Bucs’ secondary has its best game in win over Atlanta

by Gary Shelton on November 25, 2019

in general

Godwin had a career-high 184 yards in catches./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 4 a.m.

For once, they looked hungry. They did not look hopeless.

They made mistakes. They did not look lost. They were a work in progress. They were not beyond hope.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, at last, were a team worth paying attention to. And, finally, their good points outweighed their bad.

The Bucs overcame themselves, and the Atlanta Falcons, by a 35-22 decision Sunday afternoon, improving their record to 4-7 and escaping the NFC South cellar. And along the way, several players had standout games.

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Winston had turnovers early, but threw for three touchdowns./TIM WIRT

-- Quarterback James Winston threw two more interceptions -- and increased his turnovers to 100 on his career -- but threw for 300 yards for his sixth straight game.

-- Receiver Chris Godwin caught 184 yards worth of passes. Both Godwin an fellow receiver Mike Evans passed 1,000 yards on the season. For Evans, it was the sixth straight season.

-- Defensive tackle Vita Vea caught a touchdown pass, had a sack and knocked two passes down at the line of scrimmage.

-- Ndamuknog Suh returned his second fumble of the season for a touchdown.

-- Devon White led the Bucs in tackles for the second straight game.

Murphy-Bunting had a good day./TIM WIRT

But the stars of the game might have been the young secondary, who held Falcons' quarterback Matt Ryan to a rating of 59.5 on the day. It was by far the lowest the Bucs' secondary has held an opposing passer this season, and the lowest they have held Ryan since his first game against them 16 games ago in 2008. Ryan threw 23 incompletions in the game and was sacked six times.

"I thought they played really good," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "We’re doubling outside, especially Julio (Jones) and Sean (Murphy-Bunting) had the one-on-one matchup and he hung in there, did a good job. Those are our best three cover guys and Sean got hurt and Mike (Edwards) went in. We dropped five interceptions, right in their hands, that’s the only negative about our defense. Lavonte [David] never drops a pick-six, I mean five of them, or it’s a totally different game.”

Evans passed 1,000 yards,/TIM WIRT

“(Carlton Davis) has always been really good in press but he’s playing so much better off, with his eyes, and breaking, I mean he had a pick-six. [Jamel] Dean had a pick-six they just went right through their hands. We’re going to get on the JUGS (machine) with these guys.”

Overall, Arians was pleased with the growth of the defense.

“It’s huge. These guys are huge and they’re growing and growing. They’re coming in early and staying late and it’s really starting to show up.”

Arians got a kick out of Vea's touchdown catch.

We put that play in there on Friday, late," Arians said. "Just looking at their goal line situation I thought he would pop out of there pretty clean and it was the perfect time, Byron [Leftwich] called it at the perfect time.”

Godwin was solid for the Bucs.

“He did a great job down the middle," Arians said. "They’re going to play all of that cover two, Jameis threw some balls and he went and got them.”

As for Winston, it was another good news-bad news day. He leads the NFL in those, doesn't he? He's always among the yardage leaders, but he's also among the turnover leaders. It's who he is. He's the loudest argument in the the league no matter which side you're debating.

The Bucs travel to Jacksonville for a 1 p.m. game Sunday.

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