Rookie running back Rachaad White ran a career-high 22 times in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' history-making win in Munich on Sunday. On the very last one, he shot around right tackle, broke into the clear, penetrated the Seattle Seahawks' red zone and…voluntarily slid to the ground at the end of a 19-yard gain.
The end of the play was radically different from the one at the end of his career-long 29-yarder one quarter earlier, in which he stiff-armed standout safety Quandre Diggs into oblivion. On both plays, White did exactly what the situation required for the Buccaneers to stay in the lead en route to a 21-16 victory and the first win by any NFL team in a regular-season game in Germany.
The peaceful end to White's final carry, which gave him his first career 100-yard rushing game (105 to be exact), was a purposeful move to keep the clock running on the successful 'four-minute drill' that prevented the Seahawks' offense from getting another shot in a 21-16 contest. He got the first down the Bucs needed to allow Tom Brady to kneel out the rest of the clock, and that meant more to him than his personal stats.
"I mean, I feel great," said White. "Blessed really to get the win. That was a big thing for me. We're just trying to do anything we can to get the win. It was fun out there. I feel like I did good. Some things I could have did better, but we'll see on film."
White averaged 4.8 yards per carry as the Buccaneers' offense as a whole rushed for a season-best 161 yards in the victory. Tampa Bay came into the game averaging a league-worst 60.9 rushing yards per game; they had more than that by the midway point of the fourth quarter. White actually started the game in place of Leonard Fournette, who also ran 14 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, then had to finish it when the veteran back left the game with a hip pointer. Even with Fournette sidelined, the Bucs were able to stick with the run because White only grew stronger as he got more carries.
"Yeah, that's a big thing obviously, especially when you're getting carries back-to-back, things like that, you get in a rhythm," said the 2022 third-round draft pick. "You get in a groove. So that helped out a lot. Also obviously my offensive line, everybody was just on point today. We really love to see it, and Coach was dialing it up."
Prior to Sunday's game in Munich, the longest run by any Tampa Bay back this season was 17 yards. White topped that twice on Sunday, and his 29-yarder to end the third quarter was the longest play in a touchdown drive that gave the Bucs a 21-3 lead with 11 minutes to play. The Buccaneers had to hold on against a surprising rally by the Seahawks – thus the necessity of a four-minute drill – but they had built enough of a lead to close it out.
White's devastating stiff-arm at the end of his long run, allowing him to get several more yards, was just a matter of instinct.
"I was setting him up for something and the stiff-arm just happened," he said. "It just was a reaction. Playing running back, you've got to react a lot, so I was stutter-stepping, setting him up for something, and he just bit, and he did a good job of just staying there and not letting me break the big run. I just wanted to set an example."
The Bucs had been wanting to get White more involved in the offense, and to get more production in general out of the ground game, so Sunday's efforts were a good sign for the second half of the season. They key to unlocking that part of the attack was the team's 10 conversions in 15 third-down tries. That kept drives moving and created more chances to run the ball. The Buccaneers had three of their six longest touchdown drives of the year in Sunday's win. Whether or not Fournette misses any more time due to his hip ailment – the Bucs now have a bye week to give him extra time to recover – it seems likely that White will continue to be heavily involved in the rushing attack.
"Man, that's really, really dope to see," said wide receiver Chris Godwin. "I think all throughout training camp we've been seeing flashes from Rachaad, and I've been really cool with him and just talking to him. So it's really, really cool to see him put that on display in front of the world. He's a really good kid. Football means a lot to him. For him to get the opportunity to go show what he can do, that's beautiful."
Head Coach Todd Bowles was just happy that the Buccaneers finally found a complement to their often dangerous rushing attack.
"It felt great to run the ball," said Bowles. "I thought they did a good job mixing things up, trying to keep him off balance a little bit, running the ball and then throwing the ball. Rachaad and Leonard got off to a good start. Rachaad ran the ball. Leonard got hurt. Rachaad got his carries, and he's a slithery guy. He comes to play every day. Seems like he's always falling forward. The offensive line played well, and they blocked for him."
The strong outings by both White and Fournette, and the fact that Tom Brady wasn't sacked once, clearly indicate that the Bucs' offensive line had one of its best performances of the season. That and White's hard-charging style allowed the Buccaneers to set the tone they were hoping to establish. They kept it up right to the end of the game.
"We knew the mentality we wanted to have coming back out there, and obviously I loved it," said White. "My mentality was I knew Coach was going to run the ball, put the ball in my hands and I was telling myself, let's go finish the game out. The leaders, Chris and Mike and all them, we rallied together in the O-Line and we were all behind it."