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3 Buccaneers takeaways from thrilling Week 12 win over Colts

Buccaneers, Leonard Fournette, Tom Brady

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pulled out a tough road victory over the resurgent Indianapolis Colts Sunday, 38-31. Despite trailing for much of the day, the offense never seemed to press. They stuck to their game plan, and eventually wore down the Colts.

The Bucs victory improved their record to 8-3 on the season. They are three games ahead of both the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South. It’s obvious to say they are probably going to win the division. But they have their eyes on a bigger prize, the overall #1 seed in the NFC and the first round bye that comes with it.

Here are the three key takeaways from the Week 12 comeback win over the Colts.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Takeaways from Week 12 Win

3. Tampa Bay had the best running back on the field Sunday

Entering Week 12, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor was in the midst of a historic stretch. He became only the 3rd player in NFL history to record over 100 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown in eight straight games. The Colts had one of the league’s best offensive lines, helping open holes for Taylor. But that all went for naught on Sunday.

The Buccaneers rush defense has been just as dominant again in 2021. They led the NFL in rush defense in each of the past two seasons, and entered Sunday leading the league once again. On Sunday, they showed why. Taylor was held to 83 yards rushing on 16 carries to go with four catches for only 14 yards. The streak ended Sunday.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians had a very simple, but specific thought on that.

It appears he might have been correct.

On the other side, the Colts also featured one of the league’s best rush defenses. But Leonard Fournette was not going to be stopped. He consistently ran for chunk gains, finishing with 100 yards rushing and three scores on the ground. That includes the game winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter.

With under 30 seconds left in the game, tied at 31. Fournette did this:

He also reeled in seven catches for another 31 yards and a receiving touchdown. He was thought to be past his prime when Jacksonville let him go. All the mileage he piled up at LSU and with the Jaguars do not seem to have slowed him down one bit when he has a passing game to go with him.

2. Rob Gronkowski turned back the clock

Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski had been out since Week 3 when he sustained broken ribs and punctured lung in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

He returned last week in a home win vs the New York Giants and posted a solid performance, with six catches for 71 yards.

Prior to his return, without that connection, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady played inconsistently. He clearly missed his safety valve. But on Sunday, Gronkowski looked like a lot more than a safety valve. He made a number of big catches down the field, dragging defenders on his back time and again. It looked eerily similar to his days playing with Brady in New England.

Following the game, Gronk even tweeted out “I’m Vintage Now.”

He finished the game with seven catches for a team-high 123 yards receiving. Fournette was 2nd on the team in receiving yards with only 31. As he continues to round into shape, defenses around the league shudder to think of how they can stop this offense if Gronk is also going to eat.

1. The #1 seed in the NFC is within reach

On paper, it looks like the Buccaneers would have a hard time earning the overall top seed in the NFC. After all, they are a game behind Arizona, a half game behind Green Bay, and have lost more conference games than both of them currently.

The Bucs are 5-3 in the NFC, whereas both the Cardinals and Packers only have two conference losses. But if you take a look at the remaining schedule, it heavily favors the Buccaneers.

Of the six remaining games for the current top-seeded Cardinals, they play three dangerous teams in the Rams, Colts and Cowboys.

Green Bay’s schedule is not as daunting, only having two relatively tough games remaining playing at Baltimore vs the Vikings Minnesota. But remember, they are tied with the Bucs in the loss column. So if Tampa Bay wins out, they would also have to win out to earn the top spot.

The Buccaneers play only one team with a winning record, the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have not looked very good lately either. The rest of the schedule consists of the Falcons, Saints, Panthers twice and the New York Jets.

It is not inconceivable that Tampa Bay runs the table. If they do, it is a very strong possibility the road to the Super Bowl will have to go through the Buccaneers.