Bucs’ Winston has finished games strongly

by Gary Shelton on October 13, 2017 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston has played well in fourth quarters./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston has played well in fourth quarters./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

In the first quarter, he walks on wobbly legs.

In the second quarter, he is still finding his way.

In the third quarter, he can be had.

Ah, but in the final quarter, in the grand separator of what is ordinary and what is awesome, Jameis Winston becomes a quarterback. It is then that the juices flow. It is then that you squint at the future and think “maybe.”

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Think about it. So far, Winston has played in 17 victorious football games. Of those, he has led a fourth-quarter comeback in seven. In three others, he has led game-winning drives. That's 10 of 17, which isn't bad.

That's one reason the Bucs' remain hopeful with Winston. No, he isn't a finished product. But he's better when the game matters. For a young quarterback, that's a good thing.

“It’s hard to put a finger on it because it feels like that’s what he was in college. It feels like that was when he was at his best,” offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “It’s just some guys have that in them. I don’t know if you’ve got ‘gamers,’ but the moment doesn’t get to big for him. I don’t think he ever doubts his ability. I think that’s part of it.

“I think he always believes if he plays well, we will win. He owns it – that’s one thing I like about it is that he believes he can make a play. He is not afraid to stand in there and take hits and make throws [and plays] with his feet, so I think that’s what happens sometimes when you get down in games and you’re trying to come back. I think he’s always capable of making another play for us.”

 Take the Bucs' last two games. Winston was crisp most of the day agaisnt the Giants, but especially so in guiding Tampa Bay to a winning field goal. Against New England, he was hum-drum for most of the day, but he had the Bucs in position to win late.

In the Bucs' last three games, Winston has had more than 300 yards in each. The fourth quarter has been his best in all of them.

“He’s going to want to make a play,” Monken said. “But if you look at the last two weeks, when he is really at his best is when the game is on the line. Here we play the Giants, we score to take the lead. Then they come back to take the lead and we score again to win the game – pretty good. Last week for whatever we had done throughout the game, (he) drove us down there again, (we) missed a field goal. (We) drove down again (and) scored. (We) drove down again and (he) gave us a chance to win the game. That’s kind of who he is and I think he’s gotten better and better in terms of his comfort in the pocket [and] his accuracy. It’s always a work in practice with anybody, but we didn’t do him any favors on the perimeter of making contested catches when we had the opportunities for him. Again, putting us in a position to win, making some of the plays that he does with his feet that we’ve had the last couple of weeks – some of the explosive plays we’ve had. I see that in practice in terms of taking care of the football, in terms of his accuracy and it’s going to continue to carry over.”

Winston has also played three games without an interception.

“I’ve just got to keep that in the back of my mind all of the time,” Winston said. “That’s the main goal is to protect that football. That’s why I said I’ve just got to play better. I know [there was] one game where I turned the ball over a lot, but I’ve just got to play better. Overall, precision, decisions, progressions – I feel great out there, but I’ve just got to play cleaner.”

Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter wants Winston's play to be good in the other parts of the game, too.

“I think we need to have Jameis be good all the time,” Koetter said. “The game, from my opinion, is on the line right off the bat. I don’t know the stats behind that. I don’t agree or disagree. I just think that the best quarterbacks in the NFL are always good.”

The Bucs play the Cards at 4:05 p.m. On Sunday.

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