If there's one thing we've learned about this Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, it's never too late to turn things around.
After being pegged to tank all offseason, the Bucs stormed out to a 3-1 start before validating the doubters during a 1-6 stretch in the middle of the season. Tampa Bay has emerged from that slump by winning three straight games to get back to .500 and control their playoff destiny.
While the Bucs moved one step closer to clinching a playoff berth with a road win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, it was Dave Canales who stole the show. Fans who had grown increasingly frustrated over the first 13 games of the season watched with glee as the first-year offensive coordinator called the first signature game of his career.
It wasn't just Canales who deserves to be celebrated, as Baker Mayfield bounced back from a rough start to turn in his first signature win as Buccaneers quarterback.
It was a beautiful masterclass, and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Buccaneers OC Dave Canales deserves his flowers after a signature game vs. Packers
One of the biggest complaints over the course of the Bucs recent losing slump was how Canales was unable to find ways to get his two best players the ball. While he had crafted Rachaad White into a Christian McCaffrey-type dual-threat weapon, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were withering away on offense.
It's not that Evans wasn't putting up numbers, it was how hollow his production was. Evans eclipsed 1,000 yards for the 10th straight season but it felt like he was largely ignored until the fourth quarter -- and oftentimes until it was too late.
Take, for instance, the Bucs loss in Houston back in Week 8. Entering the fourth quarter both Evans and Godwin had combined for four catches and 42 yards in a game that had featured a total of 45 points scored.
Consistency was an issue, as Canales was able to dial up one guy but couldn't balance out the attack across all three weapons. In a win over Carolina Evans went for 162 yards, Godwin didn't record a single catch; a week later Godwin went over 50 yards on five receptions but Evans had just a single catch for eight yards.
On Sunday in Green Bay, Canales found a way to combine all of his ingredients and cooked up his best game of the season.
Godwin finished with 155 yards, Evans hauled in a touchdown and had 57 yards on four catches, and White recorded 139 total yards and a score. Evans and Godwin had already combined for 147 yards and a touchdown before halftime, which is the type of scheming and playcalling that Canales couldn't quite master earlier in the year.
He made up for it and thensome with the way he called the game on Sunday.
Baker Mayfield showed up exactly when the Buccaneers needed him
While Canales was brilliant, Baker Mayfield did his part in helping capture a signature performance.
After falling into a bit of a slump, Baker broke out in a historic way on Sunday. He became the first visiting quarterback in NFL history to have a perfect passer rating at Lambeau Field. That's the just window dressing, though, as popping the hood on Baker's day reveals just how masterful he was against the Packers.
Baker finished the day 22-for-28 with 381 yards and four touchdowns.
All of this comes amid criticism Baker has been taking all season for not being good enough to be the future franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay. The jury remains out on whether that's true or not, but games like the one he had at Lambeau are why the Bucs gambled on him back in March.
It's also yet to be seen if this three game winning streak is a flash in the pan or an actual evolution of the team, but it's impossible to not bask in the glory. Nothing has come easy for the Bucs this season and it's been an bumpy ride the entire way, but it the way two of the most important pieces of the offense performed on Sunday indicates that a corner might have finally been turned.
In short: more of this, please.