Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians has been raving about the rugged blocking of wide receiver Chris Godwin all season. But Arians doesn't want to just heap praise on his third-year wideout; he wants to heap passes on him.
Godwin had a career day in the Buccaneers' bracing 55-40 win over the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday, catching 12 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. His catch and yardage totals were personal best and he tied his own single-game touchdowns mark. All 12 of Godwin's catches resulted in first downs.
And yet it's a good bet that the thing Arians enjoyed most about Godwin's performance when he reviewed tape of the game was a lead block the receiver threw on Ronald Jones' five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Godwin was critical to that drive, too, catching two third-down passes to keep the chains moving, the second of which got the ball to the Rams' 12-yard line, two plays before the score.
On the touchdown run, Godwin went in motion to the right and stopped just behind the outside shoulder of tight end O.J. Howard. Howard turned outside linebacker Samson Ebukam out to the right at the snap, creating a lane for Jones over left tackle. Godwin shot through that lane first and then Jones, taking a handoff out of the shotgun, raced through behind him. Godwin met cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman at the three and stood him up, also forcing cornerback Aqib Talib to go around those two. Jones cut to the left of Robey-Coleman, who tried to wrap him up but couldn't because he was on his heels, all his momentum robbed by Godwin. Jones barreled through Robey-Coleman easily for the score.
Plays like that make Arians want to reward Godwin with the football.
"That’s the thing – when you’re running the ball and you’re blocking like he does, there are a lot of opportunities around the middle of the field to make big plays – and outside," said the coach. "Again, it goes back to our philosophy – mine, personally – if you’re willing to do it, I’m willing to get you the ball."
Arians has worked with great blocking receivers before, particularly Hines Ward in Pittsburgh and Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. Both of those players were (and are) always willing to do whatever it took for the offense to succeed, even if it didn't show up on their own stat lines. That wasn't a problem, though, because plenty of numbers did show up for Ward and Fitzgerald, and the same is becoming true for Godwin, as well. He currently ranks third in the NFL in both catches and receiving yards and is tied for first in touchdowns.
"Chris – that’s his role," said Arians. "That’s why I love when a guy has the breakout games of  catches or whatever for 170 yards, because he’s doing all that grimy work. You throw him screen passes in the red zone, not just because they’re good at it [but] because they deserve it. He blocked Clay Matthews better than our tight ends did a couple of times."
View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 4 matchup against Los Angeles.
Additional notes from Arians' day-after-game press conference:
* Second-year linebacker Jack Cichy incurred what appeared to be a significant injury to his right arm on the final kickoff of Sundays' win, after the Buccaneers had taken a 15-point lead with one minute to play. Cichy had the entire arm in an air cast after the game.
However, Cichy might actually be getting some good news shortly, and there is hardly a player more deserving of that. The former Wisconsin linebacker overcame two knee injuries in college to still be drafted by the Buccaneers in the sixth round in 2018, and then misfortune struck again when he suffered another ACL tear in his sixth game as a pro. Cichy battled back a third time to make the opening-day roster this year and had become a valuable member of the Bucs' special teams units. Another season-ending injury would have been a cruel blow indeed.
Cichy had an MRI on his elbow on Monday, and since the results weren't yet in Arians didn't expound too much on the linebacker's prognosis. However, the few words he did say sounded relatively positive.
"MRIs are not back in, but his elbow – it could be two to four weeks," Arians offered.
Cichy himself seemed to be expecting good news on Monday.
* Ronald Jones led the team in rushing for the third time in four games, and he logged 36 snaps on offense to 19 for Peyton Barber, who started in the backfield. Jones had 15 carries to one for Barber after halftime, when the game was turning into a shootout. Both running backs scored a touchdown, with Jones picking up 70 yards on the ground plus one 12-yard catch.
Jones also had two explosive plays called back by penalties, a 24-yard run in the second quarter and a 54-yard sprint in the third period. It was clear that he had the "hot hand" again, and that got him more exposure. His strong outing will undoubtedly prompt more questions about when and if he will replace Barber in the starting lineup, but that doesn't seem to be an issue of much importance to Arians.
"I like where we’re at," said Arians. "Peyton had a big game [this season] and when RoJo gets going, he’ll stay in there."
"When you get the hot hand – and [Jones] had the hot hand, he was making people miss. Peyton had it in Carolina, so it’s a good problem to have to have two guys, and both did a great job of scoring in the red zone."