Most Impressive Players in Week 16
After a nail-biting 19-16 overtime victory over the Cardinals in Arizona on Christmas night, here are the Bucs’ most impressive players from Week 16:
White became the life of the party on Sunday night, rattling off big run after big run almost from the jump of the game. It started on the first drive, when White had back-to-back runs of 18 and seven yards, respectively. Before the game, the rookie had seven carries for 36 yards for 5.1 yards per carry. He was able to add four catches on as many goals for 17 yards and a crucial touchdown in the fourth quarter that brought the Bucs within three points.
Nelson helped destroy an extended drive by the Cardinals early in the first half when he came out of the back like a bat from hell and registered a fumble on Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Devin White and it kept the Bucs’ 3–0 lead intact. The Cardinals attempted to steal points earlier in the drive by converting a fake punt on fourth, but Nelson let their hopes dashed and took points off the board as Arizona was in field goal range at the time.
On the defense’s second drive, Nelson Cardinals tackle Josh Jones made passes to second, getting him back into McSorley’s face. Nelson was in Arizona’s backfield the entire game.
Other than a few plays on the Cardinals’ first drive, cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting, along with safeties Keanu Neal, Antoine Winfield Jr., Mike Edwards and Logan Ryan, largely kept the Cardinals’ playmaking wide receivers under check. . Throughout the first half, only wide receiver Greg Dortch had logged a flyout. The secondary Bucs was able to hold off DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown (for the most part). Hopkins was limited to one catch for four yards on 10 targets.
The Bucs’ old reliable on special teams was perfect again, going 4-of-4 on his field goal attempts. Succop batted from 38, 35 and 42 yards before nailing the game winner from 40 yards out. The veteran kept the Bucs in the game all night as he guaranteed the Bucs would get points if they kept the ball inside the Cardinals 33.
Tryon-Shoyinka provided a constant diet of pressure on McSorley, creating multiple pressures. That included a near-fire in the second quarter that, had it not been for McSorley’s poor finishing techniques, would have brought McSorley down.
JTS was also able to control McSorley and his mobile manners, keeping pace with the Cardinals’ signal caller and preventing him from adding much on the ground. Tryon-Shoyinka regularly kept his pass rush lane and prevented McSorley from trying to scramble upfield. The sophomore year pass rusher finished the night with three quarterback hits.
White continued his trend of solid play since his terrible Week 8 game against Baltimore. With eight total tackles, White played controlled and disciplined throughout the game, helping the Bucs defense get off the field time and time again. On one particular play, he was able to come in with a blitz, recognize a screen for James Conner and adjust to blow it up.
Sean Murphy Bunting
I know I said the Bucs secondary played well as a whole, but SMB deserves a special mention. The much-maligned cornerback lined up at Hopkins for much of the night. He responded by knocking out the Arizona wide receiver four yards out to the tune of one catch TEN GOALS! Playing in a contract year, Murphy-Bunting will hang tape worthy of a second contract sometime in 2023. Murphy-Bunting was all over Nuke for most of the night, breaking several passes while making nearly all of the other tight throws.
What would Bucs offense have been without Fournette? “Not much” is the answer. The Bucs played 78 plays that night, and 30 of those plays ended up with Fournette. The bell cow that ran back recorded 20 carries for 72 yards while averaging 3.6 yards per bag. He added another 90 yards on nine catches over 10 targets. Fournette was the one piece of the Bucs offense they trusted over and over again. And he responded with several heavy runs and catches, forcing missed tackles and gaining extra distance.
Things weren’t always rosy for Fournette, as he was part of a blatant series of plays on the Bucs’ second drive where they ran him three straight runs and needed just yards and he and the offensive line couldn’t to deliver. This led to a turnover on downs that kicked off a largely inept night for the attack. But in the end, Fournette did enough to help the offense take in three more points than the opposing team. And for offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, that’s what counts, right?
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