Jameis WInston's naked statistics don't look very good for yesterday's game. Against the Atlanta Falcons, he completed 16 of 29 passes for just 177 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, adding 24 rushing yards and a touchdown on three attempts. Of course, those statistics miss three crucial defensive pass interference penalties that led to first downs -- a big reason why Winston is still the seventh-best quarterback by ESPN's Total QBR this week.
Re-watching the game, though, this may have been one of Winston's worst performances of the season -- despite the win and several big throws. Let's start with the good, though.
Winston's best throw of the game was this beautiful seam throw to Cameron Brate, over the defensive back and in front of the safety. That kind of throw is not an exception to the rule: he's making a handful of high-level NFL throws in every game, and that's something the Bucs haven't been able to say of any quarterback since Josh Freeman in 2010. The most impressive part may be his eye discipline here: looking to the left to keep the window for Brate open, and then dropping the ball between three defenders.
But Winston's accuracy was off on more throws than it was on yesterday, perhaps more so than any game since his disastrous opening game against the Tennessee Titans. He repeatedly missed open receivers in the red zone, overthrowing Mike Evans and Adam Humphries in the first quarter, overthrowing Evans in the second, and underthrowing both of them in overtime. That cost the Bucs three touchdowns and a much easier victory. A pair of passes to Mike Evans, both negated by defensive pass interference penalties, are illustrative of this inconsistency.
Both of those throws could easily have been actual interceptions, and that would have been all on Winston. These throws lack depth and are too far inside, making it nearly impossible for Mike Evans to get to them and very easy for the defensive backs to do so. On both of these plays, a deeper throw makes these easy completions. Worse, on the first play he leads the safety right to Evans with his eyes, whereas he's usually very good at eye discipline.
One reason I'm a little disappointed in these throws is that he seemed to have fixed these problems the past two games, as his deep throws to Evans were far better then. Something for Winston to work on this week.
Winston also had another pair of near-interceptions and one of those was particularly egregious. Old quarterback axiom: never throw the ball back across your body -- Winston broke the rule, and a little faster reaction by the safety would have made this a turnover.
As I said last week after his near-perfect game against Washington, Winston is going to have his ups and downs as will any rookie. He'll miss some throws, he'll make some bad decisions, and he'll turn over the ball a few times. He hasn't done so the last few games, but that tide will turn again at some point. That's all a part of him adjusting to the NFL and learning the game.
What's promising is that even in his bad games, Jameis Winston mostly makes the right decisions, and he makes a few throws in every game that make you appreciate the talent on display. He's looking off safeties more often than not, moving in the pocket -- though that too was a little worse this week -- and doing a good job of managing the offense. This particular game was relatively disappointing, but if this is the worst game a quarterback plays that's still outstanding -- and the trajectory he's on is very positive.