TAMPA — An injury epidemic that has decimated the Bucs at cornerback spread Sunday to its cornerstone.
Inside linebacker Lavonte David never returned after injuring his ankle on a cringe-inducing play late in the first half against the Dolphins. David leaped to try and deflect a Jacoby Brissett pass, only to have 313-pound teammate Ndamukong Suh roll into him as he landed, bending David’s legs backward. Dolphins center Greg Mancz appeared to push Suh into David.
David walked off the field on his own power. Coach Bruce Arians said afterward David might have suffered a high ankle sprain, though nothing’s certain yet.
“It was most definitely tough on our defense,” outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said.
“We wanted to make sure we closed it out the way we were supposed to for him, but it hurt for sure not having him out there. We missed his leadership, his energy and his playmaking ability.”
Since the dawn of October, tailback Leonard Fournette has evolved into the team’s most versatile offensive weapon and, perhaps more importantly, has earned the trust of Tom Brady as a target.
Fournette notched his second straight game of at least 100 total yards, collecting 67 on the ground (including a 5-yard touchdown run) and 43 receiving yards (five targets, four catches).
Fournette’s totals the last two games: 32 carries, 159 yards, one touchdown; seven catches (on 10 targets), 90 yards.
“It’s all about earning trust, too,” Fournette said. “You can’t go in in practice dropping a lot of balls. In the back of (Brady’s) mind, he’s going to know, ‘I can’t throw that to you, you’re not going to catch it.’ So I try to make every catch he throws to me, try to make it easy for him.”
Red zone resurgence
Evidently, the Bucs’ futility in the red zone was fleeting.
After scoring only one touchdown on four red zone trips last weekend at New England, the Bucs went 4-of-6 Sunday afternoon. Subtract Blaine Gabbert’s kneel-down on the game’s final possession, and Tampa Bay was 4-of-5.
“I think last week’s red zone was kind of an anomaly,” Arians said. “This week we executed much better down there.”
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By the numbers
0 Takeaways by the Dolphins, ending the NFL’s longest active streak of 26 consecutive games with at least one.
9 Strip sacks by outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, tied for most in the NFL since he joined the Bucs in 2019. Barrett forced a Jacoby Brissett fumble with his sack late in the first half.
19 Multi-touchdown games by Antonio Brown, tied with Rob Gronkowski for most in the NFL since both entered the NFL in 2010.
25 Career sacks by David, third-most by a linebacker in franchise history. David was credited with a first-quarter sack after forcing Brissett to the sideline for no gain.
36 Games in which Brady has thrown at least four touchdown passes. Drew Brees (37) owns the NFL record.
274 Career receptions for Chris Godwin, moving him into 10th place on the Bucs’ all-time list. Godwin had seven catches for 70 yards Sunday.
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