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Buccaneers Week 14 Top Performers at Atlanta Falcons

An ugly do-or-die game saw some Bucs step up when it mattered.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Nobody is mistaking them as a contender, but the Buccaneers received some clutch plays and kept their season alive with a critical 29-25 road victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons, to their credit, took as many opportunities as they could to blow the game. Desmond Ridder again struggled with turnovers despite his otherwise strong performance, and Younghoe Koo missed two field goals.

The Bucs defense once again looked overwhelmed but created two turnovers in opponent territory to help turn the tide. Carlton Davis nabbed an interception that was almost a pick six (though they did end up cashing in), and Antoine Winfield Jr. deployed his pass rushing prowess to sack Ridder in the endzone and force a fumble that would become a safety — Tampa’s first in 3 years.

A clutch game-winning drive from Baker Mayfield in the game’s closing minute, which came after an entire day of ineptitude, topped it all off.

The road ahead remains treacherous with difficult games against Green Bay, Jacksonville and New Orleans, so the season could easily end with a thud, but for now let’s look at some of the day’s big winners:

Offensive Top Performer: RB Rachaad White

White once again showed his potential as a valuable dual-threat asset. A fantastic 31-yard touchdown off a screen pass to complemented another 100-yard rushing performance despite this team’s continued issues with forming a cohesive running strategy.

With 25 carries for 102 yards (4.1 yard average) and 2 catches for 33 yards, White was the main driver of the offense while Baker Mayfield and the receiver struggled to do much of anything prior to the final drive. Chase Edmonds also proved pivotal as a change-of-pace guy, carrying 8 times for 40 yards.

Mayfield didn’t even eclipse 100 yards passing until late the 4th quarter, and he finished just 14 of 29 for 144 yards, but he finally made up for arguably his worst game of the year with a bucket shot to Chris Godwin on 3rd and 10 for 32 yards to go deep into Atlanta territory, and then another beautiful loft to Cade Otton for the go-ahead touchdown with 36 seconds left.

He needs to be much better down the stretch, but Mayfield once again toughed out another difficult game.

Defensive Top Performer: CB Zyon McCollum

Take away a terribly picky DPI, and McCollum showed out with his best game since the beginning of the year. He defensed two passes while also forcing a fumble and totaling 9 tackles as he filled in for Jamel Dean.

McCollum’s pure athleticism keeps him in every fight, and he’s definitely learning the finer points of the position slowly but surely. His instincts might not be strong enough to be anything more than a solid player, but that’s better than being a liability.

We already mentioned Winfield and his excellent pass rushing acumen, and he could’ve had another turnover if not for a penalty away from the ball, but a he also appeared to be responsible for a huge coverage bust that left Kyle Pitts wide open for a TD, so that’s why McCollum gets the nod instead. Still, Winfield remains an elite player having an elite season.

Not many other bright spots on the defense, as the unit allowed more than 430 yards of offense and, like a broken record, suffered from far too many communication errors and a stunning lack of pass rush despite Atlanta missing multiple starters and losing more during the game.

Special Teams Top Performer: K Chase McLaughlin

Money McLaughlin contributed massively to this key triumph after not getting a chance at any field goals last week.

He nailed both of his attempts, including a long of 55 yards, and connected on all 3 extra point attempts. Given his counterpart Koo missed two huge field goals, that point swing proved critical to Tampa’s win.

McLaughlin is now 21 of 23 on the season while remaining perfect on extra points (25 of 25).