and can continue contributing in the passing game.
Rachaad White, for some reason, received only 11 touches but made the most of them with 53 total yards (4.8-yard average) and the team’s only touchdown. Leonard Fournette (20 carries, 9 receptions) significantly out-touched White and did produce 162 total yards, but nearly half of those yards came on just two plays — a 23-yard run and a 44-yard catch. Fournette is a useful player, but he is absolutely not an efficient player and it hurts the team more often than not.
Defensive Top Performer: EDGE Anthony Nelson
The Bucs have been decimated by injuries at outside linebacker recently, and Nelson has been the only healthy one. He might not be dynamic, but he’s a useful player who has played 100% of the defensive snaps back-to-back weeks.
He made some strong plays on Sunday, most notably the easiest sack of his career when he came unblocked off the blindside and absolutely leveled Trace McSorley, causing a fumble and stymieing a potential Cards’ scoring drive. He finished with another pressure and four total tackles.
Lavonte David should just go without saying in this section week to week. He was once again an absolute stud, finishing 10 total tackles and a pass defensed. Devin White continued his strong stretch of games as well with 9 total tackles and a fumble recovery.
Carlton Davis is finally healthy after early season dings and he’s now living up to his new contract. One week after clamping Ja’Marr Chase, Davis erased DeAndre Hopkins. He allowed zero catches personally, as Hopkins was targeted 11 times and made only one catch for 4 yards. McSorley’s Stormtrooper accuracy did Hopkins no favors, but Davis still absolutely got the better of him throughout the evening.
Special Teams Top Performer: K Ryan Succop
Succop once again kept the team alive in regulation when the offense stalled out time and time again, making three field goals before eventually nailing the game-winning 40-yarder in OT. Succop’s range remains a worrisome factor, but he’s still 29 of 34 on the season and as consistent as anybody within 45 yards.
Deven Thompkins had some miscues with a couple return attempts, but he undoubtedly has some juice and looks more promising than Jaelon Darden in his small sample size. A long kickoff return of 33 yards and punt return of 14 yards highlighted his evening.