Observations from the Buccaneers’ 28-11 win over the Jaguars on Sunday:
1. The Bucs won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Contract extensions for everyone!
2. So the Bucs improved to 5-7, but the most meaningful development, maybe more so than the win, was the performance by first-round draft pick Devin White. A popular preseason pick for defensive rookie of the year, White got off to a slow start, partly because he missed three games because of a knee injury, but has come on strong of late. He followed up a two-sack game against the Falcons last Sunday with perhaps the best game of his young career.
3. White’s first quarter: interception and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Doesn’t get much better than that right? But it did. White made his presence known throughout the game, including during a critical goal-line sequence in the fourth quarter when the Jaguars, down 25-11, were rallying. On first and goal from the 1, he stuffed former LSU teammate Leonard Fournette for a yard loss. On the next play, he broke up a pass to Fournette over the middle.
4. Devin White or Josh Allen? How about both? Allen, whom the Bucs passed over during the first round of April’s draft and one of the leading candidates for defensive rookie of the year, also played well Sunday, recording a sack (his team-leading ninth) that forced a turnover on downs and two quarterback hits.
5. For the second straight week, the Bucs thoroughly outclassed their opponent. Sure, the Falcons were 3-7 and the Jaguars were 4-7, but Tampa Bay got the job done both times. For the first time since 2012, the Bucs have won back-to-back games by double digits. That season, Tampa Bay won three straight games by at least 10 points. Their success, however, didn’t carry over to the next season.
6. Speaking of margin of victory, the Bucs’ record (5-7) is finally beginning to align with their point differential (-6). This isn’t a good football team, at least not yet, but it’s an improved one. Through 12 games last season, they had a differential of -37.
7. Maybe the defense is better than widely believed. In holding the Jaguars to 11 points, the fewest the Bucs have allowed this season, they recorded four takeaways (two interceptions and two fumbles), tying a season high. They’ve forced 21 turnovers, four more than they forced all of last season.
8. The Bucs took a 25-0 lead into halftime. How’d they do it? By establishing the run? Nope. They rushed 15 times for 44 yards. Jameis Winston had five times as many passing yards. Tampa Bay finished with 74 rushing yards. Jacksonville had allowed at least 200 rushing yards in three straight games.
9. For just the fifth time in his career, Winston finished a game without throwing a touchdown pass or an interception. The Bucs had lost three of the previous four games.
10. Overheard on the broadcast as the Jaguars offense was driving during the fourth quarter: “You don’t think momentum is real?” Fox analyst Mark Schlereth said. “Oh, I know it’s real,” his partner Dick Stockton replied. Moments later, the Bucs intercepted a Gardner Minshew pass.
11. Great decision: After the Bucs’ second touchdown, they lined up to kick an extra point, but the Jaguars committed a neutral zone infraction. Instead of trying a closer extra point, Tampa Bay choose to take the ball at the 1-yard line and try a two-point conversion. Peyton Barber’s run succeeded, and the Bucs took a 15-0 lead.
12. Good decision, bad result: At the end of the third quarter, the Bucs chose to go for it on fourth and 4 from the Jacksonville 37. Nothing wrong with that. Manageable distance. Too long of a field goal in windy conditions. Too close for a punt. The execution, however, was as bad as it gets. Josh Allen sacked Jameis Winston for a 9-yard loss. If Winston had thrown an interception there, it would have been meaningless — the net result would have been similar to a punt.
13. A rarity: Lavonte David was called for pass interference on a fourth-and-5 play in the fourth quarter. It was the first accepted penalty against David in nearly three years.
14. With the win and the Panthers’ loss, the Bucs jumped up to second place in the NFC South. They’ve finished in second just once in the past decade (2016).
15. Flip side: The Bucs fell to 13th in the 2020 NFL draft order standings.