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Buccaneers vs. Falcons Winners and Losers: Kwon Alexander and Lovie Smith

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their third win of the season in Atlanta, beating the Falcons in overtime. That means we can talk about some people who came out of this game looking like winners -- and there were a lot of those. A few looked like losers, but everything smells sweeter after a win.


Kwon Alexander

Ripping the ball out of Julio Jones' hands, grabbing an interception off Matt Ryan, having another interception called back because Jacquies Smith was offside, and adding 11 total tackles. And he did all that just days after losing his seventeen-year-old brother. That's character. And that's a winner.

Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith now has more wins than he did last year, which should stave off the calls for his head for a week or so -- until the next time they lose a game. He also finally made an aggressive call to try to win the game on offense in the fourth quarter. "We had an opportunity to win the game right then, and I'll make that call ten out of ten times," Smith said after the game.

And yes, that call was correct:

No, it didn't work out. But Smith's refusal to trust the offense had been killing the Bucs before, and stopped them from scoring a touchdown early in this game as well. Jameis Winston almost converted that fourth down, but he didn't quite get there. You can squabble with the exact play call, but that was Dirk Koetter's domain, not Lovie Smith's.

That doesn't matter, though: we shouldn't judge the results, but the process. And the process was correct.

His defense is still awful, though.

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston didn't have a single turnover for the third consecutive game, made a number of clutch throws, produced two touchdowns and overall played a decent game. His numbers aren't overly impressive (16/29 for 177 yards, one touchdown, one rushing touchdowns, two sacks, no turnovers), but they don't include three first downs via defensive pass interference and a 21-yard scramble.

It wasn't perfect -- he had a number of inaccurate throws and a couple of near-interceptions -- but he made some big-time throws when they needed him to. It was another promising performance from a rookie who continues to look like a future franchise quarterback.

Gerald McCoy

Made the final play in the game and had a number of other disruptive plays earlier in the game. He hasn't quite had the impact he had the last few years so far this season, in part because he continues to struggle with a strained shoulder, but this is now the second game in which he made a big play at the end of the game -- supposedly the thing he never does. Maybe we can now stop bagging on one of the team's best players? No? Okay then.

Howard Jones

I haven't seen this guy consistently beat any offensive lineman, but he's now made a big play in all three of his NFL games. I'm not convinced he's going to be good, exactly, but his athleticism sure has helped him stand out so far.

Mike Evans

Played through a leg injury and had just three catches for 48 yards, but that doesn't include drawing three pass interference penalties (should have been four), nor the fact that he didn't get Winston's easiest throws. He had one or two drops (depending on how you count them), but he was Winston's only receiving weapon and clearly the focal point of the Atlanta defense -- and he still made plays. I call that a win.

Connor Barth

Has yet to miss a field goal this year, and continues to look solid on kickoffs.

Lack of penalties

The Bucs got the refs to help out, for once, and another team to shoot themselves in the foot. But it was a step up for the team on the penalty front as well, as they had eight penalties for just 43 yards. That's a massive step forward.


The secondary

Garbage. Again. Matt Ryan had just eight incompletions on the day, passed for 397 yards and had one interception -- which came off Kwon Alexander. The Falcons weren't forced to punt once in this entire game. The only reason the Falcons didn't hang 30+ points on the Bucs was the fact that they kept giving the ball away, committing stupid penalties and Kwon Alexander made two big plays to take the ball away. That's it.

The pass rush

One sack on 46 dropbacks. Yes, Gerald McCoy and Howard Jones won the game in the end, but this is completely unacceptable. For most of the game, Matt Ryan didn't even get breathed on. The Falcons offensive line isn't that great, either -- although Ryan does know how to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack.

The running game

Doug Martin made a bunch of plays, slipping out of tackles and turning something into nothing, but the Bucs still managed just 3.7 yards per carry -- and that's with Winston putting up three carries for 24 yards. This was a case of the blocking really struggling to get a push, as the Falcons committed to stopping the run. That meant the Bucs had to rely on Winston, and that worked -- but if teams can make the Bucs one-dimensional on offense, they're going to have some issues eventually.