Bucs beat 49ers as Winston plays clean game

by Gary Shelton on November 26, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Jameis Winston didn't have a turnover Sunday./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 4 a.m.

They didn't reach the playoffs, okay? They didn't guarantee themselves a winning season, or a break-even one. They didn't end their misery, and they didn't cure their defense. They didn't change their season.

All they did was win.

And for now, that's enough.

They didn't put the Pro Bowl on alert. They didn't move out of last place. They didn't put an extra "g" in "juggernaut." They didn't heal their wounded, and they didn't raise their dead.

But they won.

And, for a moment, that throbbing toothache of theirs went away.

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Mike Evans passed 1,000 yards for the fifth time./STEVEN MUNCIE

The Tampa Bay Bucs beat a horrible San Francisco 49ers team, 27-9, at home Sunday afternoon. And if it didn't move the needle on becoming the type of team they wish to be, it at least was better than losing, as they team had done seven times in their previous eight games. Yeah, the 49ers are bad, but what else do you do with a bad opponent except beat them?

Afterward, coach Dirk Koetter talked about the relief of walking off the field as a winner.

"That is the object of the game ... to win," Koetter said. "All we can do is hang in there, that’s all you can do. You’ve got to keep coming to work. Hats off to all the guys in that room right there. All the players, for hanging with it and continuing to battle. You can’t play that woulda-shoulda-coulda game because you can’t bring them back. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

Vita Vea gets his first sack against Mullens./STEVEN MUNCIE

This one wasn't gone because the Bucs, for once, put together a safe, smart game plan Sunday, and they played well. Consider:

-- Quarterback Jameis Winston hit 29 of 38 passes for 312 yards, but he seemed more careful with the ball. He threw no interceptions -- nothing really close, actually and had a rating of 117.4. It was the eighth best rating of his career. If this was indeed as the start of six games in which he has to prove himself, it's safe to say he's off to a good start.

-- For once, the opposing quarterback didn't shred the Bucs. 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, in his third start, had a rating of just 62.1, which is more than 36 points below the second-best performance. He led his team to just nine points.

-- The defense intercepted two passes after intercepting only one in the first 10 games of the season. The secondary also forced 14 incompletions, their high for the season.

-- No. 1 draft pick Vita Vea had four tackles, three of them for losses,
and a sack in by far his best game of the year.

Carl Nassib tackles the 49ers' Breida./STEVEN MUNCIE

-- Kicker Cairo Santos remained "Mr. Perfect" with two field goals and three extra points.

-- Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack, making him the first double-digit sacker the team had had since  Simeon Rice in 2005.

-- Receiver Mike Evans passed 1,000 yards in receptions. Evans now has 1,073 yards with five games to go. His high-water mark is 1,321.

In other words, it was a good day to celebrate. Never mind an imposing rest-of-the-schedule, and never mind how dreadful the opponent was. After losing, and losing again, and again, it was good to finally win one.

"It's a relief," said tackle Demar Dotson. "Wins are hard to come by in this league. You see guys happy and excited. That's what you want to see."

There was a lot that Bucs' fans have wanted to see in this game. Start with Winston,

Ryan Smith intercepts in the end zone./STEVEN MUNCIE

who was reinserted into the starting lineup. He didn't throw an interception for only the 22nd time in 51 career games. He threw well on the run, too, hitting Cameron Brate (six yards) and Adam Humprhies (28 yards) with touchdowns while out of the pocket.

"Jameis, he played quarterback the way you really need to play it in the NFL until you get into desperation time, which we never did today," Koetter said. "Jameis wasn’t perfect, but he played a damn good game. [I’m] proud of him, it’s been a difficult road. He sees what that looks like. He needs to consistently play like that and he can be one of the best.”

Devante Bond takes the legs out of Kettle./STEVEN MUNCIE

Said Winston: "It’s easier to keep it simple when you are very decisive.  I just have to go back to being decisive and making quick decisions, getting the ball out of your hand and trying to execute on every single play. And understanding sometimes you’ve got to check the ball down. Sometimes, you’ve got to talk to yourself and say, ‘Hey – no, I’m just going to take this sack here.” 

The Bucs got a boost from a defense that had allowed 31.9 points per game in its first 10. The big series, of course, was a goal line stand in the third period. After holding the 49ers to a field goal, the Bucs marched 75 yards for a touchdown that made it 20-9.

"I thought that was a huge turning point in the game to stop them," Koetter said.

Adam Humphries scores a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

"It’s hard to stop a team three times from the one-yard line. That was great. Then we were able to take that thing down and Jameis made a beautiful scramble play on that one to (wide receiver) Mike (Evans). That was just a methodical-type game. In the NFL, part of winning is not losing. (It’s) not beating yourself.”

This time, the Bucs didn't let that happen, although the offensive line had a brutal day against the 49ers, who are 12th in the NFL on defense.

Still, there were things to smile about with the defense. Mullens was sacked four times and threw two picks.

The first of those was by Ryan Smith, who intercepted the ball and landed out of the end zone. He got up and started to celebrate as he approached the sideline, then hearing teammates yell "run," he started upfield.

"I knew I was out of bounds," Smith said. "I wasn't trying to return it."

Pierre-Paul's eclipse of the 10-sack plateau was big for the Bucs. Just ask Gerald McCoy, who has never gotten there.

"Listen, I’ve been here a long time, okay," McCoy said. "And for me to see this happen is very special. He’s going to downplay it. I’m not. Very special — something we haven’t seen in a long time, man. This dude deserves everything coming his way and I love him.”

"We just play as a unit, play for the man next to you, not selfishly. When the man next to you eats, it makes you feel that much better. That’s why I got emotional when I saw him get that 10th sack, because I just wanted somebody to get it. I don’t care who gets it, you know what I’m saying? But for him to come in, honestly I’m just going to be real, for him to get treated the way he got treated in the offseason, I’m glad he’s with us.”

It was also good to see Vea, who has struggled,  have a breakout game.

It felt really good going out there," Vea said. "I wasn’t thinking much — going out there and just playing.”

The Bucs will likely be underdogs in their remaining games home against Carolina, home against New Orleans, at the Ravens, at the Cowboys and home against Atlanta. Still, if they can play close to what they did Sunday, and if they can take the ball away more than they give it, and if Winston can keep down the turnovers, the season might be interesting yet.

After all, the experts have to say this about winning:

It beats the heck out of losing.

Jason Pierre-Paul talks to Mullens after sacking him./STEVEN MUNCIE



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