Tampa Bay came into 2016 with a new swagger. A new swagger brought in by first-year Head Coach, Dirk Koetter. A type of swagger that makes you feel that this team could beat anyone in the NFL, and they could’ve. The 2016-2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers created many memories for Bucs’ fans across the land, here we’ll review some of the biggest moments of the team’s season.
5. The Rise of Potential Difference-Makers
Throughout the season, the Bucs’ squad was plauged of injuries, suspensions, you name it. Many role players stepped up in big games to help the super-stars on the team.
The 26-year old RB was a man the Bucs’ picked up off the street. He joined the team after their impressive win in Atlanta during week one. The Oregon State man was the right move for Tampa Bay, as he ended up leading the team in rushing yards (560). Rodgers was reunited with his former coach, Dirk Koetter, after playing under him his first four seasons in the NFL. Going into the offseason, Rodgers is an unrestricted free-agent. I do see the Bucs, obviously, trying to come to terms with Rodgers, especially due to Doug Martin’s future up in the air. But for now, Bucs’ fans should appreciate Rodgers for the outstanding efforts he gave during the 2016 season.
Brate was a success for Koetter’s offense. While still having former second-round pick, Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the team during training camp, the new HC told the media that Brate would begin the start to begin the 2016 campaign. Although that was a major shock to everyone, it ended up being a great call. The Harvard man showed that his great mix of hands and football IQ was just what this offense needed to keep opposing team’s guessing. He was Winston’s outlet. Brate had arguably the best season of any Buccaneers’ TE, posting 660 yards receiving and tying the franchise record for touchdowns by a tight end, with eight. Brate is also a free-agent going into the offseason, but he’s restricted, meaning Tampa Bay can match any offer sheet Brate has agreed to with another team, and retain him for the 2017 season.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 11, 2017
Covering a hurt Chris Conte at strong saftey, Tandy came in big in nearly every game he started. He had back-to-back game sealing interceptions during the team’s five-game win-streak, plus two interceptions in the final game against Carolina. Tandy had become a focal point in the team’s defense down the stretch and ended up starting even with a healthy Conte back. Tandy, unlike many other Buccaneers, is signed through the 2017 season and will return to training camp under contract for Tampa Bay. With many holes in this Bucs’ team, they may feel relieved the saftey position needs less attention, due to the depth they have with Tandy.
4. Aguayo’s Game-Winner in Carolina
When Bucs’ fans got the first-look at the 2016 season schedule, the first thing that caught their eye was an 8:30 PM start in Carolina on a Monday Night. It was probably a game most players were looking forward to battle in.
Throughout the week, the availability of MVP QB Cam Newton was questioned due a concussion, and luckily for Tampa Bay, he was ruled out.
The up-and-down ball game was a fantastic match-up to watch if you weren’t a Tampa Bay or Carolina fan. The game was ugly.
At 14-14, with 3:38 left in the game, Aguayo had a shot to finally put his dissappointing season on the rise. At 46 yards out, Aguayo had missed wide left, making it his second miss of the game, and seemed to lose the game for the Bucs, giving Carolina the ball with decent field position.
The defense made a three-and-out stop, giving Winston and the Tampa Bay offense the ball with 1:49 remaining. After driving down into field goal range, Aguayo was given yet another shot.
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) October 11, 2016
Aguayo pushed Tampa Bay into the bye-week with a W and started a great run to end his rookie campaign. Although he’ll always be seen as the kicker taken in the second-round, the young kicker has great potential.
3. Winston’s Big-Play Against Chicago
Coming out of halftime during a game where it seemed two lower-tier NFC teams were duking it out, Jameis Winston pulled out one of the magical plays the Buccaneers’ drafted him for.
.@Jaboowins escapes the ENTIRE Bears pass rush.
And still finds Mike Evans for 39 yards.
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2016
Winston dodged the pass rush from three pursuing Bears’ defenders and heaved the ball 39 yards to find an outstretched Mike Evans. The next play, Winston tossed a 43-yard touchdown to WR Freddie Martino for his first-career touchdown.
On that drive, Winston became the youngest QB in NFL history with 40 career touchdown passes at 22 years, and 312 days old.
That third-down play started a hot run for the Bucs’ offense, not only against Chicago, but throughout a few other games down the stretch.
2. Alterraun Verner’s INT Days After the Passing of his Father
On the week 12 battle against Seattle, the week after Thanksgiving, many players who had lost family members in the past year were recognized. LaVonte David, who lost his mother, Kevin Pamphile, who also lost his mother, and Alterraun Verner, who lost his Dad two days prior to the game. Pamphile and Verner were named honorary team captains before the game, both playing with heavy hearts.
With 53 seconds left in the first half of play, with Tampa Bay up 14-5, Verner made his game one to remember.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 28, 2016
He intercepted Russell Wilson by stepping in front of a pass intended for Paul Richardson. Not only was the interception deep in Tampa Bay territory, it gave the team momentum. The Seahawks ended the game with five points.
After Verner was tackled on the pick, the entire Bucs’ bench came onto the field and mobbed around Verner. He showed his emotion and the team rode with that momentum, beating the 7-3-1 Seahawks team.
1. Five-Game Winning Streak
Sitting at 3-5 after week nine, fans head had started to turn to next season. At this point in the season, that’s what Buccaneers’ fans had become accustomed to.
Coming off of two blow-outs, the team had Chicago coming into Raymond James. The game began what was an awesome stretch. They began by scorching the Bears 36-10.
The week 11 win came in Kansas City, which was improbable according to many analyst. Tampa Bay snapped the Chiefs’ five-game win streak, also broke the home winning streak dating back to last season. Arrowhead Stadium is also known as, “the Loudest Stadium in the NFL.” So Bucs’ players and coaches prepared for the game with artificial noise at practice during the week. Tampa Bay’s defense prevailed, as Chris Conte intercepted the ball in the end zone with 12 minutes left in the game, and the Bucs only up by two. The team snuck out with a 19-17 as they took down the two-seed in the AFC.
In week 12 Tampa Bay faced another Super Bowl contended as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks came into Tampa. The Buccaneers’ defense came up big once again, holding the Seattle offense to only five points. Pressure all game from Tampa Bay’s defensive line had Wilson running all game, he was sacked six times. A late interception by Bradley McDougald iced the game for the Buccaneers, pushing their win streak to three, and keeping playoff hopes alive.
Tampa Bay takes down Seahawks to put Buccaneers above .500 through 11 games for 1st time since 2012. pic.twitter.com/TaxUXroe8y
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 28, 2016
After the big win against Seattle, the team was riding their hot-streak into San Diego.
The Chargers’ started fast on the young Bucs’ but Tampa Bay bouced back quick.
Going into halftime down 14-7, the defense came up big once again. Intercepting Philip Rivers twice, once for a pick-six touchdown, and another from Keith Tandy to close out the battle. Tampa Bay showed emotion during the fourth straight win, and their final game in Qualcomm, but kept their head straight going into a divisional game against New Orleans.
The final game of their win streak came against New Orleans in amazing fashion. During the streak, the atmosphere in Raymond James, against Seattle and New Orleans, was special. The team knew the fans had their backs, and played with great intensity.
They stopped a Drew Brees-led offense from scoring a touchdown for the first time in history. The defense also caught three interceptions. Special teams also came up with one of the bigger plays of the season, one that nearly made my list.
On a Bryan Anger punt that was just a bit too far, rookie Ryan Smith came to the rescue, and pinned the Saints inside their own one-yard line.
— NCCU Athletics (@NCCUAthletics) January 6, 2017
Plays like this is what kept the Bucs’ in the playoff hunt all the way to the end.
Tampa Bay defeated the Saints 16-11, but their streak ended week 15 in Dallas.
Although the Bucs’ didn’t make the postseason, the future is bright for the young team. With the organization keeping the young core together, keeping coaches in tact, and having the third most cap space in all of football, improvement is nearly inevitable.
Come next August, more moments like these will begin to come more common, and big wins won’t come as much of a surprise.
Tell us what moments you think should’ve made the cut!
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