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Bucs' Rookie Corners Pacing the NFL

Data Crunch: Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting form the NFL's top rookie intercepting duo and a number of NFL defenders recorded notable achievements in Saturday's game

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw their four-game winning streak come to an end in Week 16 when they lost to the Houston Texans, 23-20, but not before they rallied from 14 points down to twice tie the score. The first tie, at 17-17, came just before halftime on an eight-yard touchdown catch by Justin Watson.

Jameis Winston's scrambling third-down strike to the second-year receiver completed a 39-yard drive, a prime scoring chance compliments of rookie cornerback Jamel Dean. With a seven-point lead and one minute left in the half, Houston's Deshaun Watson went for the kill shot, throwing deep down the middle of the field to Kenny Stills, but Dean was able to make a leaping grab of the pass just before it got to its intended target. He then returned the interception 31 yards into Houston territory.

It was Dean's second interception of the season, making him second on the Buccaneers' defense in that category. The only Tampa Bay defender with more picks this season is another rookie, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. That makes the Buccaneers the only team in the NFL with two rookies who each have multiple interceptions. Murphy-Bunting remains tied for the rookie lead in that category.

NFL Rookies with Multiple Interceptions, 2019

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Excluding replacement players during the 1987 strike, this is the first time the Buccaneers have had two rookies with multiple interceptions in the same season.

Three different rookies had passes defensed in Saturday's game against Houston: Dean, Murphy-Bunting and safety Mike Edwards. Dean's pass breakup was his 17th of the season, putting him one behind second-year cornerback Carlton Davis for the team lead. Both Davis and Dean rank in the top 10 in the NFL in passes defensed.

Most Passes Defensed, NFL, 2019

2

Comprehensive data on passes defensed is available back through the 1999 season, and this is the first time since 2005 that a pair of Buccaneers have each broken up 15 or more passes in the same campaign. Ronde Barber (20) and Brian Kelly (17) pulled off the trick that season, and also in 2002.

Murphy-Bunting was also responsible for one of the Buccaneers' two forced fumbles against Houston, recording that and his first career sack on the play just before Dean's interception as he caught Watson from behind and chopped the ball out of his hands. That loose ball went out of bounds but the Buccaneers did get a turnover earlier in that same period when Devin White recovered a ball that running back Duke Johnson put on the ground. The player who forced that fumble is no surprise: Lavonte David, who has had a knack for that play since he entered the league in 2012.

David now has three forced fumbles in 2019 and 21 in his career, the sixth-most by any player in the NFL in that span. There are seven players with at least 20 forced fumbles over those eight seasons, and the other six are all edge rushers with significantly higher sack totals than the Buccaneers' linebacker. There may not be an NFL defender better at forcing fumbles past the line of scrimmage than Lavonte David.

View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 16 matchup against Houston.

NFL Players with 20+ Forced Fumbles Since 2012

3

Comprehensive data on forced fumbles is available back through the 1993 season, and since then there has only been one Buccaneer who has forced more fumbles in his career than David. That player is in the Hall of Fame.

Most Career Forced Fumbles, Buccaneers (Since 1993)

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The Buccaneers ended up with five sacks of Watson, including one by Carl Nassib and three by Jason Pierre-Paul. That tied Pierre-Paul's single-game career high and was his third career three-sack game. It was also the third time this season a Buccaneer has had three or more sacks in the same contests; Shaquil Barrett recorded three sacks against Carolina in Week Two and then four more the following week against the New York Giants. Prior to the 2019 season, there had only been 22 three-sack games in franchise history, including seasons before the sack became an official statistic in 1982. This marks the first time in franchise history that the Buccaneers have had three individual three-sack performances in the same season.

Barrett saw his own streak of four straight games with at least one sack come to an end on Saturday but he did record one quarterback hit, his 32nd of the year. That is just one off the NFL lead in that category.

Most Quarterback Hits, NFL, 2019

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Additional Notes:

- Quarterback Jameis Winston was intercepted four times in Saturday's loss and he leads the league in that category with 28. However, he also leads the NFL with 4,908 passing yards and is on the verge of becoming the first 5,000-yard passer in Buccaneers history. If he reaches that milestone, it would be just the 12th 5,000-yard passing season in NFL history. Winston also extended his single-season Buccaneer record for touchdown passes to 31 and ranks second in the league in that category behind the 36 thrown by Baltimore's Lamar Jackson.

With his 335 passing yards against the Texans, Winston also moved up one more spot on the list of the most prolific passers, in terms of yards, in a player's first five seasons. He passed a Hall-of-Famer in the process.

Most Passing Yards, Players' First Five Seasons, NFL History

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- Rookie kicker Matt Gay accounted for eight of the Buccaneers' 20 points against Houston with a pair of field goals (50 and 41 yards) and two extra points in two tries. His 54-yard attempt in the first quarter was blocked. With those additions, Gay extended his record for the most points scored by a Buccaneer rookie to 122. That's also the fifth-highest single-season scoring total in franchise history among all players, and he'll enter the season finale within striking distance of the record.

Most Points Scored, Single Season, Buccaneers History

1. Matt Bryant, 2008: 131

2. Martin Gramatica, 2002: 128

3. Martin Gramatica, 2000: 126

4. Connor Barth, 2012: 123

5. Matt Gay, 2019: 122

- As a team, the Buccaneers have scored 51 touchdowns in 2019, marking the first season in franchise history they've reached the 50-TD plateau. Tampa Bay extended its own single-season record for points to 436, the first time a Tampa Bay team has scored more than 400 points in one campaign.

- One week after posting his first career 100-yard receiving game with 113 yards and three touchdowns in Detroit, wide receiver Breshad Perriman made it two in a row with 102 yards on seven catches against Houston. That included a 27-yard reception in the first quarter. Perriman has snared nine receptions of 20 or more yards over the last four weeks, the most by any player in the NFL in that span.

- Ronald Jones' 49-yard run in the first quarter was the longest of his young career and the longest by any Buccaneer in more than four years. The most recent longer run was a 56-yarder by Doug Martin at Indianapolis on Nov. 29, 2015.

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