The Buccaneers finished the 2019 season with a 7-9 record. In the offseason, they acquired Tom Brady, easily the best quarterback in the NFL, but Tampa Bay didn’t stop there. Also added to the team were tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Antonio Brown. The additions gave the team new life, making them Super Bowl contenders. Then a few warriors fell and second-string players, like Mike Edwards and Aaron Stinnie, stepped up.
The Bucs’ exciting season
When the Bucs started the season off with a loss, the hopes of die-hard fans were paused — but not for long. They followed it up with three wins, even a comeback against the Chargers. With a deep offensive roster, it took time for the team to come together. Tampa Bay lacked consistency during the season. However, they kept finding ways to win and finished with the third-best scoring offense of the regular season.
After cruising to a victory in the NFC wild-card game versus the Washington Football Team, they faced their rivals, the New Orleans Saints. But Drew Brees threw three interceptions. The Bucs won 30-20, moving on to the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. During that game, Brady threw three interceptions, but the Packers failed to capitalize. For the first time since the 2002 season, the Bucs were headed back to the Super Bowl.
Calling in the Bucs’ backups
While Tampa Bay had its fair share of success during the season, some key injuries threatened their good fortune. The injury to rookie starting safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., right before the NFC Championship game was the most alarming. Winfield was one of the most consistent defensive players throughout the season, with 94 combined tackles and three sacks. His replacement for the game, Mike Edwards, is no slouch in the safety department either. He played well despite limited playing time, even picking off Brees the week before.
An ankle injury took down right guard Alex Cappa. His replacement Aaron Stinnie was making his first start against the Saints in the Divisional Playoffs. The pressure didn’t phase Stinnie, and he put in a solid performance along with the rest of the offensive line.
Fan reactions to Mike Edwards and Aaron Stinnie
With both Edwards and Stinnie stepping up and putting in tough performances, fans took notice. The injuries to both Cappa and Winfield Jr. might have made them a bit nervous. But now that they’ve seen the two replacements take over and play with confidence, fans are ready for both to start in the Super Bowl.
In a recent Reddit forum, fans expressed their delight with the two. One commenter said, “Mike Edwards is a starter in my book.” Another replied, “Dude has made plays every chance he gets; he’s head over heels better than what he was 2 years ago. That’s the player story people need to hear.”
When talking about Stinnie, another fan added, “Stinnie saved this season, not too many backup guards can play like him.” Others agreed:
“Losing an interior lineman, especially when protecting a QB that is almost never mobile, would be a death sentence to most teams. The fact that Stinnie has come in and is playing at the level he has been, Jesus Christ, he’s 100% saved our season.”
Another fan chimed in with his two cents, “Stinnie has been awesome. Sure, he’s whiffed some blocks and had a few mess-ups, but he’s playing better than a reservist has any right to. He had one play yesterday on Fournette’s big run where he ran downfield and absolutely mauled Alexander even though he was on the opposite end of the field.”
Regardless, we’re excited to see Stinnie and Edwards in Super Bowl LV.