Wed. Feb 28th, 2024
Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Bucs
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Basically two elite players carried this near-lifeless corpse of a Bucs team to victory.

Not sure how excited anyone should feel about a 3-point home win against the league’s worst team, but that’s what the Bucs did in their 21-18 victory against the Carolina Panthers.

The improvement to 5-7 keeps the franchise in the hunt for its 4th straight playoff berth and third-straight division title. It was rainy, it was ugly, and it was rarely pleasant to watch save for two players who the Bucs must desperately re-sign this offseason.

We’ll highlight them both in this week’s top performers:

Offensive Top Performer: WR Mike Evans

Evans is now at the point where he’s making history almost every week, and this time it was especially meaningful. No. 13 obliterated the Panthers to the tune of 7 catches for 162 yards and a score — the longest of his career on a 75-yard sprint — and in the process logged his 10th straight 1,000-yard season.

This not only extends his own record for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin a career, but it also ties Randy Moss for second-longest streak period. Only Jerry Rice (11) has more consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns.

Forget age, forget everything else; if the Bucs fail to keep the best offensive player in franchise history, it is doing a massive disservice to him, the team, and the fans. He must remain in red and pewter.

Defensive Player: S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Winfield made so many highlight-reel plays on Sunday, it was hard to keep track of them all. Most notably, he recorded his second interception of the season on a critical late-game 4th down that essentially sealed the win.

He notched another sack to bring his season total to 3 and further establish himself as the NFL’s best pass-rushing safety, and he again served as an irreplaceable tackling machine (8 total, 2 for loss) and stopgap for a leaky secondary (two passes defensed).

The defensive equivalent of Evans, Winfield has quickly established himself as a franchise stalwart having an All-Pro season. He’ll be worth every penny of his big-money extension, whenever it happens in the next few months. Letting the 25-year-old leave would be team-building malpractice.

We need to also shout out J.J. Russell, he honestly played his ass off as the team’s lone inside linebacker most of the day. Injuries/illness forced out Lavonte David, Devin White, SirVocea Dennis, and K.J. Britt in an unprecedented situation, and Russell responded 7 total tackles and 1 sack.

The rookie tandem of YaYa Diaby and Calijah Kancey remained impactful, with the former getting a sack and latter getting multiple pressures and forcing two key penalties — an intentional grounding and a holding in Tampa territory.

Special Teams Top Performer: P Jake Camarda

Camarda has been less consistent than his torrid start to the season, and he wasn’t amazing Sunday, but he did the job well enough. He flipped the field against a bad offense on a rainy day, totaling 8 punts for 369 yards (46.1 gross average) and pinning one inside the 20.

By admin