When the Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette, they gave him a one-year contract and it was easy to envision this being a one-year commitment.
After the postseason run Fournette just completed, including his kick-butt performance in the Bucs’ overpowering 31-9 victory over the Chiefs in Super Bowl 2021, it is difficult to envision Fournette not being back with the Bucs.
Fournette, the No. 4-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Jaguars, never lived up to his lofty draft status in Jacksonville, and his arrival in Tampa this season was something of a humbling experience, considering he was brought in as the backup to Ronald Jones. It did not end up that way for Fournette. He started for the Bucs on Sunday night and he was a force, helping Tom Brady balance the offense with 16 rushing attempts for 89 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter — freed up by a block from guard Ali Marpet — to give the Buccaneers a 28-9 lead.
“Their run defense wasn’t that good,’’ Fourenette said bluntly. “I take pride in that those guys don’t want to tackle. Sometimes you make a guy miss but at the same time, you punch ’em in the mouth, at the end of the game they’re not gonna want to tackle you. And that’s exactly what happened.’’
Fournette also caught four passes (on four targets by Brady) for 46 yards. It was quite a playoff surge for Fournette, who ran 97 times for 367 yards in the regular season. He was reborn after that. He scored one touchdown in all four postseason games. He ran for 93 yards against Washington, 63 yards against the Saints, 55 yards in Green Bay in the NFC Championship game and then ran through the Chiefs, often breaking tackles as he churned for extra yards.
“In the long run,’’ Fournette said, “Playoff Larry came alive.’’