Jameis Winston has talent, there’s no doubting it and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have witnessed it time and time again. He’s also got a turnover problem. Again, the Bucs have seen it. Finally, it’s been too many times.
Against a banged up Bengals defense this looked like the perfect week for Winston to come out and light up his opponent. The question was, would the Bucs defense hold up?
By halftime, it was clear we were all asking the wrong questions.
A bad interception killed what should have been at least three points on the Buccaneers’ first drive of the game.
Another turnover came following a completion to Mike Evans which put the team on Cincinnati’s 27-yard line.
The first big strike completion between Winston and DeSean Jackson likely kept him from being benched at halftime and a 69-yard drive capped off by Peyton Barber’s first rushing score of the year quelled concerns for the moment.
But seven plays into their next possession, Winston dropped the ball into the arms of Bengals linebacker Jordan Evans after the Bucs had crossed midfield.
The final straw, arguably too late, came on the next Tampa Bay possession when rookie safety Jessie Bates undercut a Winston pass to Adam Humphries and returned it for a Bengals touchdown.
In a game lost by a last second field goal, they were all big, but the last one hurts the most.
It erased the good feelings felt by the big strike in the second quarter. Erased the two-straight three-and-outs forced by the Bucs defense. And erased Jameis Winston from the playing field.
Ryan Fitzpatrick relieved Winston and put up points on three of the four possessions he led. Converted a two-point conversion. And with less than 20 minutes remaining in the game led his team to 18 points on 11-of-15 passing for 194-yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Against the same banged up defense.
The difference here wasn’t Cincinnati. The difference in this game was Winston.
Fitzpatrick started the year leading his team to a 2-1 start and was promptly replaced following a game in Chicago where the entire team struggled, and one which potentially started the wheels moving on Mike Smith’s firing two weeks later.
The Winston led Bucs got a win against the Browns at home in Week 7, and if you listened or read any media or fan postings afterwards, you’d have thought Tampa Bay lost.
Call it what you want. Out of sync, trying to do too much, not making smart decisions, etcetera.
Ryan Fitzpatrick more often than not makes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense look like a competent unit able to win any game. Winston does not.
Jason Licht said earlier today this team was focused on winning now and making a playoff push. Keeping Winston on the bench moving forward supports the claim. Starting him, does not.