How Carlton Davis’ ‘Go Go Gadget arms’ saved the day for Bucs’ defense

MINNEAPOLIS — Bucs linebacker Devin White was making things happen all over the field during Sunday’s season-opening 20-17 victory.

Also along the sideline, where he presciently alerted cornerback Carlton Davis to be ready to make an impact as the Vikings tried to rally late.

“We told him he was going to be the one to get us out of here,” White recalled.

Davis did just that, delivering what White called “probably the biggest play of the game.”

With the Vikings trying to answer after the Bucs took a three-point lead with 5:10 to play, Davis raced in from deep zone coverage to break up a third-and-7 pass from Kirk Cousins for Jordan Addison. It turned out to be Minnesota’s final play, as it punted the ball back to Tampa Bay, which ran out the clock.

“They ran that play on the same set, maybe like three to four third downs in a row,” Davis said. “They just kind of switched up the routes. But I had a feeling that they were coming back to the out route, because they had a big first down on it early on in the game.

“That technically wasn’t my route. But my instincts kind of kicked in. And I just broke on the ball. I seen it, couldn’t really get two hands on it. But I said, ‘I got it. Hecan’tcatch the ball.’ I just made a play on the ball.”

Davis said he was a bit concerned about arriving in time and joked that he needed some cartoonish ability.

“I used my Go Go Gadget arms,” he said. “I just kind of stretched out for it. So I’m just thankful God blessed me.”

Davis’ play was complemented by three turnovers — a strip sack by safety Antoine Winfield Jr., an interception by rookie safety Christian Izien, and a recovered fumbled snap — as the Bucs met one of their weekly targets.

“Turnovers are one thing we have to get,” Winfield said. “Our goal is three takeaways a game.”

Plus, they kept Minnesota’s dynamic receiver, Justin Jefferson, out of the end zone. “That’s a good thing, right?” Davis said. “That’s a dub.”

They met yet another goal by holding an explosive Vikings offense to two touchdowns and a field goal. “It felt great,” Winfield said. “Seventeen (points) and under, that’s the goal every week.”

Still, what head coach Todd Bowles called a “gutsy” defensive effort included some concerns — most notably the 328 passing yards the Bucs allowed, their most since the 2021 opener (which they also won, vs. Dallas).

“We definitely could have done better,” Davis said. “I felt like when they started to go to hurry-up offensive stuff is what really got us, is really when we got kind of off-balance. And that’s when they kind of got to step on us.

“Besides that, we were handling business, and they only scored 17 points, so that’s good. But we’ve definitely got to work on our pass game and work on just being more shutdown in the back end.”

White, one of Bucs’ leaders, also said they have to tighten things up.

“It was a great effort, but I feel like we’ve got to do better,” he said. “We gave up too many passing yards, and to be the defense that we claim that we want to be, that’s not the standard.

“So whatever we did wrong, we’ve got to go back and try to really fix it fast, because other teams will definitely attack us in that same manner.”

White did his part, with a hand in 12 tackles.

“He was everywhere,” linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. “And you love to see it.”

Coming off an eventful offseason in which he didn’t get the trade or big raise he wanted, White said he is trying to “play perfect, especially this year. More focused, more locked in and more just trying to do the right thing every time I’m out there on the field.”

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