The improvement to 5-7 keeps the franchise in the hunt for its 4th straight playoff berth and third-straight division title. It was rainy, it was ugly, and it was rarely pleasant to watch save for two players who the Buccaneers must desperately re-sign this offseason.
We’ll highlight them both in this week’s top performers:
Offensive Top Performer: WR Mike Evans
Evans is now at the point where he’s making history almost every week, and this time it was especially meaningful. No. 13 obliterated the Panthers to the tune of 7 catches for 162 yards and a score — the longest of his career on a 75-yard sprint — and in the process logged his 10th straight 1,000-yard season.
This not only extends his own record for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career, but it also ties Randy Moss for second-longest streak period. Only Jerry Rice (11) has more consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns.
Forget age, forget everything else; if the Bucs fail to keep the best offensive player in franchise history, it is doing a massive disservice to him, the team, and the fans. He must remain in red and pewter.
With today's totals added in Mike Evans is now on pace for 140 targets (most since '16), 86 catches (most since '21), 1,434 yards (most since '18),14 TD's (most since '21), and 16.6 yards/catch (highest since '19)— Joshua Queipo (@josh_queipo) December 4, 2023
At 30 years old he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Defensive Player: S Antoine Winfield Jr.
Winfield made so many highlight-reel plays on Sunday, it was hard to keep track of them all. Most notably, he recorded his second interception of the season on a critical late-game 4th down that essentially sealed the win.
He notched another sack to bring his season total to 3 and further establish himself as the NFL’s best pass-rushing safety, and he again served as an irreplaceable tackling machine (8 total, 2 for loss) and stopgap for a leaky secondary (two passes defensed).
Antoine Winfield Jr. drops Bryce Young for 9-yard sack, improving his season sack total to 3.0.— Buccaneers Communications (@BuccaneersComms) December 3, 2023
It marked Winfield's 18th quarterback hit since 2020, tied for most in the NFL by a defensive back.
It also marked Winfield's 12th sack since 2020, most by a defensive back.
The defensive equivalent of Evans, Winfield has quickly established himself as a franchise stalwart having an All-Pro season. He’ll be worth every penny of his big-money extension, whenever it happens in the next few months. Letting the 25-year-old leave would be team-building malpractice.
We need to also shout out J.J. Russell, he honestly played his ass off as the team’s lone inside linebacker most of the day. Injuries/illness forced out Lavonte David, Devin White, SirVocea Dennis, and K.J. Britt in an unprecedented situation, and Russell responded 7 total tackles and 1 sack.
Bucs linebacker J.J. Russell stepped up in a big way tonight, making his first start after a slew of injuries -- had as many tackles (7) as he had in his NFL career in 10 games coming in. Also picked up his first sack.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 4, 2023
The rookie tandem of YaYa Diaby and Calijah Kancey remained impactful, with the former getting a sack and latter getting multiple pressures and forcing two key penalties — an intentional grounding and a holding in Tampa territory.
Special Teams Top Performer: P Jake Camarda
Camarda has been less consistent than his torrid start to the season, and he wasn’t amazing Sunday, but he did the job well enough. He flipped the field against a bad offense on a rainy day, totaling 8 punts for 369 yards (46.1 gross average) and pinning one inside the 20.