The Buccaneers were coming off a Week Six win at home over the Green Bay Packers but so far this season, had only one road win to their 4-2 record. It was important to get another win on the road facing two straight games away from home but Jon Gruden's Las Vegas Raiders weren't going to make it easy. They had the sixth-best offense coming into the game, racking up 399.4 total yards on average per game. They also ranked sixth in points scored, averaging 30.2 points a game.
But for the second consecutive week, it didn't matter to the Bucs. It didn't matter quarterback Derek Carr had only thrown one interception all season, Tampa Bay picked him off anyway. It didn't matter that running back Josh Jacobs was one of the best backs in the league, they still held the Raiders' rushing attack to under 100 yards. The Las Vegas defense ranked 25th against the pass and quarterback Tom Brady took full advantage to the tune of 369 yards and four scores through the air.
This team is settling in on both sides of the ball. Let's see the top things we learned from Sunday's win in Allegiant Stadium.
1. We saw complementary football at its finest.
The performance we saw against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 was an impressive one, especially defensively, but it may not be realistic or sustainable for the rest of the season. The win over the Raiders in Las Vegas, however, may be the perfect example of what we can expect from this team going forward. Wide receiver Chris Godwin even said as much following the game.
The offense led the way for the Bucs' second-straight win by 20 or more points, a first in team history, by the way. But the Raiders did get within four points at one point. Not only did the offense answer with an immediate touchdown drive to Godwin of all people to go back up by 11 but the defense then took the ball away before Las Vegas could gain any ground. The Bucs weren't even done, offensively. They proceeded to score two more touchdowns on the day and get quarterback Tom Brady a pretty big record. More on that in a second.
The point of this was that when the defense stalled, the offense picked it up. When the offense stalled, the defense picked it up. That's what good teams do so well. One side of the ball isn't going to be able to fire on all cylinders all game, every game.
2. Offensive stats on an upward trajectory as Brady becomes more comfortable with his new system.
The Bucs' offense is still perfect in goal-to-go situations. It's incredible. They've converted all 20 of them into touchdowns and are one of only two teams to still have the streak going this season. The other is the Tennessee Titans and they've only had 14 such situations. Arians said Monday that in his 27 years of coaching, he doesn't think he's ever been a part of such a streak. Nobody has scored more touchdowns inside the red zone, period, than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have 22. The Bucs are fourth in red-zone scoring percentage overall, coming away with points on 78.57% of drives inside the 20. Las Vegas is allowing opponents to score inside the red zone every time this season with a 100% opponent red zone scoring percentage, opening the door for Tampa Bay to take advantage – and they did.
Additionally, Tom Brady is among the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league, with the Bucs' offensive line letting up only eight sacks all season, which is good for third-least. Brady is sacked on just 2.97% of pass attempts so far this season, which is tied for the best mark in the league with Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts. Looks like offensive lines are doing well in protecting more 'seasoned' quarterbacks, shall we say?
And Brady himself put up some ridiculous stats. He surpassed Saints quarterback Drew Brees for the most touchdown passes in NFL history with his fourth score of the game on Sunday. Brady now sits at 559 with Brees right behind him at 558. Look for that to be a back and forth battle throughout the rest of the season. Brady wasn't done though. He now has 94 games in his career where he's passed for over 300 yards, which passes Peyton Manning for second-most in league history. Zero in on Buccaneer lore and Brady has the most touchdowns through seven games in franchise history by a four-score margin with 18.
And remember how we talked about him rushing for a touchdown, too? That was Brady's 24th rushing touchdown of his NFL career. Through the air, he connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second-straight week, giving the pair 80 career touchdown connections. That surpasses Dan Marino and Mark Clayton for fourth-most ever and including the postseason, Brady and Gronk are now tied with Steve Young and Jerry Rice for second all-time with 92 touchdowns.
Gronk wasn't the only player to enjoy the fruits of Brady's labor. Wide receiver Scotty Miller had a career-day, tallying a career-high 109 yards on six catches and a touchdown. Godwin was a perfect nine-for-nine for 88 yards and a touchdown, which moved him into 10th place in franchise history in receiving yards. That's quite the feat considering he's only been on the team since 2017.
Yes, Mike Evans only had two catches for 37 yards (still a 18.5 yard per reception average!) but just because he's limited on the stat sheet, doesn't mean he didn't have an impact on the offense. Brady hit nine different targets throughout the game and a lot of those guys were open because the Raiders decided to dedicate two men to Evans for a majority of the afternoon. Arians said after the game he knew Miller especially was going to have an opportunity.
"We knew the way they were going to play Mike [Evans], that Scotty was going to have a game and have opportunities," said Arians.
So, don't be concerned necessarily with Evans' targets. Teams won't be able to double him for much longer if it means the rest of the offense is putting up exorbitant numbers.
3. Defense makes the plays when it counts.
Let's go back to that aforementioned sustainability issue. No, this week's performance wasn't as dominant as that of Week Six, but that doesn't mean it was a 'down' week for the defense by any stretch of the imagination.
Inside linebacker Devin White had THREE sacks on the day. He now all of a sudden has four on the year after breaking the seal in Week Six against Aaron Rodgers. He also led the team with 11 tackles, making it his fourth game this season with double-digit tackles. He's tied for fourth-most such games this season across the league, only one off from the leaders. Those three sacks added to Tampa Bay's overall total of 25.0 on the season, which is the second-most of any team this season. So not only are the Bucs letting up the third-fewest sacks on their own quarterback, they're sacking opposing quarterbacks more than everyone except the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The sacks also all came at very opportune times for the defense. As Scott Smith pointe out in our Game Ball discussion, all three of White's sacks acted as drive killers for the Raiders, disallowing them to gain any momentum or get back in the game. Then came the dagger in the form of the Bucs' ninth interception of the season and rookie Antoine Winfield Jr.'s first ever. The Bucs had just pulled their lead back to 11 points after Brady's touchdown to Godwin but the Raiders were getting another shot with half a quarter to still work with. Well, it ended in a hurry as safety Mike Edwards tipped Carr's first pass of the drive and Winfield Jr. came down with it. The Bucs capitalized on the turnover yet again with a one-yard touchdown 'run' by running back Ronald Jones (really Jones leapt over the pile and crossed the plane to give the Bucs an 18-point lead). Tampa Bay now has 55 points off takeaways by the defense, which is tied for second-most in the league, just one point behind the Seattle Seahawks who have 56. The Bucs also have a +5 turnover differential, which is the fourth-best mark in the league.
So yes, it wasn't as dominant of a performance as the Bucs saw against the Packers. The defense let up a whole 76 yards on the ground (the horror!) and allowed 20 points but if this offense isn't capable of scoring more than 20 points a game, that's a whole other problem. This give and take of complementary football again, is much more sustainable.