The Bucs are 7-8 with two games left to play through the New Year. They are nowhere near what they should have been this season, but a Sunday victory over the Panthers earns them their second straight NFC South crown. And throughout this ups and downs season – even for quarterback Tom Brady – there was one constant: veteran kicker Ryan Succop.
As mediocre as Tampa Bay’s sub-.500 record is, can you imagine where this team would be without Succop? The latest in a long line of steady performances came on Christmas night as the 36-year-old trained all four of his field goal attempts, as well as his only extra point attempt. He connected with punts from 38 and 35 yards in the first half before tying the game late with a 42-yard field goal. Then, after the Bucs put him back in overtime, he nailed the 40-yard game winner right in the middle. There was no doubt about it, and there usually isn’t when it comes to Succop.
“He’s done a great job. He’s been very consistent,” said Bucs head coach Todd Bowles after the game. “He came back healthier than last year, so I think that helped a lot. The holds were great, the snaps were great. He’s done his job, so I can’t say enough about him.”
Succop certainly did its job – and then some. He is 29 of 34 (85.3%) on field goals this season, with four of his misses coming from further than 50 yards. Not to mention, he’s a perfect 21-of-21 on extra point attempts. Without such a reliable kicker, the Bucs would not be able to repeat as division champions.
And that is by no means an exaggeration.
In Tampa Bay’s season-opening 19-3 victory over Dallas, Succop accounted for 13 points. He then accounted for eight points in a 20-10 victory over New Orleans the following week. A 10-point performance from Succop helped the Bucs beat the Rams 16-13 in November. And on Sunday, his 13 points made the difference in the game. He now has 108 points per year, the ninth total in one season in team history. To think he had to fight in training camp for the right to keep his job seems crazy, doesn’t it?
Bucs sticking to Succop’s experience has paid off
Coming into training camp, it was clear that Succop would have to hold off young Jose Borregales if he wanted to stay in Tampa Bay for a third season. There were questions about the veteran’s remaining leg strength, and it seemed like a real possibility that the team would save a cap and put their faith in the strong leg of Borregales, a former college Lou Groza Award winner. But after the then-24-year-old faltered in the preseason and Succop continued to be his dependable self, the Bucs had no choice but to stick with the veteran option.
And that decision might have saved Tampa Bay’s chances of getting something out of this season. The Brady-led offense that racked up 30 points per game in 2020 and 2021 was a shell in itself in 2022, with constant struggles in the red zone and a continued inability to find the end zone that became the theme of the year.
As a result, Succop has its most field goal attempts (34) since 2017 – and the second most ever – with two games remaining. His 29 field goals made are also the second-most in his career, with just 35 punts scored in 2017 as a member of the Titans. Who’s to say where the Bucs would be if they cut ties with Succop in favor of Borregales? The former Miami standout may have done just fine, to be fair. But Succop’s consistency has been huge for Tampa Bay this season.
He helped win games against Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Arizona. And when the Bucs looked mostly hopeless against the Steelers and Ravens, he did his best to keep them in both games. Succop scored 12 of the team’s 18 points in a 20–18 loss in Pittsburgh, then scored 10 points in a 27–22 loss at home to Baltimore. And if the first 15 games are any indication, Succop will need to get through Week 17 to send the Bucs to the playoffs.
With two games left to play and control of the division firmly in their hands, the Bucs owe a lot to Succop. It’s nothing new, though, as he’s been a critical part of the team’s success over the past three years.
The veteran deserves much credit for solidifying the team’s kicking game since his arrival in 2020. His 136 points in the team’s Super Bowl year was a single-season franchise record. His 375 points rank him eighth in team history and holds the Bucs field goal percentage record of 86.3% (10 minimum attempts).
After years of incompetent kickers in Tampa Bay, Succop came in and brought stability to the position in 2020 and 2021. Now, in 2022, he pays for the Bucs’ decision to stay with him at age 36. And thanks in large part to his leg, Tampa Bay is within striking distance of a third straight playoff appearance and an eighth division title in its history.
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