1. Despite the injuries, the defense still dominated.
The Bucs took another blow to their already dilapidated high school when Jamel Dean technically came out twice. He was shaken at the end of the third quarter, which forced cornerback Pierre Désir into the game. But in fashion, Desir quickly knocked out Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the team’s third interception of the game. Cornerback Dee Delaney got another, as did safety Jordan Whitehead. It was the first interception of the season for all three players and was part of a five takeaway effort by the Buccaneers.
That’s right, five takeaways thanks to two additional forced escapes via belt bags. All this while the Bucs left just three points. Tampa Bay has 67 takeaways since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took the reins in 2019, which ranks third in this period.
The two players who forced those fumbles were defensive bookends Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Barrett now has at least one sack in his last four games and after adding another sack besides the fumble-forced game, Pierre-Paul recorded his first multi-sack match since week 17 of the 2019 season.
The pair are also used to multitasking. Both have been in the top five in backpacks since 2019, with Barrett taking first place after scoring 10 and Pierre-Paul tying for fourth with seven. Not to mention Pierre-Paul does it with one hand ( his right hand has a club from a broken finger). Oh, and he’s also playing with a torn rotator cuff.
The pressure the two were able to generate on Fields kept him from entering any passing rhythm. This forward-generated pressure then eased the pressure on the decimated defensive backfield and allowed them to play freely. There was no better proof than the interception of Delaney. It was JPP ripping a sick spin on the Bears’ right tackle to overtake him while nose tackle Vita Vea occupied both right guard and center. JPP almost arrives at Fields but he retreats, avoids the tackle and rushes to his right after regaining his footing. From there, linebacker Kevin Minter stalks him and forces him to get rid of the ball. Meanwhile, the rear is in the coverage zone and after Allen Robinson passes through the formation, Delaney recognizes him and steps forward to cut the road and make the hold. It was an effort at all levels of the Bucs’ defense and that is exactly how they played the entire game to overcome the constant shuffling and various other injuries suffered.
That, and you know, a game brilliantly called by Bowles.
2. The Mike Evans-Chris Godwin tandem.
I want to talk a bit about those two. With Antonio Brown out it has forced a bit more attention to the Bucs’ two best receivers and I think it’s interesting how they’re used. For fantasy purposes, you may also find this interesting.
The tendency I see between the two that was evident in this game is that one gets a lot of work across the court while the other brings in a lot of production in a very efficient amount of catches and yards. Look at the stats line for what I mean by that.
Godwin had eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Evans had six catches for 76 yards and (count them) THREE touchdowns. Evans did it all in one half too. He is the only player in Bucs history to do so and he has done it twice. This is largely due to the use of Evans in the red zone. His three touchdowns entered the red zone, as did four of his six catches. The other two made it to the 35 and 48 yard lines of Bears territory. I also concede on that second from midfield – it was a 46-yard bomb that Brady ended up throwing at Evans. Considering Evans’ frame, you take him one on one onto the field for 50/50 balls any day of the week.
But that’s exactly the recipe. Meanwhile, Godwin is all over the field. In fact, according to Next Gen Stats, Godwin has gained over 150 yards on nine different routes since 2019, which is the best score in the league. This is also the maximum number of routes if you follow the traditional route tree. He’s as versatile as he gets, which means more yardage, but maybe not as much time in the end zone. But hey, my Fantasy PPR team loves it for him.
And Godwin always gets a lot in the end zone. His career touchdown tally is 27, which puts Mark Carrier sixth in franchise history. So between the two, you can’t go wrong. It was just interesting to see how they were used for this game. And luckily, with a quarterback like Tom Brady, who leads the league in both passing yards and passing touchdowns, there’s a lot of work to be done for both.
3. The Bucs played really complementary football.
I’ve talked a lot about those defensive points the Bucs have and how the team themselves are so proud to be able to generate them. Well, the opposite side of the ball is also proud to be able to take advantage of that. Tampa Bay’s 289 withdrawal points since 2019 are the NFL’s largest in that time, and 49 more than any other team.
In this individual game, the Bucs offense converted 17 points after receiving bonuses from the defense. Special teams have also helped the offensive. In fact, there might not have been a better two-disc streak than the very start of the game. The Bucs’ defense began by forcing the Bears to three goals. The special teams then gave the Bucs a short field with a 43-yard punt return by rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden. And then the offense entered the end zone thanks to efficient ground play and a penalty. Textbook.
Speaking of penalties, the Bucs finally played a clean game to complete another phase of the game. They only committed one penalty the entire game for 10 yards, which is good news after giving their opponents hundreds of penalty yards in the first six weeks of the season.
Now he’s going into the New Orleans lion den. Let’s see if the Bucs can keep their complementary tendencies. If they do, they are almost impossible to stop.