The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-16, in the first regular-season NFL game ever played in Germany on Sunday, and it was a mostly-dominant full-team effort. Other than allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns to turn a blowout into a slightly uncomfortable situation for the "home," the Buccaneers were at the top of their game in all three phases – offensive, defensive and special teams.
That, of course, means there were plenty of individual standouts, as well, which makes choosing just one Game Ball recipient a little bit harder. It is, as they say, a good problem to have. A very good problem.
Front and center was the legendary Tom Brady, giving yet another international crowd exactly what they came to see. Brady, now 4-0 in games played abroad and the first quarterback with wins in four different countries, was extremely sharp throughout the night and he completed passes of 20-plus yards to four different targets. Had that trick play worked – or if it had simply just failed less spectacularly, Brady's Game Ball candidacy might be unassailable. But his slip on the play and a fourth-quarter interception (I think we can forgive any QB one interception in 400 passes) leave the door open for other candidates.
On offense, rookie RB Rachaad White had his best game yet, and so did the offensive line, with tackle Donovan Smith agreeing afterward that it was a "statement game" for his unit. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans made big plays down the sidelines, Cade Otton made one down the seam and Julio Jones galloped for a 31-yard touchdown, the Bucs' longest offensive score of the season so far.
On defense, Devin White led the charge with two sacks and a game-saving forced fumble, while Joe Tryon set the tone early with a 17-yard sack on the game's first drive. On special teams, rookie punter Jake Camarda was excellent again after his incredible performance in Week Nine; the Bucs only needed him to punt twice this time but he did so to the tune of a 61.0-yard net average.
I point all this out because Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I have a bit of a challenge on our hands after such a rousing victory. After every Buccaneer victory this season, we are tasked with nominating two players for the singular honor of our Game Ball. Those two are then included in a list of four candidates…and then the final decision is up to you. After you review the cases we make for two of those players, you will find a link at the bottom of the page to place your vote.
Since we can't duplicate votes and getting the first pick could be important, we are going to alternate the order of our choices from week to week. It's my turn to go first.
So, who should get this week's Game Ball? Here are our suggestions.
Scott Smith: ILB Devin White
White deserves credit, and sympathy, for even being with the team in Germany and being able to play amidst what were surely some challenging emotions. Just two hours before the Bucs were set to take off for Munich on Thursday night, White received news that his father, Carlos Thomas, had unexpectedly passed away. Thomas was 45.
"For him to even get on the plane, it happened right before we were leaving, and he still got on the plane to play the ballgame," said Head Coach Todd Bowles, who personally handed White a game ball in the locker room after the game. "Lose your dad right before you're getting ready to go to Germany and to come out and still play says a lot about the guy."
White didn't just play but made a huge impact on the game, and afterward he told his teammates why he decided to come with them to Germany.
"I wouldn't want to be nowhere but with y'all," said White after accepting the ball from Bowles. "Y'all are a comfort for me, man. We held it down. Great dub."
It was vintage Devin White on Sunday afternoon in Germany (Sunday morning for Bucs fans tuning in to see him), the kind of performance that helped him earn NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in September. White had recently taken some heat for perceived issues with his effort during the Bucs' three-game losing streak, but he was a force for 60 minutes against Seattle, finishing with a team-high nine tackles, plus 2.0 sacks for a loss of 14 yards, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
Seattle's best scoring chance of the first half came after Ryan Succop missed a 52-yard field goal, giving the Seahawks the ball just shy of midfield. They got to the Bucs' 42 but White turned them away with consecutive stops of running back Kenneth Walker on a no-yard run and tight end Noah Fant on a third down catch. The Seahawks elected to punt. Later in the half, White short-circuited Seattle's last possession with a 10-yard sack, simply sprinting straight up the middle to drop Geno Smith for a loss of 10 back at the Seahawks' 20.
But White saved his best play for what proved to be the game's most critical moment. Down 14-0 at the half after gaining just 57 yards and three first downs, Smith and the Seahawks' offense came out of halftime looking much more in synch and immediately scored a field goal to make it 14-3. The Buccaneers responded with a drive deep into Seattle territory but gave it away when a trick play involving Leonard Fournette throwing to Tom Brady resulted in a Tariq Woolen interception. It was a dramatic shift in momentum and the Seahawks' proceeded to march directly to a first-and-goal at the Bucs' nine.
That's where White grabbed the momentum back for Tampa Bay, producing the team's first takeaway in six games. He chased a scrambling Smith down in the backfield and knocked the ball out of his right hand, leading to a fumble recovery by Anthony Nelson. The Bucs scored on the next drive and what could have been a 14-10 game was now a much more comfortable 21-3 margin. I think it was the biggest play of the game, and that plus White's fortitude in the face of personal tragedy should earn him our Game Ball.
Brianna Dix: RB Rachaad White
Well Scott, I certainly cannot argue with that selection but since you went with the defensive side of the ball, I will counter with my vote on the offensive side of the ball with rookie running back Rachaad White. He led the team in rushing with a career-high 105 yards on 22 attempts. For a unit that has failed to achieve proficiency on the ground, White ignited the run game with his slashing, slippery style.
The Buccaneers' ability to get the run game going set up play-action and worked cohesively with the passing game, creating favorable one-on-one scenarios with Mike Evans, Julio Jones and Chris Godwin as Seattle allocated more resources to the ground attack. White set the tone, solidifying the team's most dominant performance on the ground in the 2022 slate. Whether it was his sensational 19-yard gain that showcased shiftiness in the open field, or his 29-yarder in which he essentially stole Quandre Diggs' soul on a lethal stiff-arm, White stepped up in an increased role.
Under four minutes to go in regulation, White got the first down the Bucs had to have to run out the remaining clock-time on the final kneel downs. Tampa Bay was averaging a league-worst 60.9 rushing yards per game and against Seattle in Munich, they had surpassed that stat line by the conclusion of the first quarter. White averaged 4.8 yards per carry, quickly hitting holes with patience, vision and contact balance. He has a great feel on runs, utilizing deceptive maneuvers to set up defenders for additional chunk yardage. The Buccaneers' coaching staff has vocalized wanting to get White more involved and Sunday served as an encouraging note. The ground attack is dictated by the flow of the game and Tampa Bay's 10 conversions on 15 third-down attempts allowed the Bucs to continue dialing up runs to keep the Seahawks' defense off-balance. White sparked revitalization on offense and certainly is deserving of recognition.
Who deserves the Game Ball for the Bucs' win over Seattle in Munich? Click here to cast your vote.