On a night that saw star turns from the likes of Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin and (of course) Tom Brady, plus a last-second game-winning field goal, the first man to make a truly outstanding play in Tampa Bay's Week One win over Dallas was punter Bradley Pinion.
On Wednesday, Pinion was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week One of the 2021 season. It was the second such award of Pinion's career and his first since joining the Buccaneers in 2019.
Pinion was actually the first special teams player to do anything of note in the 2021 season as the Buccaneers and Cowboys met in the annual Kickoff Game on Thursday night. Tampa Bay got the ball first and, after a three-and-out, brought out Pinion and the punting unit from the Bucs' 33. Pinion proceeded to blast a 65-yard moonshot that not only sailed over the head of the Cowboys' return man but managed to angle out of bounds at the two-yard line. The 65-yard punt matched the longest of his career and the longest by a Buccaneer in a decade.
It was just the beginning for Pinion, who was an integral part of a special teams group that "no doubt" won the game for Tampa Bay, according to Head Coach Bruce Arians. Pinion would end up punting four times and dropping three of them inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line. He finished with a gross average of 49.3 yards per kick and an excellent net of 45.8.
Dallas had an average drive start of the 9.5-yard line following Pinion's punts. No other punter in the NFL had three of his kicks downed inside the 10-yard line in Week One.
For good measure, Pinion handled kickoff duties for the Buccaneers and boomed all six of his kicks deep into (or often, completely over) the end zone for touchbacks. He was also the holder for Succop's game-winning field goal and his four previous extra points.
Pinion, who played his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco, also won Special Teams Player of the Week for the 49ers in Week Nine of the 2018 campaign. That accolade came after he averaged 54.7 yards per punt with a net of 48.0 yards on three kicks against the Oakland Raiders. Pinion is the first Buccaneers punter to win the award since it went to Bryan Anger in Week 17 of the 2016 season.
Pinion is the fourth Tampa Bay punter to collect a player of the week award. Josh Bidwell did so in Weeks Three and Six of the 2005 season and Tom Tupa got it in Week Three of the 2003 campaign. The Buccaneers have actually taken the last two NFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards after Succop got it in Week 17 of last season. Succop was the winner in Week Eight, as well.