Underappreciated Play

June 7th, 2021

Set up trip to Super Bowl.

This play is so popular, it was even discussed on a recent edition of “The Ira Kaufman Podcast,” though it happened back in January.

Joe spent most of yesterday watching the Bucs’ final three playoff wins rebroadcast on NFL Network.

(Yeah, Joe would rather sit on a leather couch with a cold Big Storm beer watching rebroadcasts of Bucs wins rather than enjoy the outdoor highlights of Florida on a nice Sunday. So sue Joe!)

One playoff-game highlight is still a favorite topic among fans: Antoine Winfield punching the ball away from Saints tight end Jared Cook literally turned that game.

Had the Saints scored on that drive, it would have given New Orleans a two-score lead late in the third quarter, and to that point the Bucs offense was struggling.

Had Cook not fumbled, New Orleans would have had a first down inside the Bucs-45.

The play potentially was a 14-point swing and New Orleans never recovered.

Well, an equally important defensive play happened the next week at Green Bay in the NFC Championship, and it gets little run, overshadowed by one of the most memorable plays in franchise history.

We all remember Scotty Miller catching a 39-yard bomb with one second remaining in the first half, a historic throw from park-violating, home-invading, NFLPA-ignoring, down-forgetting, handshake-stiffing, jet-ski-losing, biscuit-baking, tequila-shooting, smartphone-phobic, waffle-grilling, trophy-throwing, roller-coaster-scared, numbers-rules-peeved, Bucs-Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.

That gave the Bucs a 21-10 lead and the Bucs would win by five 31-26.

But Miller likely never makes that play if not for Sean Murphy-Bunting. For it was SMB’s pick of Aaron Rodgers at midfield with 34 seconds left in the half that set up the drive.

When SMB picked off Rodgers, it was second down with 29 seconds left when the whistle blew. Either the Packers would have run out the clock, attempted a field goal or punted had SMB not grabbed the interception at midfield.

We all like to call out Winfield’s forced fumble as a game-changer, which it was. And some believe Miller’s catch was a dagger.

SMB’s interception? We didn’t know it at the time but that very likely saved the Bucs’ Super Bowl season.

17 Responses to “Underappreciated Play”

  1. Bird Says:

    Washington ,saints and then packers
    He may have been surprise mvp of buc playoffs

    Hope he continues from playoffs…big year for him
    All our secondary guys need too cause the regular season was not as good
    Now that had some to do with pressure too and vea coming back

  2. lambeau Says:

    I totally agree, Joe; watching yesterday that was the play that stood out to me too. SMB was all over Lazard–in fact he was inside his sleeve holding his shoulder pad, a merciful no-call. L’ve been down on SMB, but that play showed me why the coaches stick with him.

  3. Says:

    That was a great pick. When’s the last time you saw a Buc make a big time pick on an island just by being in great position and making a play on a contested ball. He literally picked it – not some tipped ball or errant throw. Great play!

  4. Chris l Says:

    I will never forget all of the plays made by all players this season but all interceptions SMB had in the playoffs were key. His interception against the saints ignited us as we were doing nothing. I personally had never screamed more in my life after that happened.

  5. BradyBucs Says:

    It was an important play that most know he got away with.

    He played well in the playoffs but it doesn’t excuse his TERRIBLE PLAY throughout the regular season when our pass rush wasn’t getting as much pressure and our secondary was getting lit up.

    He also contributed his fair share towards the Washington 3rd string QB light up our secondary for 300+ yards.

    I still think Davis/Dean/Bunting our the weakest link on this team.

  6. Alanbucsfan Says:

    4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles against 3 MVP QB’s in playoffs- and not a 1st round pick among them-
    Evaluating this secondary based on early season growth periods is like evaluating Brady based on Bears game.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    @BradyBucs … “He (SMB) played well in the playoffs but it doesn’t excuse his TERRIBLE PLAY throughout the regular season when our pass rush wasn’t getting as much pressure and our secondary was getting lit up.”

    I’m assuming that because you capitalized ‘TERRIBLE PLAY’ that you feel REALLY strongly about SMB’s regular season performance BradyBucs. Considering that it was just his 2nd year, and that he was playing in a Secondary with a lot of other ‘youngsters’, and that Todd Bowles defense is quite demanding, I’d say you MIGHT be a little harsh in your evaluation.

    SMB was targeted 100 times last regular season & surrendered 77 completions (77.0%) for 942 yds. That was over 882 def snaps in 16 games. Not nearly as good as his rookie year performance (65% completions for 384 yds in 686 def snaps over 16 games). Those numbers admittedly aren’t nearly as good as what Davis posted in 2020 (61.9% completions on 105 targets) or Dean (61.4% on 70 targets), but some of that might have had to do with SMB playing both outside corner & nickel throughout the season. It’d be interesting to see if he surrendered more catches in one position than the other.

  8. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    SMB has learned the MOST important thing for a corner , get your hands on the receiver to maintain your position without drawing a flag.

  9. Mike Says:

    He definitely got away with contact, but then again, other teams mug Mike Evans practically every play so what goes around comes around and the refs were letting them play on both sides of the ball. Still, fantastic reaction and instincts to get his head around and make the INT!

  10. PSL Bob Says:

    I’d like to see a slow-mo of that again. At speed, doesn’t look like there’s any way he can catch that ball. He’s swiping with his right arm to defend against the receiver and then comes up with the ball. Did he one-hand it with his left hand? I just can’t remember.

  11. SOEbuc Says:

    Don’t really see where this article was going, but yes remembering those accomplishments will be remembered forever in this guys head. I think this secondary is going to be so much better with Bowels scheme to practice and process in the offseason. Rock and roll!

  12. Ben green Says:

    Y’all are lucky Brees was shot. The saints were able to hide the fact he couldn’t throw a football more than 20 yards for most of the season. Strangely, if he hadn’t gotten hurt, his lack of arm strength would’ve cemented his benching. I think winston or hill would’ve won that game.
    . The cook fumble no doubt turned the game. It was an inexcusable fumble, not a punch out. Cook clearly is looking down field and failed to secure the ball properly. It was much more of a bad play by cook than a good one by Winfield. But, you need luck and breaks to win a Superbowl. No shame in admitting it.

  13. Eddie Marz Says:

    Ben Green keep drinking that cool aid. GO BUCS!

  14. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Ben green: You can spend all day pondering about what you think would’ve happened. That fact is it didn’t happen.

  15. Joe in Michigan Says:

    *The fact is

  16. unbelievable Says:

    I’m kinda glad the play has been on the radar given SMB probably should have been flagged after seeing the replay.

    But so glad he wasn’t! Love beating down the Packers and A Rod. Go Bucs!

  17. unbelievable Says:

    *has been under the radar,