Each week I’ll be taking a closer look at the snap count distribution for the Bucs offense and defense, assessing what we can learn from who played the most and who played the least on Sunday.
Here’s a look at which Buccaneers played the most and the least in the team’s resilient 30-20 victory over the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs on Sunday night.
On a grind-it-out night for the offense, the Bucs offensive line really was the difference, even without Alex Cappa. All five starters went the distance and Joe Haeg played 16 snaps as an extra offensive lineman, his third-highest total of the season. The Bucs continued to play a lot out of 12 and even 13 personnel though, with Cam Brate still hovering around 30 snaps and Antonio Brown only matching his total while playing with an injury.
Even in Brown’s absence, however, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson didn’t see a significant uptick in snaps. Miller matched his Wild Card round output with eight snaps, while Johnson played three less reps than he did in Week 17 and three more than he did against Washington last weekend.
In the backfield, Leonard Fournette led the way again, despite a night that once again revealed that Ronald Jones is the better pure runner. But with Jones playing through a quad injury and managing just 21 snaps, Fournette’s strides as a receiver made a big difference for Tampa Bay, as he finished with five catches for 44 yards on a night where the Bucs desperately needed him in the passing game.
Devin White’s return to the lineup also meant the return of the Ironman Duo, as he and Lavonte David played every snap for the Bucs on Sunday night. Carlton Davis missed just a single snap after cramping up, while Sean Murphy-Bunting missed some snaps as he played through an injury. Jamel Dean was also injured late in the game, and the status of both cornerbacks will be something to monitor for the NFC Championship Game. Ross Cockrell did allow a touchdown, but it was pretty hard to complain about his coverage on any play, including that one, where the receiver simply made a fantastic catch on a well-placed throw.
At a point in the season where there are very few surprises with the snap count loads, Rakeem Nunez-Roches out-snapping Will Gholston is a little bit of a shocker. Nunez-Roches has played his best football of late, and he and McLendon got surprising push as pass rushers on a few occasions late in the game. Khalil Davis and Cam Gill continue to sneak into the rotation sparingly, but for the most part the Bucs cut out the fifth defensive tackle’s 15-25 reps and opted to go heavy with their top four.