The Bucs started to look like the team we expected them to be, as they defeated the Vikings 26-14 in a critical game that affected the wildcard standings. Though they got some help with a number of missed kicks, the Bucs made big plays of their own that included a deep ball down the field for a score and some timely pass rushing to close the game out.
Here are the most impressive players from the Bucs’ win at home.
OLB Shaq Barrett
Ever since Barrett moved over to the right side last game, there’s been a significant improvement from him on the pass rush. Barrett was relentless off the edge, recording two sacks in two important moments. Barrett’s sack of Kirk Cousins on the opening drive of the game knocked the Vikings out of field goal range, and his second sack in the fourth quarter pushed Minnesota back and made kicker Dan Bailey miss one of his three field goals, keeping it a two-possession game. Barrett finished his afternoon with four tackles and two sacks.
DT Ndamukong Suh
After a costly offsides penalty that eventually led to Minnesota’s first touchdown of the game, Suh turned it up and put on a great performance. Outside of Barrett, he was the Bucs’ best pass rusher, as he constantly was forcing pressure up the middle and getting in Cousins’ face. Suh also made a nice stop on a third-and-1, dropping fullback C.J. Ham short of the marker to set up fourth down. Suh’s final stat line was six tackles and a sack in the game.
Bucs’ Pass Rush
I’ve already highlighted Barrett and Suh so far, but it really was a collective effort. Tampa Bay’s defense ended up with six sacks coming from five different players. They particularly dialed it up when they had an opportunity to close out the game up by two scores. It was “hunting season” as Bruce Arians put it, and contributions were coming from everywhere. Four-year backup Pat O’Connor was one of the players to record a sack, which was especially exciting knowing the work he’s put into his career just to make the team each season. Joining Barrett, Suh and O’Connor in getting to Cousins was Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jason Pierre-Paul, who both forced a fumble on their sacks, with Pierre-Paul recovering his.
WR Scotty Miller
He only made one catch in the game, but it was a play that ignited the Bucs and got them on the board. Miller caught a superbly thrown 48-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady that put the Bucs up 7-6. We haven’t seen Miller make an impact on the team for a couple weeks, but when he’s involved, the Bucs have been at their best offensively. Miller was able to take the top off of the defense as the Bucs got back to connecting on the deep ball from Brady. What made the play even more highlight-reel worthy was that his face mask was grabbed on the play.
Bucs’ Offensive Line
Normally the unsung heroes on any team, this entire unit deserves a ton of credit for how they played on Sunday. Tom Brady was not sacked at all, nor was he really even pressured that much. He had time to throw all game, and at times he needed it to read out the defense and make the appropriate throw. In the run game, the Bucs went over 100 yards rushing in the game and had a great drive to open the third quarter that featured LeSean McCoy. On that drive, McCoy had four runs in a row that resulted in two first downs, 34 yards total, and runs of 10 and 14 yards. McCoy created a little bit, but the blocking by the line up front was instrumental in springing the veteran back. Between Donovan Smith playing with an injured ankle to Tristan Wirfs continuing an outstanding rookie season, there’s a lot to like about what the Bucs offensive line did. If they keep that up, the Bucs will be in good shape for the last three games of the season.