Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg

Welcome to my weekly post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment(s) the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the key moment or two where things went north or south for the team.

The Game-Changer

It’s been a remarkable season for rookie free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr., as he’s made several of the most clutch defensive plays of the season for Tampa Bay. From breaking up passes in the end zone late in narrow wins over the Giants and Falcons to a timely sack against Minnesota late in Week 14, Winfield has consistently been the Bucs’ difference maker in the secondary because of his splash plays. On Sunday night against New Orleans in the divisional playoffs, the rookie made another monumental play to change the game.

On third-and-2 from the Saints’ 45-yard line, New Orleans ran a slant-flat concept designed to pick Winfield with the flat route, after the rookie safety made a rare appearance in press position on the play. The concept worked perfectly, as Drew Brees hit tight end Jared Cook over the middle of the field in a catch-and-run situation to move the chains and cross into Bucs territory. But as Cook turned up-field looking for more yardage, Winfield raced up behind him and punched the ball out for a huge turnover.

Linebacker Devin White collected the bouncing ball beautifully, cornerback Carlton Davis III nearly laid out wide receiver Michael Thomas on the return, and Winfield’s crucial play set the Bucs up with a first down at the Saints’ 40-yard line. Five plays later, the Bucs offense finished off a drive in the red zone to tie the game at 20-20 with 2:22 left in the third quarter. On both sides of the ball, Tampa Bay would never look back.

Defensively, the Bucs allowed just 35 yards the rest of the game and collected two more turnovers on three Saints drives, finishing off a performance that held Sean Payton’s crew to 294 yards and just 190 yards through the air. Offensively, the Bucs found their way enough to drive 61 yards for the 23-20 lead with under 10 minutes remaining in the game, then White’s interception and return to the Saints’ 20 set Tampa Bay’s struggling offense up with a short field to drive for the ten point lead with under five minutes to play.

But it was Winfield’s massive strip on the biggest stage that spurred the Bucs’ 17 unanswered points. On a night where the Bucs offense continued to struggle to solve Dennis Allen’s defense, splash plays like Winfield’s made all of the difference between getting a familiar result against New Orleans and getting a new one. Not bad for a second-round rookie, who currently looks like the steal of the draft in a class shaping up to be a legendary one for Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
Subscribe
Notify of
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dave
8 months ago

Zero surprise there. I’d be shocked if it was anything other than that play. Saints are driving for a potentially crippling 2 TD lead with just 5 minutes left in the 3rd qtr. instead, it’s Bucs ball, and Brady marches down the field to score the game tying TD. No question, if Winfield doesn’t knock the ball out, it’s unlikely the Bucs go on to win this game. Even holding the Saints to a FG on that drive, and it’s a 10 point lead, with 20 minutes to play in the game.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dave
Pete Wood
8 months ago

Amen.
Drafting players like that is one of many reason that Jason Licht is the best GM in the NFL.

Pete Wood
Reply to  Pete Wood
8 months ago

I knew somebody would downvote this. Bucs are having their best season in a generation and clicking on all cylinders and some people still think that we can do better than Licht.
Serenity now!!

bucballer
Reply to  Pete Wood
8 months ago

Downvote??? I thought these were eliminated from PR? Am I the only one who doesn’t have the ability to vote for a take up or down?

Randy H.
Reply to  bucballer
8 months ago

Sometimes it is there and sometimes it isn’t. I haven’t been able to figure out when you can and can’t vote. Also, this new articles page changes the sort around, it is very confusing.

Dude
8 months ago

Good article Jon, and I couldn’t agree more. Winfield’s FF changed the momentum in this game and got the Bucs D fired up. The defense played a great game and pulled this one through as our offense struggled. This was reminiscence of the Buc’s of old and their Superbowl run almost 20 years ago. Go Bucs!

rocky
8 months ago

Hey buc76 what do you think of Jason licht right about now?

BucWonder
8 months ago

There were several game changing plays. The first was SMB’s INT. That was the first time the Bucs punched their bully in the mouth.
I agree with Positive Pete. Licht is far and away the GM of the year. This is his team we are watching.
Go Bucs!

chefboho
8 months ago

Licth should be hands down the GM of the year. His last couple drafts have turned out incredible and the pick ups of Brady, Gronk, Fournette, Stinnie, and AB have worked out amazingly. So happy for this team.

Spruce
8 months ago

Well that just happened. What many expected but with one difference. The rolls were reversed. As far as sub plots the QB situation is rife with them. Brady not the savior but the game manager. Winston with a throw that he could have made hay with needling the Bucs but his team lost and so that went poof. Brees in the spotlight, golden opportunity to secure an asterisk in the pantheon of great QB’s as his career winds down and he does a full choke. Come on man you have to love football. I heard and read most of the… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  Spruce
8 months ago

The only thing I would have changed is wishing our Defense was covering that trick play tighter and possibly Intercepted Winston on that copy cat trick play. That would have been the ultimate justice for a traitor.

Pete Wood
Reply to  Spitfire
8 months ago

How in the name of Doug Williams is Winston a traitor? The Bucs cut him. He worked hard as a Buc even if things didn’t work out,. Is he supposed to give up football after he leaves the team?

Horse
8 months ago

Jon; you nailed it!

fredster
8 months ago

Winfield was a steal in second round. I agree Licht had a learning curve as all GMs do but he is biggest reason this team is one game from a super bowl. So many on here been crying for years about how Licht sucks. Glazers suck. Etc etc. how you like “Baby Glazers” and Licht now “Naples Complainer?” Same idiots will still say he sucked if we win super bowl I’m sure. Some only care about being right.

geno711
8 months ago

How about the other Minnesota boy, Tyler Johnson, with the big catch in the 4th quarter.
Clearly Winfield with the bigger play, but if we are punting if that 3rd and 11 is not caught by Johnson, then the outcome could have been different.

British buc
Reply to  geno711
8 months ago

Beautifully put, I agree with the winfield call but that was a great play by Tyler, the future looks bright for the young man

MCBRICKEL
Reply to  geno711
8 months ago

That catch sealed the deal.

bucballer
8 months ago

Winfield, Wirfs, Johnson all quality pickups in this years draft!

Spitfire
8 months ago

Winfield has been so exciting to watch. He came into the NFL ready to play and I cannot wait to see him and White leading this Defense for years and years to come even after David is unfortunately eventually gone. As Winfield gains experience, we will see him moving around the field at Safety, Corner and even LB I would think. They will find ways to get the most out of him and he is gonna be a force out there. Once White smooths out his coverage issues, the two of them will dominate.

revfish
8 months ago

Without disagreeing with you, I would also bring up going for it on fourth and inches on a third possession at the Tampa Bay 34 yard line. We had zero momentum, and if we missed that, New Orleans goes up by two scores early. As it was, Brady converts and we end up scoring to make it a game

fl0nase
8 months ago

Not a play of the game… But as a Bucs fan, one of the moments you’ve been waiting on for a while… Sean Payton’s post game conference, that smug coach. Barely acknowledged the Bucs talent or Arians or showed any grace or sportsmanship. I don’t think he respects the Bucs organization in anyway, and I think he was really bitter over the loss and felt like the better team lost. Nope. The better team had the 43 year old GOAT. And yours and Brees’ storybook ending didn’t work out the way you wanted and I’m tickled it was the lowly… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  fl0nase
8 months ago

“Pouting” Payton sure was the cherry on top of the ‘W’ cake we were all enjoying.
Antoine Winfield reminds me so much of Ronde Barber. Except #20 wasn’t anywhere near this good his rookie year. The 2020 Draft might not turn out to be the 1995 one, but it sure isn’t 2016 either. Jason Licht deserves some credit or you naysayers have no credibility.

Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg