The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense became an impenetrable force in Week Two, guiding the team to victory. Outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Joe-Tryon Shoyinka became the protagonists, fueling the unit to dominance. Overall, the Bucs' defense produced six sacks, the most since the Week Two game at New Orleans in 2022 (9/18/22) - and two interceptions. The unit consistently collapsed the pocket and affected the backfield. Barrett, the heart and soul of Tampa Bay's defense, notched a sack and a game-sealing interception return for a touchdown. His counterpart, third-year player Tryon-Shoyinka, posted two sacks on Justin Fields for a loss of 21 yards. Both became catalysts, shifting the momentum to Tampa Bay in critical moments.
Achieving more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, particularly off the edges, was an emphasis during the offseason for Todd Bowles' crew and against the Bears, the progress was evident. The Bucs were hoping to see ascension out of Tryon-Shoyinka in 2023, their 2021 first-round pick, after a pair of four-sack seasons to start his career. Bowles stressed "finishing at the top of rushes" and "not leaving his feet too early" were focal points for Tryon-Shoyinka in fostering growth. With tantalizing closing burst, bend and outside/inside rush, Tryon-Shoyinka showcased his development in Week Two, knocking down Justin Fields twice.
"He is getting off the ball," Bowles described. "He was thinking last year and the last two years learning the scheme and trying to fit in and now he is coming off the ball, kind of coming into his own. We tell him to go like hell with his athletic ability and his strength. He is starting to use it."
Tryon Shoyinka's first sack on third-and-13 forced a Bears' punt and the second, came on a critical second-and-13 in the third quarter. Tryon-Shoyinka set up in a wide set and quickly got upfield on Braxton Jones as the Bears' offensive lineman chased from behind. JTS knocked down Fields for a loss of 10 yards, making it third-and-23 for Chicago.
Barrett also showed his maturation on the field against the Bears. He was one of the NFL's top sack producers from 2019-21. Barrett had 3.0 sacks on his resumé in 2022 before a midseason Achilles tendon tear prematurely ended his campaign. Barrett ran without limitations in training camp, and he cut loose against Fields. With an explosive first step, leverage underneath the pads of blockers and speed-to-power conversion, Barrett became a menace on Sunday afternoon.
With just over two minutes to play, Barrett initially rushed inside, read Fields' eyes, dropped back in coverage, twisted, and snagged a one-handed interception. He returned it for a touchdown, as his teammates pushed him into the end zone. That singular play iced the victory for the Buccaneers but also became a personification of the team's outpour of love for the Barrett family amidst unimaginable tragedy, rallying behind them. Shaquil and Jordanna Barrett lost their two-year old daughter, Arrayah on April 30. Football and rehabilitation from the injury became a sanctuary and therapeutic avenue for Barrett to process grief during the offseason. On Sunday, he played for her.
"I always play for my family already but then having that extra incentive, it makes me want to go a little harder for her," Barrett described. "It never stops sucking. It is always going to suck but to be able to shine a spotlight on her a little bit and when the camera was on me after I made the play, I told her, 'I love you. I miss you. Wish you were here.' I am glad I am able to still get some spotlight for her and to the Lord above because He is the reason we are here right now. I am just trusting His plan."
In addition, Barrett nabbed a sack on Fields. From first-and-10 in the second quarter, Barrett quickly bypassed Bears' rookie Darnell Wright and after Cole Kmet motioned to the other side for protection help, he left Wright on an island, who was no match for Barrett. He knocked down Fields, as the vivacious crowd erupted at Raymond James Stadium. Barrett's play on Sunday, although the standard, became added validation on his return to peak form.
"I felt I was back for a while now, but it is good to get the plays and the game-changing plays like I am accustomed to and to have that affirmed," Barrett said. "I thank my coaches for putting me in the right position and my team who has been there for me. It felt good."
The Buccaneers improved to 2-0 and the individual performances by both Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in Week Two secured the victory.