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 31-26 upset victory over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night.
The Bucs didn’t play quite as much 12 personnel (two tight ends, two receivers, one back) as I expected, but there were still plenty of snaps for Cam Brate and Joe Haeg at the end of the day. It wasn’t a super impactful game for either player, as Tampa Bay’s run game struggled mightily even with Haeg on the field as an extra blocker, and Brate grabbed three passes for 19 yards, although he did have the Bucs’ final touchdown of the game when the Packers defense left him wide open on a play-action pass in the end zone.
As expected, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson combined to share Antonio Brown’s workload, with Miller leading the way on 28 snaps, collecting two catches for 36 yards and a critical 39-yard touchdown. Johnson dropped a gorgeous back shoulder throw down the seam early in the game, but made a terrific 16-yard catch over the middle of the field to convert a big third down in the second half. Based on what we know of his injury, Brown should be back for the Super Bowl.
At running back Leonard Fournette continues to lead the way with almost 70 percent of the workload, ironically because he’s the better passing downs option for Tampa Bay’s offense than Ronald Jones III, despite dropping two passes and blowing a protection that resulted in Tom Brady’s third interception of the game.
The Bucs stayed consistent with their five-man defensive tackle rotation, with Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon losing a handful of snaps to the return of Vita Vea. Vea played more than the expected 20-25 snaps a game, but was still at a pretty reasonable 33 reps in his return to the lineup. His presence was one of the most impactful of any player in the lineup.
At safety, Mike Edwards stepped in for Antoine Winfield, Jr. and played terrific football, never coming off the field. When Jordan Whitehead went down with a shoulder injury in the second half, Andrew Adams had to come off the bench and out-snap him while trying to stave off a Packers comeback. His third down pass breakup on the goal line was the forgotten play of the game that forced Matt LaFleur to kick a field goal, after which the Packers never saw the ball again.
Will Whitehead and Winfield be back against Kansas City in the Super Bowl? It seems likely that Winfield will be, given that he was a game-time decision against Green Bay. Whitehead insisted to the media on Sunday night that he will be ready for Super Bowl LV, but that remains to be seen after he was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game following his third quarter injury.
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
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