The Buccaneers escaped a blustery Foxboro with a victory, but the margin of victory was as wide as an NFL goalpost. The offense had a difficult time slinging the rock in the on-again-off-again rain. Tom Brady had arguably his worst night in a Tampa uniform; the infamous week 9 Saints game is the only other time Tom has failed to score a TD while wearing a Tampa uniform. In this week’s Plank or Plunder, none of the usual offensive stars make an appearance. Instead, it’s the much-maligned defense that earned the team a victory.
Plunder: Richard Sherman, CB
Richard Sherman stepping onto the field on Sunday after being signed off the street on Wednesday is a miracle. That simply doesn’t happen in the NFL. Sherman, the former Seahawk all-pro, led the team in solo tackles (7) and recovered a fumble in the victory. Sherman did not play all-pro football, but anyone who expected him to is out of their mind.
Antonio Brown struggled mightily in his week 9 debut against the Saints last year, and he ended up just fine. Yes, a DB’s role is more complicated than a WR’s, but Sherman’s debut showed that he is not misplaced on an NFL field. We can expect more from him as he learns more about this defense and his role within it.
Plank: The rest of the Bucs’ Cornerbacks
The only other unit in the NFL with as many key injuries as the Bucs’ Cornerback unit is the Raven’s Running Back squad. Bill Belichick, noted Sith Lord and devoid of all emotion, took no pity upon the Bucs while making his game plan. The Patriots played assignment football all night. WRs were in tight bunch formations, pick plays were plentiful, and every snap featured a WR in motion to confuse the new faces in the Bucs’ secondary. This forced confusion created an open man for Mac Jones on nearly every pass play. Jones dinked and dunked his way through progressions on his way to completing over 75% of his passes. New England only ran the ball eight times, and they exited the game with negative rushing yards. The Bucs’ depleted CBs will certainly continue to be the focal point of opposing offenses until the three injured starters at the position are healthy.
Plunder: Antoine Winfield Jr., FS
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher has already become a fan favorite. In just his second season, Antoine Winfield Jr. is developing into a star NFL safety. In week 4, Winfield Jr. logged 5 solo tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Winfield Jr. is a playmaker at the safety position, but he is not a liability to overextend either. Winfield Jr. can man the single high role, he can fill run gaps, and he excels at rushing the passer. This allows Todd Bowles to deploy him anywhere on the field knowing he has an intelligent ballplayer in that role.
Plank: Devin White, MLB
Now, before we continue, put down the pitchforks. Devin White is the centerpiece of this defense, and he might even be the best player on the whole team. This week we just think he left a little meat on the bone.
The coaching staff has acknowledged that if Devin wants to continue on his path to being a premier defensive threat he will have to improve in pass coverage. White dropped what looked like a sure-fire pick-six that would’ve sealed the game. While White did register two QB hits, he missed a Mac Jones after screaming through the A-gap by being ole’d like a prized bullfighter. This week is far from a referendum on White’s performance, but he missed an opportunity to close out this game. Fortunately, the Buccaneers have more than one skilled linebacker.
Plunder: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, OLB
Speaking of skilled linebackers, find one Buccaneer player or coach with anything bad to say about Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The rookie out of Washington has flashed speed and flexibility off the edge ever since his preseason debut. In week 4, with JPP still absent due to a shoulder injury, Tryon-Shoyinka was once again a starting pass rusher. Unlike in the Rams game, where he was held in check, Tryon-Shoyinka burst onto the scene with two sacks. Tryon-Shoyinka is a threatening pass rusher, but he doesn’t turn his motor off on run plays, either. He can be found chasing runners from behind on the rare occasion an RB breaks through the Bucs. imposing defensive line.
The 32nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft is making NFL GMs look foolish for passing on him. All indications are that Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has the talent to become a star in the NFL. It will be interesting to monitor how many snaps he is given week by week as he continues to grow into his role.
Plank: OJ Howard, TE
If you’ve been so keen as to notice, I enjoy exclusively using the photos of established Buccaneers.com professional photographers Tori Richman and Kyle Zedaker. They do an excellent job capturing the emotion and physicality of the game, and they recognize which key players and plays merit being published to the website.
OJ Howard was afforded one single target for zero yards. Gronk was absent from the game from injuries sustained last week. This should have been the game where Howard was able to prove his value. There is no photo of OJ from tonight because he did nothing that merited having his photo taken. This is a contract year, and it looks like OJ will hit the open market.
Plunder: Lavonte David, MLB
Lavonte David had a relatively quiet night, at least compared to his standards. With only 7 total tackles and only one TFL, Lavonte struggled to make an impact during the game. Belichick correctly identified the piecemeal secondary as the Bucs’ coverage weakness, so the Patriots didn’t need to test Lavonte in coverage. But, on the Buccaneers’ final defensive snap, a big-time player made a big-time play in a big-time situation.
Bucs’ fans were screaming Lavonte’s praises into the clouds for nearly a decade. Finally, the league is putting some respek on his name.
I cannot stress enough how huge of a play this was. If this pass is completed, which was all but guaranteed, the Bucs may have never even got the ball back. Nick Folk’s 56-yarder with 50 seconds left could’ve been reduced to a chip shot as time expired. Lavonte wasn’t even in coverage on this play. He was rushing the passer and made a heads-up play to swat the ball when he saw Jones’ release. David didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but he made the play the Bucs needed when they needed it most.