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Buccaneers winners and losers: Defense finally wins

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Dallas Cowboys in an ugly game, with Jameis Winston running in the deciding touchdown at the end of the game. A 10-6 win is never pretty, but the Bucs did plenty of good things -- and a few bad ones. Here's a look at the winners and losers from today's game.

Winners

The defense

The Bucs defense finally put together a good game -- and they did so without relying on turnovers, of which they produced just one, which came only on the final play of the game. In all, the Bucs defense held the Cowboys offense to just 216 total yards, a miserable 42 rushing yards on 21 attempts, and kept Matt Cassel down to 5.3 yards per attempt, producing three sacks. And thanks to all of that, the Cowboys scored just six points despite grabbing two interceptions off Jameis Winston. Yes, this was Matt Cassel, but the Cowboys have managed to score more than six points every week except week five against the Patriots. This was a good performance.

That doesn't mean it was perfect, by the way. The pass rush continues to be inconsistent, though the coaching staff now at least has the confidence in its cornerbacks to blitz some more, as Jude Adjei-Barima and Sterling Moore both had a solid game.

Mike Evans

Eight catches for 126 yards on 13 targets, with just one real drop. He did have a couple of other tough catches he could have made but didn't, but this wasn't the same Evans we saw last week. He was productive, managed to make people miss after the catch, and was generally reliable for Jameis Winston. He still needs to work on his hands to get back up to where he was last year, but this was a good game for the wideout.

Lavonte David

Twelve total tackles, a sack and a pass defensed is more like the Lavonte David we came to know and love in previous years. He wasn't quite up to his previous standards, but this was probably his best game this season.

Doug Martin

The Bucs struggled to run the ball all day, but Martin was reasonably productive with 63 yards on 18 carries despite getting very little room to run. It was a big step forward from his nondescript performance last week, and his four catches for 40 yards made this a pretty good game overall.

Brandon Myers

Brandon Myers has been all but invisible in his tenure as a Buc, but he had a good game with three catches for 35 yards. No, that's not much, but he had a couple of big first downs on tough catches.

Lovie Smith

Every game the Bucs win Lovie Smith gets one step closer to retaining his job for next season. And this time the Bucs won the game because his defense performed well. That's a big step, too.

Losers

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston won the game on a last-minute comeback drive, the first in his career, but this was paradoxically perhaps his worst game in weeks. He was just a little high, a little off and a little late on far too many throws, as he himself acknowledged after the game. That forced receivers to make tough catches when they could have been easy -- and with Mike Evans as his only productive receiver, that's not going to get the job done -- which is why the offense scored just ten points. The result was two interceptions on two bad throws, and a third dropped interception on a horrific decision. His day would have looked even worse had the last-second fumble on a goal-line scramble where he just dropped the ball not been negated by defensive holding.

Even in a bad game Winston shows plenty of promise, though, with generally solid reactions and adjustments to pressure and a bunch of big throws. His final statline wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible either: 22 completions on 39 attempts with no touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks, and a rushing touchdown. None of this is really indicating a long-term issue, just a perfectly normal down game for a rookie quarterback.

Penalties

The Bucs didn't have a lot of penalties, but the ones they did have were infuriating. Donovan Smith had three false starts, Henry Melton had a stupid unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Matt Cassel late and Mike Jenkins managed to produce a personal foul penalty on the final kickoff, which gave the Cowboys outstanding field position and a chance to win a game that should have been out of reach for them. Seven penalties for 62 yards isn't horrible, but there's plenty of stuff to clean up.

Run-blocking

The Bucs are finding it hard to run the ball without Ali Marpet out there. The running game managed just 81 yards on 23 carries for 3.5 yards per carry, the second straight game where the Bucs couldn't rely on the rush to keep the offense on track. It's tough to win that way, and the Bucs need to find a way to get production out of the ground game even when they don't have their best group out there.