TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After the Buccaneers’ season opener victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay made it clear not to rule them out, but Sunday’s home opener win against the Chicago Bears solidified that Tampa Bay is a team you shouldn’t overlook.
The Bucs were dominant on both sides of the ball, forcing two interceptions and six sacks, all while picking up 317 passing yards and 120 rushing yards with three touchdowns.
The team was electric, but this year’s home opener just felt more special than normal – and it was.
As the fourth quarter neared the end, the Chicago Bears, who were down three points, had the ball and hoped to make a downfield play to clinch their first win of the season. However, Bucs’ linebacker Shaquille Barrett had other plans.
Just like the NFL scriptwriters would have it, Barrett intercepted Justin Fields’ pass and returned it for a touchdown, elevating the Bucs’ lead 27-17, sending Raymond James Stadium erupting with cheers.
The linebackers’ touchdown Sunday afternoon was the first of his NFL career – “perfect timing” for the 30-year-old who dedicated the 2023-24 season to his 2-year-old daughter Arrayah after she tragically drowned in the family’s pool earlier this year.
“It most definitely feels good,” Barrett said when asked what his play meant for him and his family. “I always play for my family already, but then, having extra incentive and making me want to go a little harder for her. It never stops sucking. It’s always gonna suck, but at least I’m able to shine some spotlight on her a little bit. The camera was on me after I made the play, and I told her, ‘I love you and miss you, and wish she was here,’ so I was glad I’m able to still get some spotlight for her and the Lord above because he’s the reason why we’re here right not and just trusting his plan no matter what.”
In addition to his pick-six, Barrett also recorded a sack and two tackles against the Bears. A big feat for the linebacker who overcame a torn Achilles that sidelined him for the second half of last season.
Nonetheless, Barrett was gleaming with pride at the podium, a little exhausted and out of breath from the heat, noting that his final play of the game was “the most tiring play of the game for [him].” Still, after all he’s been through, Barrett continued thanking God, his teammates, and coaches for their continuous support.
“I do feel like it was divine intervention to be able to get that spotlight for my baby girl,” Barrett said while dawning a chain made in memory of Arrayah. He also added that he helped coach his son’s third football game Saturday, saying, “It felt good to coach the youth and give back.”
Barrett is in his fifth year as a Buccaneer. Before coming to Tampa Bay, he spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos.
The Buccaneers (2-0) will continue their victory rally at Raymond James Stadium for a Monday Night Football matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) at 7:15 p.m.