Where is DE Dewayne White in this picture? Look for his game-saving left hand coming over the top of G Jeb Terry (77) to block the kick
Matt Bryant's right foot provided the winning points in Saturday's emotionally-draining 27-24 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but it never would have happened without Dewayne White's left wrist.
White turned in one of the most critical special teams plays in franchise history earlier in that overtime period when he blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt by Falcons kicker Todd Peterson. As a result, he has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 16.
The Buccaneers' third-year defensive end is only the second player who is not a punter, kicker or kick returner to win a Special Teams Player of the Week award in either conference this season. Chicago Bears' cornerback Nathan Vasher was the NFC choice in Week 10 after he returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown against San Francisco.
Both White and Vasher were selected for singularly important plays. White also had three tackles and a critical forced fumble in the Bucs' victory, but those accomplishments are not part of the consideration for this specific award. Instead, White has been feted for making the play that kept the Buccaneers hopes for the division title alive and well.
The block rescued the Bucs, who appeared to be headed for the loss when wide receiver Edell Shepherd fumbled the kickoff to open overtime. Atlanta recovered the loose ball and, after two running plays positioned it at the Bucs' 11, brought out Peterson to try the game-winning chip shot. Fortunately White, who had been close to blocking several other field goals this season, according to his teammates, timed his leap perfectly and was able to bat down a kick that appeared to be headed right down the middle of the uprights.
The Bucs' contention that White had gotten close to several other blocks is believable given that the last Tampa Bay player to block a field goal before Saturday's game was, indeed, White. He pulled off the same trick at Carolina last November 28.
Cornerback Brian Kelly returned the blocked kick to the Bucs' 31 and the offense proceeded to drive down to Atlanta's nine. Though Bryant missed a 27-yard field goal at the end of that march, he was able to win the game with his 41-yarder with 15 seconds left in overtime.
Had White not gotten a hand on Peterson's kick, the Bucs would have dropped to 9-6 and into a second-place tie in the NFC South with the Falcons. Carolina would have needed only to beat Atlanta in their season finale to claim the division, and the Bucs would have dropped into a four-way tie for the final two spots in the conference playoff chase.
Instead, the Bucs now control their own destiny in the division, needing only a win over New Orleans on Sunday to take the title. The extra victory has also put the Bucs in position to earn a playoff spot even if they do not win on Sunday, as such occurrences as a Giants win at Oakland or losses by Carolina, Washington or Dallas will clinch a spot for Tampa Bay.
White is the second Buccaneer to win a Special Teams Player of the Week award this season, following punter Josh Bidwell. Bidwell took it twice, after Weeks Three and Six and is now headed to the Pro Bowl. Tampa Bay has also drawn two NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors this year, going to linebacker Shelton Quarles in Week Two and cornerback Ronde Barber in Week 14.
White is the first non-kicker or punter to win this award for the Buccaneers since tight end Todd Yoder took the honor in Week 16 of the 2001 season. This is the first time Buccaneer players have combined to take three NFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards in one season since 1997, when Quarles (1) and Karl Williams (2) did the trick.