Wide receiver Mike Evans gets his milestone**
It's been well-publicized by now, but Mike Evans amassed 1,000 yards for his fourth consecutive season to start his career. He becomes just the third player in league history to do so. The milestone came on his last reception during the last drive of the last game of the season; a drama factor befitting of the year Evans and the team as a whole has had. Going into the game, Evans needed 54 yards to get to the 1,000-yard mark and with 1:58 left in the game, he had just 21 of those 54. Quarterback Jameis Winston, fully aware of the feat Evans could accomplish, targeted the 6-foot-5 receiver five of six times at one point during the final drive to push Evans over the edge. It came on a deep pass for 16 yards that pushed the Bucs into New Orleans territory en route to a game-winning touchdown (to which Evans added the two-point conversion grab, just for good measure). Evans finished the season with 1,001 yards and five touchdowns.
The unexpected duo: Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries
Wide receivers Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin were Tampa Bay's first pair of 100+ yard receivers this season. The rookie out of Penn State had seven catches for 111 yards, while Humphries had seven catches for 102 yards. They were each targeted 11 times throughout the night by quarterback Jameis Winston. Godwin got the nod on a deep ball for the game-winning touchdown, as he grabbed the 39-yard pass down the right sideline and ran it in for the score. It was Godwin's first career NFL touchdown. Humphries was consistent all night, even nabbing himself a 43-yard pass from Winston, marking his season-long.
Defensive end Ryan Russell making the most of his opportunities**
Defensive end Ryan Russell had the first sack of quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday. He dropped Brees for a seven-yard loss on third-down and three with the Saints right around midfield. It was Russell's second sack in as many games. He was the only pass rusher to get to quarterback Cam Newton in the Bucs' Week 16 contest against the Carolina Panthers. Injuries to the defensive line have led to Russell getting more opportunities as of late and they are opportunities the third-year player took advantage of.
The Bucs' rushing defense stepped up
The Buccaneers held the Saints' two-headed monster to 15 yards apiece in the first half of Sunday's game against New Orleans. Running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram finished with just 44 and 35 rushing yards, respectively, despite making 22 combined attempts. Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander had a lot to do with that. He registered 11 combined tackles on the day and seemed to be all over the rookie Kamara. The Bucs' defense held the Saints to 92 total rushing yards during the game. New Orleans was 6-for-12 on third down conversions and was limited to a total of 18 first downs in comparison to the Bucs' 28 on the day.
Improvement on third down for the offense
The Buccaneer offense was 13-for-18 on third down during Sunday's game for a success rate of 72 percent. They recorded a total of 28 first downs throughout the day, moving the ball up and down the field and amassing a total of 455 total yards. A key to their success on third downs seemed to be the lack of third-and-long predicaments the Tampa Bay offense found themselves in. Most third down scenarios throughout the game were of just a couple of yards, save for the final drive when third-and-10 turned into fourth-and-10, bringing up one of the most underrated plays of the game.*BONUS mention for Most Underrated Play of the Game:On fourth-and-10 during the Bucs final drive of the game, down 24-23 with the Bucs at their own 5-yard line, no timeouts and the clock winding down, tight end Cameron Brate made arguably the most crucial catch of the night for a 12-yard gain that kept the drive alive. Not only did the drive lead to the game-winning touchdown, a 39-yard score by wide receiver Chris Godwin, it also led to wide receiver Mike Evans getting his chance to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark on his season, giving him his aforementioned milestone of four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.