The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three straight games and the area one could point that has led the charge has been the play of the team’s safeties. Chris Conte made interceptions in the previous two games that helped lead the team to victory. His pick-six against the Chicago Bears ignited the Buccaneers on both sides of the ball, while his red zone interception against the Kansas City Chiefs helped preserve the victory.
On Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, it was his fellow safety Bradley McDougald who made a key play. With the Buccaneers leading by nine and the Seahawks in field-goal range late in the game, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tried to fit a pass down the right sideline to Tyler Lockett. But McDougald saw the route from the beginning, sliding over to his left and picking off his second interception of the season.
McDougald finished the game with five tackles, two pass breakups and the interception against the Seahawks. For the season, McDougald is third on the team with 62 tackles (including 56 solo) and is second on the team with nine pass breakups. He Like most of the defense, as McDougald has gotten more comfortable in his role, he is playing faster and better. It was evident the entire game as McDougald was all over the field.
In the second quarter, Seattle faced a third-and-14 and Wilson tried to hit Doug Baldwin down the middle of the field. McDougald read the play perfectly but got to Baldwin a heartbeat early and was called for pass interference.
While that may have caused doubt in McDougald earlier in the year, it didn’t on Sunday. He was filling in gaps in the run game and later made a play that would have made Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor member John Lynch smile.
Wilson had what he thought was Lockett roaming free deep down the left seam of the field. But this time, McDougald timed his approach perfectly and as the ball reached Lockett, McDougald slammed into the receiver dislodging the ball and forcing a Seattle punt.
McDougald said the work the team has put in off the field is starting to pay dividends on the field.
“We’ve already been believing,” McDougald said of the defensive system under first-year Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith as well as the team’s success. “Now it’s just starting to show, now we’re starting to get believers, now we’re starting to get followers and fans. But we have to stay true to ourselves, we have to keep doing the things that got us here, which is practice, preparation and stay on the top of our keys. We’re going to come back in on Wednesday, we’re going to watch it, we’re going to move on and we’re going to get ready for the next team.”
The Buccaneers’ three-game win streak is the longest streak the club has had since the 2013 season. At 6-5, the Buccaneers are a half-game out of the NFC Wild Card picture and one game behind the Atlanta Falcons for first in the NFC South.
The win on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by Sunday’s win against the Seahawks, show what kind of team the Buccaneers can be. The defensive effort, holding Seattle to five points, was reminiscent of the days of the Super Bowl Buccaneers led by Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks as well as Lynch and Simeon Rice.
McDougald’s play, showing the range of a cornerback and the striking of a linebacker, played a big role and the Buccaneers need it to continue. The win against Seattle may have gotten others excited but McDougald said it didn’t matter who the opponent was – it was good just to get a victory.
“Chicago was just as sweet,” he said. “When we won, it felt just as good. But you can only relish in it for so long. Each team has a different component or a different level of difficulty that we’re going to have to overcome and Seattle definitely has their share. The quarterback, (tight end) Jimmy Graham, the running game, you name it. But we’re just going to have to come in and keep playing good ball.”