How fast is Ronald Jones? He just went from zero to history in a snap
By season's end, the Bucs will have been on the field for somewhere close to 2,400 plays. For most of us, 99 percent or more of those passes, runs, sacks and kicks will eventually disappear forever in our memories. A handful may seem vaguely familiar when brought up in conversations or stories. Only a select few have a chance of outliving 2020.

Ronald Jones gave us one of those moments on Sunday. You could have watched every single play from the previous 701 Buccaneer games in the past 45 seasons and never seen anything like this. In the history of the NFL, only two players have ever had a longer run from scrimmage than Jones' 98-yard touchdown against the Panthers.

It wasn't particularly flashy. It probably didn't change the outcome of a 46-23 Tampa Bay victory. And yet the sheer novelty of such a long play from scrimmage made it as majestic as any single play the Bucs have ever had in the regular season. "That's like a video game," receiver Antonio Brown said.

From start (Tom Brady crouching behind center A.Q. Shipley just about one foot away from the end zone) to finish (Jones crossing the goal line on the opposite end of the field), it took just a little more than 20 seconds. And yet it will live forever in Bucs lore.

From zero to 2.5 seconds:
Brady approaches the line and surveys the defense. The Panthers have four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. Both linebackers are to Brady's right. The safeties are split around the 10-yard-line but nearly everyone else is packed in tight. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead is the only other player beyond the 5-yard line. "We saw the defense, and Blaine (Gabbert) said, ‘This is going to the house,'" head coach Bruce Arians recalled. "And I said, ‘We've got a chance to split them.' And — vroom — there he goes."

From 2.5 to 6.6 seconds:
Brady lifts his left leg to send receiver Chris Godwin in motion. Arians said this was the only part of the play that was an audible. Godwin trots from Brady's left to his right. The Bucs now have two tight ends and one receiver on the right side of the field. The only players remaining to Brady's left are guard Ryan Jensen, tackle Donovan Smith and tight end Cameron Brate. "We all knew what play they were running," Panthers cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "Shaq (Thompson) only screamed it to us 30 times in the huddle."

From 6.6 to 8.1 seconds:
When Shipley snaps the ball, Brady turns and hands it off to Jones about one yard deep in the end zone and just outside the right hash marks. The two linebackers and one of the cornerbacks crash the right side of the line. In that instant, the Bucs have two defensive linemen and four defensive backs to worry about.

Shipley turns lineman Bravvion Roy to the right, and Smith pushes lineman Yetur Gross-Matos to the left, opening a gaping hole on the left side. Brate blocks safety Jeremy Chinn and Douglas hesitates for a moment behind Chinn. Jones takes only one step forward before breaking to the left. "I saw the linebacker shift over, and then I'm thinking probably cut back to the left," Jones said. "Then, it's off to the races." At this point, only safeties Tre Boston and Juston Burriss remain in play.

From 8.1 to 9.3 seconds:
Without a linebacker covering the gap, Jensen runs a few yards up the field and levels Burriss. That leaves Boston, who was coming from the right hash mark. Boston backpedaled when the ball was snapped, and now heads directly at Jones. The Bucs running back makes a slight cut to the left and Boston is caught flat-footed. Jones, who was a sprinter at USC, easily shakes off Boston, who makes a diving attempt at a tackle at the 12. "I've put on a little weight since college," Jones said. "(But) the top-end speed is still there."

From 9.3 to 15.4 seconds:
Initially blocked out of the play by Brate, Chinn quickly recovers and turns around to chase Jones. He has to leap over a falling Boston at the 12 but appears to be gaining ground on Jones near midfield. The NFL's NextGen stats had Jones running at 21.19 mph at peak speed. As he runs to the end zone, Jones looks up at the giant video on the stadium scoreboard and knows Chinn has closed to within a few steps. "I'm like, ‘Dang, buddy is moving back there,'" Jones said.

Jones makes a slight adjustment toward the middle of the field, and Chinn tries vainly to dive forward and trip him up with his left hand around the 33. "I could feel (him). I probably shouldn't have looked at the Jumbotron, but it gave me an idea of where he was," Jones said. "I didn't know where the corners (were), so I just tried to go down the middle and change the angle on them."

From 15.4 seconds to Bucs history:
Jones goes the rest of the way without anyone getting within five yards. Jensen, Goodwin and Brady are the first to reach him in the end zone. Earlier in the day, Jones had lost his second fumble in two weeks. Arians had approached him on the sideline and told him to let it go because the Bucs were going to need him. As he comes to the sideline after the touchdown, Arians stops him and speaks to him with his hands on either side of Jones' helmet. "I told him that's what I expected of him. You're our guy, and that's what we expect of you all the time,'" Arians said.

John Romano, Tampa Bay Times, published 16 November 2020