What We Saw: Week 15

Vikings and Raiders and Jaguars - oh my!

Bengals @ Buccaneers

Final Score: Bengals 34, Buccaneers 23

Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)


Tampa Bay jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were seemingly in the process of unlocking their offense until the second half happened. Tom Brady turned the ball over four times in a huge meltdown, and Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense did just enough against a tough Buccaneers defense to turn the early deficit into a blowout win. Brady looked very much like a 45-year-old quarterback when the pass rush got to him, and this game may have raised more questions than answers surrounding how much the GOAT has left in the tank. The Bengals, meanwhile, were happy to grab their sixth-straight win and sole possession of first place in the AFC North.


Cincinnati Bengals




Joe Burrow: 27/39, 200 Yards, 4 TD, INT | 3 Carries, 8 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)


Joe Burrow had an up-and-down performance, despite the four passing touchdowns. His interception came on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage on the opening drive, a common occurrence this year.



The Bengals’ offense struggled on its way to only three first-half points, and Burrow suffered a pinkie injury on his throwing hand in the process. Burrow began to get things rolling to end the first half, orchestrating a two-minute drive with no timeouts to reach field goal range. The Bengals’ offense was barely on the field in the first half, but things would turn after the break.

Burrow did take an awful 4th down sack for a loss of around 30 yards where he was bailed out by a defensive holding penalty but otherwise played much better in the second half. Frequently taking over after turnovers in Buccaneers’ territory, Burrow gutted his way to four touchdown passes to four different receivers. The Buccaneers’ physical cornerback play broke up some passes that he would normally hit to Chase, but the offense kept fighting and scoring touchdowns on the short fields. With no running game to speak of, Burrow single-handedly kept the offense converting in the second half to pull out the win.



Running Back


Joe Mixon: 11 Carries, 21 Yards | 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 33 Yards

Samaje Perine: 7 Carries, 24 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception


The Tampa Bay defense was missing Vita Vea in this game, but you would have never known it by watching the Bengals running game. Cincinnati had no chance on the ground today, as both rushers beat their heads into the Bucs’ brick wall run defense. Their longest run of the day was nine yards, which came as the Bengals ran out the clock. Joe Mixon lead the way in snaps and salvaged his day with five catches on six targets, with his lone highlight coming on a nice catch and run late in the game. Mixon fought hard and looked healthy, but there were just no holes to be found on Sunday. Mixon had a six-yard run called back on an illegal formation penalty, which would have been his longest run of the game had it stood.

Samaje Perine was a relative non-factor as well, despite his usual assortment of snaps as Mixon’s backup. Perine had the Bengals longest run as they salted away the clock, but fared no better than Mixon on the ground, and was not featured much in the passing game either. His one catch was actually a poor play at the end of the first half, with no timeouts he fought for yardage instead of getting out of bounds, and the drive settled for a field goal at that point.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Ja’Marr Chase: 13 Targets, 7 Receptions, 60 Yards, TD

Tee Higgins: 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 33 Yards, TD

Tyler Boyd: 5 Targets, 5 Receptions, 35 Yards, TD

Mitchell Wilcox: 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 34 Yards, TD

Trenton Irwin: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 5 Yards


Ja’Marr Chase had an eventful game, drawing excellent coverage from Carlton Davis III. Davis was physical, often breaking up plays that Chase and Burrow are typically a lock to complete. He broke up a back shoulder throw on 3rd and 3, one of Chase’s signature plays, and also broke up a red zone target for Chase. Chase dropped an end zone fade that would have been a touchdown, though it sure looked like defensive pass interference that went uncalled. Chase would later drop another fade where Davis clearly had a hand on his face mask and should have been penalized. While Chase did leave some points on the board here, he still fought for a strong fantasy day. He caught a screen on third and long where he fought through tackles to draw a facemask to convert the first down. He had a contested catch in the red zone where he battled through tacklers for extra yardage. And he then capped off his day with a touchdown on a short curl.



Chase showed today that even in a tough matchup where he misses on the big plays, he is still a top-end receiver, and he remains one of the league’s hardest-to-tackle pass-catchers.

Tee Higgins looked fully recovered from his hamstring injury and played a full number of snaps. He had a few early catches but then disappeared for a long stretch, as the Bengals’ offense struggled to move the ball. He had a broken-up sideline target on 3rd and 16 that he got his hands on but couldn’t reel in in traffic, and he did drop an easy pass later that would have gone for at least eight yards. But Higgins would salvage his day with a touchdown in the red zone, where Cincinnati went with a jumbo formation and he was able to work his way across the whole field for a catch in the opposite corner. He also caught a tough two-point conversion in traffic for an excellent catch.



Tyler Boyd played nearly the entire game coming back from a gruesome finger injury last week and contributed more than could have been expected. He played a healthy amount of snaps and scored a touchdown where Chase diverted a ton of coverage on a slant. He also converted and 3rd-and-3 that essentially iced the game.

Mitchell Wilcox played a bunch of snaps and ran almost all of the tight end routes, but was not much of a factor in the passing game. His touchdown was the nail in the coffin as the Bengals were running out the clock, the Buccaneers were forced to sell out for the run and the Bengals ran an unexpected play action and caught Mitchell wide open for a touchdown. Trenton Irwin had a slant target broken up in the red zone and had a nice first down conversion with yards after the catch on a 3rd-and-5 screen.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers




Tom Brady: 30/44, 312 Yards, 3 TD, 2 INT | 2 Carries, -1 Yard, 2 Fumble (Lost)


The Buccaneers’ offense started out hot, using more motion and play action, and formation diversity compared to their previous games. Tom Brady lead a few drives where the offense was humming, racking up a 17-0 lead in the process. He found his lost connection with Mike Evans, connecting with him for 71 yards in the first quarter. With Mike Hilton and Trey Hendrickson missing from the Bengals’ defense, Brady picked them apart and seemed on his way to a rejuvenating performance. There were signs of what was to come, however, as Brady narrowly missed two early turnovers that the Bengals couldn’t capitalize on. Still, Brady was feeding the ball to his receivers, converting multiple fourth downs in the first half.

The wheels fell off in the second half, however. It started out on an odd note, as Brady was seen yelling at Evans for seemingly no reason after an incompletion — this was after all a team-leading 17-3 and playing well at the time. Shortly thereafter, Brady threw a poor interception to Trey Flowers with Cam Brate as the intended target.



He then began to look unsettled in the pocket, even in relatively clean pockets, and a Bengals blitz led to a sack and fumble for turnover number two. Shortly after that, the ball slipped out of Brady’s hand as he went to hand off to Leonard Fournette, leading to year another turnover. Finally, Brady would commit his fourth turnover of the half, as he was hit as he stepped up into pressure and the ball popped into the air for an interception.



Brady became the first quarterback to throw for 300 yards against the Bengals’ defense on the season, though he did top it on a garbage-time touchdown drive. For all of the good moments where it looked like the Bucs had fixed their offensive problems, Brady’s struggles stand out as a major red flag. Cincinnati also lost Sam Hubbard to injury in this game and they were severely lacking in the pass rush department. Yet Brady was unable to make any plays out of structure and struggled under pressure, even with the slower pass rushers that the Bengals were forced to deploy. It was a bit of a one-step forward, two-steps back type of performance for the veteran quarterback, and he is running out of time to get things turned around in 2022.


Running Back


Leonard Fournette: 10 Carries, 44 Yards | 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 30 Yards

Rachaad White: 11 Carries, 38 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 5 Yards


Rachaad White had the first drive to himself and did have some success early while the offense was humming. But White really did nothing noteworthy in this game — no big plays or broken tackles or strong catches. He was solid and took the yards he was given, but not much else. He alternated drives throughout the game and was out-snapped by his teammate, and ran just 15 routes on the day. His one reception was a huge disappointment, as I had hoped his pass-catching ability would give him a nice floor.

White’s teammate, Leonard Fournette, led the backfield in snaps (43 to White’s 29) and caught four passes to salvage his fantasy day. His best play was a 3rd-and-3 conversion where he was schemed open for an important reception, but the highlights were few and far between for this running game. Fournette did see a red zone carry where he was stuffed, and all of the scoring went to the wide receivers in this one.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Chris Godwin: 8 Targets, 8 Receptions, 83 Yards, TD

Mike Evans: 10 Targets, 5 Receptions, 83 Yards

Russell Gage: 12 Targets, 8 Receptions, 59 Yards, 2 TD

Cameron Brate: 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 25 Yards

Cade Otton: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 20 Yards

Deven Thompkins: 1 Carry, 9 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 7 Yards


Chris Godwin had a typical performance in this one, catching all of his targets and reaching the end zone for a nice fantasy day. He had several nice catches over the middle in between defenders on some of Brady’s better throws of the day and had a nice chunk play one-on-one with Eli Apple lined up outside. Godwin’s touchdown came on a short screen near the end zone where Brady audibled to the play. Godwin was ultimately hurt by Brady’s second-half turnover meltdown, or else he may have had a much bigger day.



Mike Evans seemed to be on his way to his much-anticipated breakout game early on. Evans had a 32-yard reception early though some of the yardage was wiped out by an illegal downfield block by Godwin. Evans later lost his coverage on a long-developing crosser for a big chunk play, and he racked up 71 yards in the first quarter alone. He was thrown back-to-back slants on 3rd and 2 and 4th and 2, making a tough contested catch to convert the second opportunity. And he did draw a defensive pass interference penalty in the second half. But Evans disappeared in the second half as Brady faltered and Evans’ day turned out to be much less exciting than it could have been.

With Julio Jones inactive, Russell Gage came to life in an advantageous matchup. Both of the Bengals slot corners were injured going into this game, and Gage was targeted early and often on checkdowns. He scored his first touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play where he got open in the corner of the end zone.



Gage’s second touchdown came late in garbage time on a slant and can probably be ignored for the most part. Gage was often seen catching short passes and taking shots from the Bengals’ linebackers in between the touchdowns. His volume seemingly came at the expense of checkdowns to the running backs, so it will be interesting to see if he can maintain this volume going forward.

Bad things seemed to happen every time Cameron Brate was targeted, as he was the target of an interception, and also drew back-to-back targets to stall a drive when the offense was still cruising. Cade Otton had an early catch and run, and easily out-snapped Brate for the day, but disappeared from the stat sheet after the first drive of the game.

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