Boy. What a win.
It’s fair to say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) saved their season thanks to their last-minute, come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Rams (3-5). The Buccaneers snapped a three-game losing skid and are now back atop the NFC South thanks to the Atlanta Falcons’ (4-5) losing effort against the Los Angeles Chargers (5-3).
If it weren’t for the Buccaneers defense holding strong all game long, the offense never would’ve had a shot to pull out the win in the final minute and change. But at the same time, the offense did its part in the comeback, which was scoring the game-winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock.
The reason why the offense was able to do what it did was because it leaned into two players that need to be leaned into even more moving forward: left guard Nick Leverett and rookie tight end Cade Otton.
Both players started the game because the guys in front of them, rookie guard Luke Goedeke and veteran tight end Cameron Brate, were inactive due to separate injuries.
Leverett played well. Sure, his worst play came at the hands of Rams’ All-Pro and future Hall of Famer, Aaron Donald, but who hasn’t looked bad because of that guy?
It’s clear, at this point, that Leverett is an upgrade over Goedeke, who has struggled mightily during his rookie season. Goedeke has a higher ceiling in terms of his potential, but right now, the Buccaneers are trying to win games and Leverett gives them the best shot.
Otton, on the other hand, is simply a better player than his counterparts in Brate, Kyle Rudolph, and rookie Ko Kieft. He is more well-rounded than those three guys. He’s more dynamic, and, he’s just as good a fit as the “Y” tight end in this offense as anyone else.
Well, maybe except that one guy named Rob Gronkowski. But you get my drift.
“Cade has been huge the last couple weeks,” Todd Bowles told reporters after the game. “Just blocking, making quality catches, making timely catches, [and] the game not being too big for him. I think he had one of those catches in preseason, as well.
“He’s developing into a good pro early in his career.”
Thanks to Leverett, Brady was hit just three times and sacked once, despite throwing 58 passes. Sure, his quick release is a major reason why that happened. But at the same time, those are impressive numbers when adding in the fact that Donald was lined up on the other side throughout the night.
Otton led the team with 58 receiving yards and a touchdown. It’s the first touchdown caught by a Buccaneers tight end in 2022. He finished tied for third on the team with five receptions, as well.
And while it was Otton’s touchdown catch that iced the game, his biggest play was arguably the 28-yard reception that kickstarted the Buccaneers’ game-winning drive.
“I think the big play coming out of the break with Cade [Otton] up the seam was a huge play to get us started,” said Tom Brady.
These are two extremely easy decisions to make and they should be made immediately.
It’s unfortunate for Goedeke and Brate, but the Buccaneers offense needs Otton and Leverett, right now.
And, hopefully, the coaching staff will be smart enough to implement them moving forward.
Featured image via Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports