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By: Scott Reynolds
It’s time for Scott Reynolds’ 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two big statements, two probing questions and two bold predictions. The Bucs improved to 5-5 on the season by beating Seattle in Munich, Germany, 21-16, on Sunday. The Bucs got great play from rookie running back Rachaad White and and inside linebacker Devin White to help the Bucs win back-to-back games and get to .500.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1: Rookie RB White Keys Bucs Win
Rookie running back Rachaad White got the start in place of Leonard Fournette in Sunday’s 21-16 win over Seattle in Germany because Tampa Bay was concerned Fournette’s passport wasn’t going to arrive in time for Thursday’s flight.
The passport did arrive, Fournette made the flight and rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown while averaging 4.1 yards per carry against the Seahawks.
But it was White who really took off in Germany, rushing for a career-high 105 yards and a 4.8-yard average. White logged 22 carries to Fournette’s 14 because the veteran suffered a hip pointer injury in the second half.
White not only made the case for receiving more carries after the bye week, but also that he should supplant Fournette as the Bucs’ starter. White had four carries of 10 yards or more on Sunday, including a 29-yarder that wound up being the Bucs’ first run of 20 yards or more this season.
He threw a wicked stiff arm on Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs that went viral on social media and is Angry Runs-worthy.
“I was setting him for something and the stiff arm just happened,” White said. “It just was a reaction. Playing running back, you have to react a lot.”
With his biggest workload of the season, White got into a rhythm and finished the game off with an 18-yard run to cap off a perfect four-minute drive to run out the clock.
“That’s a big thing, especially when you’re getting carries back-to-back,” White said. “You get in a rhythm, you get in a groove.”
White showed great awareness and maturity on that final 18-yard run, sliding down in bounds at the Seattle 19 rather than trying to break it for a bigger gain or a touchdown down the sidelines and then get pushed out of bounds, as that would have stopped the clock.
“It was great,” White said. “We knew the mentality we wanted to have coming back out there. Obviously, I loved it. My mentality was I knew Coach was going to run the ball, put the ball in my hands. I was telling myself, ‘Let’s go, finish this game out.’”
The Bucs ran for a season-high 161 yards against the Seahawks, mostly due to White’s explosive running style. His first career 100-yard game brought balance to a Bucs offense that was craving it, according to head coach Todd Bowles.
“It felt great to run the ball. I felt they did a good job of mixing things up, trying to keep them off balance running the ball a little bit and then throwing the ball,” Bowles said. “Rachaad and Leonard got off to a good start. Rachaad ran the ball and Leonard got hurt and Rachaad got his carries. He’s a slithery guy. He comes to play every day. He seems like he’s always falling forward. The offensive line played well and they blocked for him.”
Fournette’s injury will likely be healed in time for the Browns game on November 27, and he’ll surely split carries with White after the bye week. But the rookie has an extra gear, extra elusiveness and extra maturity that should make him RB1 in Tampa Bay down the stretch.
The Bucs coaches were slow to bench struggling rookie left guard Luke Goedeke in favor of Nick Leverett, who has been much more effective over the last three games. The coaches need to quickly recognize that White’s arrow is pointing up and he needs more carries and catches that come with a starting role to aid in his rapid development.
STATEMENT 2: LB White Looks Like A Pro Bowler Again
Bucs inside linebacker Devin White deserves an awful lot of credit for his play over the past two weeks. Coming off a loss to the Ravens in which White played poorly and was subjected to public criticism from Bucs Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, Pewter Report and others, White had a bounce-back game against the Rams in a 16-13 win.
White wasn’t spectacular in a win against Los Angeles that snapped Tampa Bay’s three-game losing streak. But he was solid and steady. No mental gaffes and no noticeable mistakes.
In Germany against the Seahawks, White took his game to another level – a Pro Bowl level.
Again, White was steady and disciplined, but he was also splashy. He recorded two sacks, a key forced fumble and led the Bucs with nine tackles. White also broke up Seattle’s two-point conversion pass attempt.
White hadn’t recorded a sack or a takeaway since a Week 2 win at New Orleans. The criticism he received was justified. But so is the praise he’s getting for a sensational game against the Seahawks.
White doesn’t just deserve credit for taking the criticism in stride and responding with improved play. He also deserves appreciation for even playing on Sunday just days after the sudden death of his father.
“For him to even get on the plane – it happened right before we were leaving – and he still got on the plane to play the ball game,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said. “To lose your dad right before you’re getting ready to go to Germany, and to come out and still play says a lot about the guy.”
White spoke about playing with a heavy heart due to the loss of his father.
“It was very hard to play, just a lot of emotions,” White said. “I tried to turn them into good emotions and just keep a great spirit. That was the relationship we had – all about ball, all about going out there and being the best. Just getting this thing turned around.”
After his first sack of quarterback Geno Smith, White pointed up to the sky as a tribute to his father.
“It was just appreciation,” White said. “Just knowing I got great people, great angels watching over me. It was like, ‘This one’s for you.’ I just felt like I was going to come out and have a great game. I had a great week of preparation. Then, getting ready to get on the plane and to get a call like that, it just seemed unreal. But at the end of the day, I knew I had a job to do and I wasn’t going to accept no pats on the back. I just put my head down and just kept going forward.”
If White can keep going forward and not let his play slip into reverse, he could very well make another Pro Bowl and keep the Bucs defense pointed in the right direction.
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: What Was The Most Impressive Thing About The Bucs Offense?
It’s hard to pick just one. The Bucs finally showed they could run the ball with 161 yards on the ground. Tampa Bay marched on three long scoring drives covering 88 yards, 86 yards and 87 yards. All three of those drives ended in touchdowns – not field goals. And that includes two red zone TDs, which have been few and far between this year.
The Bucs offense also converted 10-of-15 third downs (66.7%). That’s too many third downs for Tampa Bay to be in in the first place, but the conversion rate was impressive.
And we finally saw some big plays in the passing game. Despite having over 75 offensive plays last week in the 16-13 win over the Rams, the Bucs offense had just one pass play of 20 yards or longer – a 28-yarder to rookie tight end Cade Otton.
Against the Seahawks, Tom Brady felt more comfortable in the pocket and allowed for the time for some of the more vertical routes to develop downfield. He trusted his protection and the offensive line didn’t surrender a sack and only allowed one QB hit.
As a result, Brady had a 31-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, a 29-yard pass to Mike Evans, a 25-yarder to Otton, a 22-yarder to Scotty Miller and a 19-yard shot to Chris Godwin (we’re rounding up because Godwin scored his first touchdown of the season).
Overall, it was the type of varied offensive attack that we’ve been waiting to see – one filled with great effort and much better execution than in weeks past.
QUESTION 2: What Was The Most Impressive Thing About The Bucs Defense?
Tampa Bay’s defense played four quarters for a second week in a row, and it’s no surprise that the Bucs emerged victorious again as a result. The Bucs defense started off the game red hot, forcing four straight punts by the Seahawks.
Rookie phenom running back Kenneth Walker III had eight yards on seven carries in the first half, as Seattle mustered up only 15 yards on the ground. The Seahawks are one of the best running teams in the league and the Bucs defense smothered the ground game, holding Seattle to just 39 yards on 14 carries (2.8 avg.).
The Bucs pass rush was solid, registering three sacks, and the defense finally recorded an elusive takeaway. Linebacker Devin White sacked Geno Smith and punched the ball out. Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson fell on the ball inside the Bucs’ red zone to quell a potential Seattle scoring drive.
Tampa Bay was dominant on third downs, holding Seattle to 1-of-9 (11.1%) on third downs. That’s damn good against a team that came into the game with a 6-3 record, and it wound up being a deciding factor. The Seahawks couldn’t sustain their rushing attack and couldn’t stay on the field due to poor play on third downs. As a result, the Bucs won the time of possession advantage, 36:55 to 23:05.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: The Bucs Will Win The NFC South
Tampa Bay’s win over Seattle gives the Bucs a 5-5 record and a one game lead over Atlanta (4-6), which lost to Carolina on Thursday night. But the Bucs have a tiebreaker edge over the Falcons, beating them earlier in the season. The Saints and Panthers are both 3-7, and the Bucs have a full two-game lead over New Orleans and Carolina.
The Falcons might have an easier schedule on paper than the Bucs down the stretch. At the same time, Atlanta just lost to Carolina and quarterback Marcus Mariota appears to be regressing to form. It might come down to the Bucs vs. the Falcons in Atlanta in Week 18 to decide the NFC South champion. Of course, Tampa Bay would love to wrap up the division before then, but even if it goes to the season finale, I like the Bucs’ chances.
PREDICTION 2: This Rookie Class Is Shaping Up To Be Special
Credit general manager Jason Licht, his scouting staff and head coach Todd Bowles for a 2022 draft class that is shaping up to be special. Defensive tackle Logan Hall and guard Luke Goedeke, the team’s second-round picks, aren’t even the best rookies in this class – yet. Rookie running back Rachaad White, the team’s third-rounder, fourth-round tight end Cade Otton and fourth-round punter Jake Camarda have really made an impact this year. Camarda is not only a starter at three positions – punter, holder and kickoff specialist – but he’s one of the league’s best punters already.
Otton and White are future starters for the Bucs – as in this year – and tight end Ko Kieft is a regular contributor on offense and special teams. Fifth-round cornerback Zyon McCollum is also an impact special teamer and could develop into a starter on defense. Throw in Hall and Goedeke after a year in the weight room and there are future starters galore in this year’s draft class.
The post 2-Point Conversion: Bucs Win With All The White Stuff appeared first on Pewter Report.
Originally posted on Pewter Report