With the Atlanta Falcons losing earlier in the day to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buccaneers needed a win to gain a game in the NFC South. The Bucs flew across country to take on Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
In a very important match-up for Tampa they needed to take care of business in San Diego. After a sloppy first half the Buccaneers came out of the locker room hot and looked like the team that has been playing the past three weeks. Winston with a little help from his defense out scored the Chargers 21-7 in the second half and walk out of San Diego with the fourth straight victory and are in the wild card right now. Let’s take a look at today’s games winners and losers.
Winner: Tight End Cameron Brate
With the Bucs in need of some serious offensive fire power they desperately needed in today’s game, Cameron Brate stepped up. With the serious need of help on offense today with all the injuries, Brate was Winston’s favorite target today and made some big plays when they were needed to be made. Targeted more than Mike Evans today, Brate had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Brate has been the newest secret weapon of Tampa Bay, and may be the focus of some defenses from here on out. #MakeAmericaBrateAgain
Loser: Kicker Roberto Aguayo
How many times is he going to be on here? It’s starting to get unbelievable how many easy kicks this guy has been missing. In a close game throughout Aguayo missed an easy 31 yard kick in a relatively windless game in sunny San Diego. He’s now left 20 points off the board in a season where the Bucs are pushing for a playoff spot. Aguayo still has yet to make a 50 plus yarder and with his inconsistency on the easy kicks, let’s just say I hope there is competition this off-season. He does force a lot of touchbacks though.
Winner: Safety Keith Tandy and Linebacker Lavonte David
In the first half this defense seemed lost. Melvin Gordon was making play after play slicing them up and converting key play after key play. Somehow the Bucs were only down seven at that points at half and thanks to the Chargers electing to receive at the beginning of the game they got the ball to start the second half. They scored and the defense took over from there. Outside of a burnt Brent Grimes touchdown the Bucs defense held the Chargers to seven second half points.
The crucial plays the defense made were by Lavonte David and Keith Tandy. Neither of them were spectacular today but they made two crucial plays when needed the most. Lavonte managed to pick off a deflected pass and take it15 yards to the house, giving the Bucs their first lead of the game. David hasn’t been the same player this season but the past few games he’s been starting to make some key plays. A quarter later Bucs up a touchdown and Chargers driving, Keith Tandy stole the ball out in front of Dontrelle Inman. Rivers was going for the touchdown and Tandy played it perfectly. Bucs managed to run out the clock after the pick and walk out of San Diego with the win. #thetandymancan
Loser: Wide Receiver Cecil Shorts
This isn’t based off his performance in today’s game, it’s unfortunately due to his major injury. The Bucs have been crippled by injuries and lack of depth this season and when Cecil Shorts was finally starting to heat up he gets a major knee injury early in this game. Two plays after Stocker was taken out for the game, Shorts converts a third down and got whacked. It was a clean hit but you could tell he was done for the game.
The Bucs not only lost Shorts for the year, but Humphries went down with a concussion. Evans, Freddie Martino, and Russell Shepard are the only healthy wide receivers on the roster at the end of this game. Josh Huff may need to be called up from the practice squad this week.
Winner: Quarterback Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston has been the clear leader of this team this season. With leading the team off the field, you need to lead the field on the team as well. Jameis started today looking like he wasn’t prepared to play today, throwing an interception on the first drive of the game. In the first half Winston looked less than stellar, passing for less than 100 yards and only seven points.
The second half started and he looked like a new man. Winston moved the ball effectively and efficiently resulting in only one second half punt and 14 second half points. Winston finished the day with 280 yards one touchdown, extending his streak, and one interception.
Loser: Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes
The Bucs secondary didn’t play poorly today, however two crucial plays occurred due to these two corners. On the first drive of the game Verner fell down covering Dontrelle Inman and he ran and extended for a 35 yard touchdown. He did recover and almost stopped him from getting in but if he wasn’t on the ground he wouldn’t have needed to be chasing him.
Late in the third quarter the Bucs finally took the lead off the Lavonte David pick six. On the next drive the Chargers took the lead right back after Tyrell Williams double moved and made Brent Grimes into burnt toast. Grimes played well for the most of the game but on this one play could’ve been the difference maker. Luckily for him he’s got Jameis Winston on the other side of the ball to lead the team.
Bonus Winners: Safety Eric Berry and Corner back Patrick Peterson
The Bucs have been a new team in the second half of the season winning four straight. After a rough start to the season to make a playoff run this year they were going to need a little help from some other teams. Today they got a lot of help from Eric Berry and Patrick Peterson.
Eric Berry had his biggest game of the year today picking off Matt Ryan technically twice, taking both to the house. One was a 37 yard pick six to take the lead headed into halftime. His other one was the biggest play of the game with him taking back Matt Ryan’s two point conversion attempt to the house, giving the Chiefs a one point lead and the ball. This was the first time in NFL history that a team took the lead then on the next snap lost the lead. The new extra point rule hasn’t been around that long but this was a huge play for Tampa making them tied with the Falcons for the division lead.
Technically the Bucs are behind the Falcons right now but they are in a wild card spot because the Arizona Cardinals pulled off the win over the Washington Redskins. At the end of the game the Cards had an eight point lead and the Redskins had the ball and were driving. Patrick Peterson had something to say about that. He picked off a Kirk Cousins pass and secured the lead. Redskins fell to 6-5-1, half a game behind the 7-5 Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Bucs are in the playoffs if the season ended today. That is a statement that was unthinkable just four weeks ago. The Bucs are riding high with a four game winning streak headed home for a huge home division game next week against the Saints. After that comes the biggest game of the Bucs season against NFC leading Dallas Cowboys. It’s gonna be a fun but bumpy ride if the Bucs want to make the playoffs.