In Week Two, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense pitched a first-half shutout against Carolina, held the Panthers to 17 points, created four critical turnovers and, as usual, made every yard a challenge for superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. Though Carolina rang up more than 400 yards of offense, most of it on their last handful of drives against a defense more concerned about killing the clock, it was a strong showing for a defense that helped a locked-in Tom Brady get his first win as a Buccaneer.
Leading that charge was second-year linebacker Devin White, who is the NFL's leading tackler through two weeks. After he and Lavonte David each had 11 tackles in the season opener in New Orleans – that in itself a rare feat – White tacked on another 15 against the Panthers to lead both teams. Both White and David are among the league's top 10 in tackles and the Buccaneers are the only team with two players on that list.
White is off to a very fast start in his second season. Tackle totals are available through 1987 on Pro Football Reference, and in that span no Buccaneer has had more tackles through the first two games of a season than Devin White. Only one player, Hall-of-Famer Derrick Brooks, has matched White's fast start.
Most Tackles Through Season's First Two Games, Buccaneers (since 1987)
In addition to his 15 stops, one of which was a tackle for loss, White also pitched in with a pass defensed and a quarterback hit, showing that he is capable of making plays all over the field. That combination of range, sure tackling, coverage ability and pass-rush skills is what prompted the Buccaneers to draft White fifth overall in 2019. Through the first two weeks of the season, White is the only player in the NFL who has had an effort that combined at least 15 tackles with at least one pass defensed and at least one quarterback hit.
In fact, White is the first player to accomplish that feat in nearly two years. The last player with that combination of stats in a single game was Arizona safety Budda Baker, who did it against San Francisco on October 7, 2018.
David also made multiple contributions to the defensive effort. In addition to his nine tackles, he also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, which have long been areas of expertise for the ninth-year veteran. Both came on the same play early in the third quarter, when David tackled wide receiver Robby Anderson after a short pass and popped the ball loose just before Anderson hit the ground.
Since he entered the league as a second-round draft pick in 2012, David has been one of the NFL's best at both forcing and recovering fumbles. In fact, he has the most recoveries of opponent fumbles in the NFL in that span.
Most Opponent Fumble Recoveries, 2012-2020, NFL
|Mike Adams||6 teams*||10|
(* Adams played for the 49ers, Browns, Broncos, Colts, Panthers and Texans.)
As for forced fumbles, it's the same story as David's high ranking on the NFL's tackle-for-loss list since 2012: He's the lone off-ball linebacker invading a list of pass-rushers. Most of David's forced fumbles come on ballcarriers who are already past the line of scrimmage, not blind-sided quarterbacks.
Most Forced Fumbles, 2012-20, NFL
|Robert Quinn||4 teams*||25|
(* Quinn has played for the Rams, Dolphins, Cowboys and Bears.)
David did all of this in the 123rd game started of his career, which ties him with Gerald McCoy for the eighth-most in team history and the fifth-most by a defensive player. David has the opportunity to move as high as tied for fifth on that list if he continues to start every game in 2020, as he could surpass Warren Sapp (130) and John Lynch (132) and tie Mike Alstott (137).
Tampa Bay's defense also collected five sacks of Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, with four different players getting in on the party. Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh led the way with his first two-sack game as a Buccaneer (and the sixth of his NFL career), while defensive lineman Will Gholston, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. got one each.
Suh first entered the league as the second-overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Detroit Lions. He now has 60.5 sacks in his 11-year NFL career, which is the third-most by an interior defensive lineman in that span.
Most Sacks, Interior Lineman, NFL, 2010-20
|Ndamukong Suh||4 teams*||60.5|
(* Suh has played for the Lions, Dolphins, Rams and Buccaneers.)
Pierre-Paul's sack came on the last play of the first half and was his second of the season. Dating back to the last two games of the 2019 season, Pierre-Paul has seven sacks in his last four outings, with at least one in each game. He is closing in on the Buccaneers' record for most consecutive games with at least one sack, since that stat became official in 1982. Of course, Pierre-Paul already holds a share of that record.
Most Consecutive Games with a Sack, Buccaneers (since 1982)
|Simeon Rice||6||Oct. 20-Dec. 1, 2002|
|Jason Pierre-Paul||6||Sept. 16-Oct. 28, 2018|
|Simeon Rice||5||Dec. 2-29, 2001|
|Jason Pierre-Paul||4||Dec. 21, 2019-Sept. 20, 2020|
In addition to the fumble recoveries by David and Pierre-Paul, Tampa Bay's defense also snared two interceptions, one each by safety Jordan Whitehead and cornerback Carlton Davis. It was the second career interception for both young defensive backs. Tampa Bay's offense did a good job of turning those takeaways into points, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal on subsequent drives. The Buccaneers have now had three or more takeaways in four games since Bruce Arians became head coach in 2019, and are 4-0 in those contests.
Brady's favorite target against Carolina was wide receiver Mike Evans, who caught seven passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. It was the 50th touchdown catch of Evans' seven-year career (he also has one fumble-recovery score), which extends his team record in that category. Evans has the third most TD receptions in the NFL since he entered the league in 2014.
Most TD Receptions, NFL, 2014-20
Evans' 104 yards marked the 25th time he has reached triple digits in a game in his career. Those 25 100-yard receiving games are by far the most in Buccaneers franchise history; Mark Carrier is second on the list with 15. Evans ranks fifth across the entire NFL in that category since 2014.
Most 100-Yard Receiving Games, NFL, 2014-20
While Evans led the Bucs in receiving Sunday, Leonard Fournette powered the rushing attack, recording his first 100-yard game as a Buccaneer and the ninth of his NFL career. After scoring on a one-yard plunge in the second quarter, Fournette clinched the game late in the fourth period with a 46-yard TD breakaway. It was the longest touchdown run by a Buccaneer since Doug Martin had scores of 70 and 67 yards at Oakland on Nov. 4, 2012.
That last run put Fournette at 103 rushing yards on the day, on only 12 carries. He is just the fifth player in franchise history to record 100 rushing yards in a game on 12 or fewer carries. Fournette is the first player in team history to record at least 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 or fewer carries in a single game.
Fewest Carries in a 100-Yard Rushing Game, Buccaneers History