The Tampa Bay Buccaneers win over the Dallas Cowboys on opening night came in large part to both special teams, proving the third unit’s worth to the game as a whole.
The age-old, albeit also controversial, adage in football is that special teams are a third of the game, essentially saying that it’s equally as important as offense and defense. Distractors will point to the fact that if that were the case then you’d see special team players being drafted in the first and second round every year.
While it’s true that it isn’t a common occurrence in NFL Drafts, it has been done. The results of such a move have resulted in everything from the disastrous (Roberto Aguayo, sorry everyone) to a Hall of Fame career in Ray Guy. Supporters of special teams have been calling for more to get the call to the hall, specifically Steve Tasker, the greatest special teams player of all time.
After witnessing the way the Bucs beat the ‘Boys on opening night, it’s hard to argue against the importance of special teams.
With the possible exception of Vita Vea, punter Bradley Pinion was the best player on the field Thursday, consistently pinning the Cowboys inside their own 20-yard line, if not further, forcing them to attempt to score on long drives. On the flip side, Jaydon Mickens, at one point considered a roster-bubble player, was sensational in the return game. While the Cowboys were fighting an uphill battle when it came to field position thanks to Pinion, the Buccaneers were fighting a downhill one, thanks to Mickens getting good returns each time he touched the ball.
Then there are the kickers.
Cowboys’ kicker Greg Zuerlein missed two field goals and an extra point, which mathematically speaking if he hits them the Cowboys win the game and the Buccaneers are 0-1. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and the Bucs marched down the field on the game-winning drive, because of course they did, which set up their kicker Ryan Succop to nail the game-winning 36-yard field goal. Succop was 4-4 on extra points before that field goal.
Offense may sell tickets and defense may win championships, but special teams are still the third aspect of football, and thanks to it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have started the 2021 season 1-0.