As I watched the first quarter of the Buccaneers game during my wife’s annual Christmas cookie blitz, I felt in such a similar position to Baker Mayfield. We were both getting dog-piled — Baker by 300-pound nose tackle Kenny Clark, and me by my sister-in-law’s young children. We were feeling the heat, as Baker got strip sacked and I literally battled to keep my house below 75 degrees due to a dozen people bustling around and a constantly churning oven.
For both of us, it was a lesson in perseverance. At near-identical times, we both locked in and produced clutch performances. As much as I’d like to further regale you all with my tales of domestic mundanity, you read for Bucs content. The point is, Mayfield turned out for the best game of his career and possibly the best game ever for a road QB in Green Bay as the Buccaneers collected a critical 34-20 victory.
The Bucs’ offense continues to grow over the last three weeks, and the defense did just enough to slow down Jordan Love and Co. It was arguably the greatest win of the season for Tampa, and it provides a continued hold on first place in the NFC South (and a .500 record for the first in nearly two months).
Let’s shout out our top performers whilst I munch a delicious array of cookie treats (my wife’s ginger snaps are elite).
Offensive Top Performer: QB Baker Mayfield
Mayfield is far from a perfect passer, and I’m not sure he’ll ever live up to the lofty expectations of a No. 1 overall pick, but the man is not a bust either.
His performances over the course of this season have generally averaged out into a middle-of-the-road ranking, but there’s no doubt Sunday was as good as you’ll see from anyone else in the National Football League.
After a critical early strip sack on a play in which he held onto the ball far too long (a whopping 4.4 seconds), the Packers went up 7-3 and the situation could’ve easily spiraled. But Mayfield didn’t waver, massacring the hapless Green Bay defense to the tune of 381 yards and four touchdowns on just 22 completions.
I could reel off several yummy stats from Baker’s banner day, but here are just a couple:
Baker Mayfield completed 20 of 24 passes against zone coverage for 361 yards & 3 TD in the Buccaneers 34-20 victory over the Packers.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 17, 2023
Mayfield threw a TD pass to all four levels of the field for the third time in his career, the most by any QB since 2016.#TBvsGB | #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/OpmeWv4ThM
My goodness.— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 17, 2023
Baker Mayfield becomes the first visiting QB EVER with a PERFECT Passer Rating (158.3) at Lambeau Field.
*min. 5 attempts pic.twitter.com/HbFcWXolIl
There’s so many other people to shout on offense and not enough time, so a paragraph for each.
Chris Godwin broke out for his best game of 2023, hauling a whopping 10 catches for 155 yards. He totally had his way underneath against Green Bay’s soft zone, which focused on taking away Mike Evans and Trey Palmer deep.
Speaking of which, that didn’t really work because Evans still caught four balls for 57 yards and his 11th TD of the year. He’s now tied for 12th all-time in caree receiving scores (92) with Davante Adams and old teammate Rob Gronkowski.
And finally, Rachaad White remained on a tear as he tallied 139 total yards (89 rushing, 50 receiving) and a beautiful receiving TD. It marked the fourth consecutive game that White went over 100 total yards from scrimmage, and he joined Warrick Dunn as the only players in team history with 1,000+ rushing yards and 750+ receiving yards over their first two seasons.
Phew, I think that about covers it.
Defensive Top Performer: LB Lavonte David
This section will be significantly shorter.
Unfortunately, the defense is still shaky and relies too much on hit-or-miss redzone defense, but the unit did enough to support the red-hot offense Sunday.
Most prominently, Lavonte David looks fully recovered from his groin injury as he flew around the field all day. He totaled 9 combined tackles — 1 for loss and another touchdown-saving stop early on — to go along with a huge 4th down half-sack (split with Shaq Barrett) to ice the contest.
The soon-to-be 34-year-old remains the picture of consistency and keeps making history as someone who deserves serious Hall of Fame consideration one day.
With four tackles and one tackle for loss in the opening half, Lavonte David notched his fourth career season with 100+ tackles and 15+ tackles for loss.— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) December 17, 2023
No other player has more than two-such seasons since tackles for loss became regularly tracked in 2006.
With all of the Devin White drama, his presence is needed now more than ever. Luckily, he received some great help from K.J. Britt, who played well last week and did so again with 6 total tackles. It seems likely that Britt will remain the starter next to David for the rest of the season.
Antoine Winfield Jr. showed up, business as usual, with 10 total tackles and his fifth forced fumble of 2023. He almost grabbed another interception as well.
Antoine Winfield Jr. (@AntoineWJr11) and T.J. Watt are the only players since 2020 with 10+ forced fumbles and 10+ takeaways (interceptions + fumble recoveries).— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) December 17, 2023
Special Teams Top Performer: K Chase McLaughlin
If Jake Camarda punted more than once, I would’ve been very tempted to give this to him after a gigantic 65-yard bomb that got downed inside the Packers’ 5-yard-line. He’ll get his props now, but we need to once again tip our hats to Mr. Money McLaughlin.
He again kicked perfectly, going 2-for-2 on field goals (long of 46) and 4-for-4 on extra points. That now brings McLaughlin up to 23 of 25 on field goals, with his last miss coming Oct. 26 versus Buffalo, and it was a block.
We’re talking no whiffs, completely reliable for 15 weeks. It is beautifully refreshing and Pro Bowl worthy for McLaughlin.