The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Atlanta Falcons to keep themselves in the playoff race, and they played a pretty good game to do so. So there are plenty of winners for today's game, and only a few losers.
Another solid day for Jameis Winston, whose raw statistics (18 of 27 for 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack, 1 rushing TD) don't look overly impressive but hide a pretty consistently positive performance. Pro Football Focus graded him at a 6.8, one of the best grades you'll see, and he made a number of tough throws as he always does. The highlight was a 20-yard, game-extending scramble on third-and-19, followed by a beautiful game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Evans on another scramble. His one interception wasn't necessarily his fault -- a high pass tipped by Evans -- and he continued to look like a reliable, future franchise quarterback.
Three catches for 87 yards, including a season-high 36-yarder. Jackson hasn't been overly productive this year and the explosive plays have largely vanished from his repertoire as he's turning ever so slowly into a possession receiver, but this was the kind of outing that shows he still has the speed to get down the field and make some big plays.
No big runs this week, but a lot of consistency. His longest run was just fourteen yards, but he had 25 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown all the same. His play sustained the Buccaneers offense and gave it life -- and despite his lost fumble, this was another good game for a back in the final year of his contract. Meanwhile, Charles Sims continues to look good as a change-of-pace and receiving back, putting up 77 yards from scrimmage on just nine touches.
Gholston has been a quality run defender ever since he entered the NFL, but he's getting better and better at affecting the passer as well. Gholston had two of the team's three sacks this week, and helped fill the hole left by Gerald McCoy and Jacquies Smith, both out with injury.
Another week, another interception and another 11 tackles for David, who has looked like his old, All-Pro self over the past four weeks. He now has three interceptions, ten passes defensed (career-high), one forced fumble and two sacks on the year, and is on pace to put up some of the best numbers in his career despite a very slow start to the season.
The big offensive tackle returned to the starting lineup for the first time this season, and he looked solid despite not playing for months. He admitted to having been fatigued toward the end of the game and that showed in one ugly holding penalty, but he looked better than Gosder Cherilus and is likely to have reclaimed his starting spot.
The Bucs missed Marpet the past two weeks, with Evan Smith iffy in pass protection and as a run-blocker. The rookie returned to the field of play and his presence was immediately obvious: the running game functioned better than it has the past two weeks, and there was barely any pressure on Winston from the right side of the line. The rookie is swiftly turning in
Five catches, 61 yards and one touchdown. No huge, explosive plays -- his longest catch went for just 16 yards -- and he failed to make two tough catches, one knocked out by a defender, the other tipped and turned into an interception. As has consistently been the case, the overreactions to his failure not to make every catch were omnipresent and not entirely unjustified, but he also proved to be a key part of the offense by making a number of crucial catches -- and this time, in more of a possession receiver role. A sideline, toe-tapping catch and the game-winning touchdowns were both things of beauty.
Eight penalties for 53 yards, including four pre-snap penalties. It's not close to the worst showing this year, but penalties continue to be a factor in every game. On a positive note, this time the penalties didn't stall any drives. All of the Bucs' offensive penalties were followed by at least one first down, and all but two of them came on drives where the Bucs put points on the board -- one of the other penalized drives was the final drive, where the Bucs kneeled out the clock.
The Bucs gave the ball away twice, which is not the worst thing in the world but something that could easily have cost them the game. It almost did: Jameis Winston saw a second tipped interception on the team's final drive rightly called back for defensive pass interference. More worrying was the Bucs' lack of takeaways. They didn't produce any against Matt Hasselbeck last week, and managed only one against Matt Ryan this week. Ryan threw five interceptions the two weeks before playing the Bucs, and Hasselbeck threw four interceptions in the games bookending his performance against the Bucs. This defense cannot function properly without taking the ball away, and the Bucs need to find a way to get back to doing so regularly.