It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay won its fourth game in a row behind another record-setting performance by quarterback Jameis Winston, who had four touchdown passes and a career-high 458 yards as the Bucs improved to 7-7 on the year with the chance to finish .500 or finish with a winning record. The loss was Detroit’s seventh in a row.
2 BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1: Record-Setting Winston Leads Bucs To Fourth Straight Win
Records continued to fall for both quarterback Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense in Sunday’s 38-17 win at Detroit, which was the team’s fourth straight victory as Tampa Bay improved to 7-7 on the year. Winston passed for a record 458 yards and four touchdowns in the win just a week after throwing for 456 yards and four touchdowns to beat Indianapolis.
On Sunday, Winston broke his own Tampa Bay single-season TD record of 28, which was set in 2016. Winston now has 30 touchdowns this season with two games to go. Winston trails only Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (33) for the league lead in touchdown passes.
Winston is in an unenviable position to lead the league in both touchdown passes and interceptions this year, which is a rare possibility. In fact, only three QBs since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger have led the league in touchdowns and interceptions in the same year. The first was Cleveland’s Brian Sipe in 1979 (28 TDs, 26 INTs), Lynn in 1983 (32 TDs, 29 INTs) and New Orleans’s Drew Brees in 2012 (43 TDs, 19 INTs).
The reason I bring this up is because Winston threw his NFL-leading 24th interception of the season.
It didn’t look good early on, as Winston threw that interception on Tampa Bay’s first drive of the game, but as we’ve seen so many times this year, he’s proven to be quite resilient. Winston came back on the Bucs’ second drive and threw a beautiful 34-yard touchdown strike to Breshad Perriman to give the Bucs an early 7-0 lead. Winston started the game 6-of-7 for 101 yards and a touchdown with his lone incompletion being his INT.
“Okay, throw an interception, get it over with and let’s go win the game,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “I thought Jameis played really, really well. … That first quarter was lights out. Every ball was on the money. I can’t say enough about him.”
His second drive was even better. Starting at Tampa Bay’s own 1-yard, Winston helped the Bucs go 99 yards for a touchdown to go up 14-0 over Detroit. Winston connected with Chris Godwin on a 51-yard catch-and-run and then capped off the drive with a beautiful 33-yard TD pass to Scotty Miller, which was the first touchdown for the rookie in the NFL.
Even more impressive was that Winston did it without Mike Evans, spraying the ball around the field to seven different receivers in the first quarter alone. Winston passed for 221 yards in the first quarter, which was the most by any quarterback in the NFL this year, surpassing Patrick Mahommes’ 211 yards in Week 1.
Winston had over 300 yards and three touchdowns by halftime, marking the 10th 300-yard passing day he’s had this season and the 26th of his career. Winston has thrown for at least 300 yards in seven of the last eight games with his 268-yard effort at Jacksonville being the only game that didn’t meet that mark.
The second half was much more of a struggle for Winston and the Bucs offense, especially after losing Miller and Godwin to hamstring injuries. Godwin had five catches for 151 yards, while Miller had three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense accounted for just 10 points in the second half as Winston connected with Perriman for a third touchdown, but it was enough for the win.
Winston, who is in a contract year, has presided over the most explosive offense in franchise history this year. Tampa Bay set a franchise record for points in Detroit, surpassing the 396 points the team scored last year. With 38 points on Sunday, the Bucs now have 434 for the year, which is a new record and the first time Tampa Bay has ever eclipsed the 400-point mark in team history.
As the wins pile up and the records fall, Winston’s stellar play down the stretch is going a long way in helping his cause to remain in red and pewter in 2020 – and perhaps beyond. On Sunday, Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450 yards or more in back-to-back games.
Another record falls, courtesy of No. 3.
“There’s more good than bad – and that’s what we’ve been looking for the whole time,” Arians said about Winston’s performance down the stretch.
And to think that Winston did this with a broken thumb while wearing a glove and a brace.
And without Evans.
STATEMENT 2: Perriman Stating His Case To Return To Tampa Bay
Don’t look now, but the Bucs are strongly considering re-signing wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and why wouldn’t they? Perriman had a very slow start to the year in Tampa Bay with 11 catches for 139 yards and one touchdown in the first 10 games. Then Perriman exploded for eight receptions for 157 yards over the last two weeks and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in last week’s win over Indianapolis.
In Sunday’s 31-17 win at Detroit, Perriman had four catches for a career-high 88 yards and two touchdowns – at halftime. He added a 25-yard touchdown in the second half to finish with five catches for 113 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Sunday’s performance was the first 100-yard game in his five-year NFL career.
“I’m surprised it took this long, I really am,” Arians said. “I guess with Chris and Mike having the years they’ve had it’s been hard, but he had a great ball game in the last one and a great throw-and-catch [for the game-winner against the Colts]. We had him earlier and [Winston] got hit, and I thought he had a long one – a 99-yarder. Yeah, I can’t say enough about him.”
Perriman, whose father Brett was a receiver for the Lions and had a 10-year career in Detroit, was signed to replace both third receiver Adam Humphries and speed receiver DeSean Jackson this offseason. It’s taken awhile, but he’s outperformed both.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Humphries had 37 receptions for 374 yards (10.1 avg.) and two touchdowns, while Jackson has only been active for two games due to injury and has just nine catches for 159 yards (17.7 avg.) and two touchdowns.
After Sunday’s game, Perriman now has 24 catches for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Perriman has 14 fewer catches than Humphries does, but he has 10 more yards and two more TDs. With Evans and Godwin out for the rest of the season with hamstring injuries, all of a sudden, Perriman is Jameis Winston’s No. 1 receiver.
Look for the Bucs to work to re-sign Perriman in the offseason to be the No. 3 receiver again – after he spends the next two weeks as the primary.
2 PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Did The Bucs Defense Get Overshadowed In The Win At Detroit?
Yes. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston’s record-setting performance captured the headlines, but a big part of Tampa Bay’s 21-3 halftime lead is the “three.” That 18-point differential wouldn’t exist if not for an outstanding effort by the Bucs defense.
By the time the Bucs were up 21-0 in the second quarter, Tampa Bay had out-gained Detroit 314 yards to just two yards. Lions starting quarterback David Blough, who started the year as the third-string QB, was 1-of-5 passing for 2 yards and the Lions had gained zero yards on the ground when factoring in the seven yards gained on seven carries was nullified by the 7-yard sack of Blough by Shaquil Barrett, who tied Warren Sapp’s Bucs single season sack record of 16.5.
“That’s a huge record – I don’t think we can overlook that one at all,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “That’s big time.”
Thanks to Tampa Bay’s stingy defense, the Lions didn’t get their initial first down until the 7:17 mark of the second quarter, while they were trailing 21-0. The Lions eventually got on the board with a 44-yard field goal from Matt Prater late in the second quarter. But at halftime, the Bucs had out-gained the Lions 336-56.
In the second half, safety Andrew Adams got his first interception of the year on Detroit’s first drive of the second half, returning it into Lions territory. The Lions threatened in the second half, and cut the Bucs’ lead to 24-17 with two touchdown drives – largely due to strong safety Jordan Whitehead going out early in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. The whole demeanor of Tampa Bay’s defense changed when Whitehead went out.
Things looked a bit grim as the Lions were driving into Bucs territory for a potentially game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter until rookie cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted Blough and got his first pick-six, returning the ball 70 yards for a huge touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 31-17 lead with just over five minutes left. Murphy-Bunting, who was born in Macomb, Michigan, went to Central Michigan, and sealed the Bucs’ fourth win in a row.
“Obviously, Sean gets the pick-six and puts it on ice,” Arians said. “That was a huge, huge play. You know they kept throwing to the guys that can’t catch. They finally threw to the guy that can catch and he went to the house. [Jamel] Dean had the easiest pick-six he’s going to ever get and it goes through his hands, and Carlton [Davis] waves at one. It was a big, big play in the game.”
Murphy-Bunting also came up with a clutch, second-half interception at Jacksonville, and now leads the team with three INTs.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was drafted by Detroit with the second overall pick in 2010, had a second half sack to aid the Bucs’ cause, and linebacker Lavonte David forced a late fumble that was recovered by rookie linebacker Devin White. David also had an interception in the fourth quarter, but it was nullified when outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul jumped offsides.
Tampa Bay’s young defense is finally learning how to shut down opponents in the second half and protect leads. Better late than never.
QUESTION 2: What Is With All Of The Bucs’ Hamstring Injuries?
That’s the big mystery this season in Tampa Bay. The pulled hamstring has been the injury with the Bucs this year, especially at wide receiver. Breshad Perriman pulled his hamstring in a Week 4 win at Los Angeles. Scotty Miller has dealt with hamstring injuries at three different points this season.
And of course Tampa Bay’s top two targets on offense, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, suffered pull hamstrings over the last two games, respectively.
Right tackle Demar Dotson suffered through a hamstring strain at midseason, and strong safety Jordan Whitehead left the Detroit game in the third quarter after pulling his hamstring. After the game, head coach Bruce Arians was asked why this particular injury has afflicted the team this year.
“We’ll be talking a lot to our sports science about it,” Arians said. “Maybe I’ve overworked them in practice – the receivers – because we need the reps. Our quarterback needs the reps. We run a little bit more [in practice] this time of year than I would probably like to do, but we need the reps.”
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: The Bucs’ Four-Game Winning Streak Will Be Snapped
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but with wide receivers Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller going out with hamstring injuries on Sunday, and with Mike Evans already out for the season with a hamstring injury, I don’t think the Bucs have the horses to compete with and beat Houston on a short week. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is playing out of his mind right now, but the lack of healthy, quality receivers and the Bucs’ inability to run the ball is going to come back to bite them.
Tampa Bay won its fourth game in a row, beating an injury-depleted Detroit team. Each of the four teams the Bucs have prevailed against – Atlanta, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Detroit – has a losing record, but the Bucs will have a real test on Saturday when they host the 9-5 Texans at Raymond James Stadium. And I’m afraid that the Bucs’ red-hot offense just won’t have enough firepower to match DeShaun Watson and Co.
“It will be a big test now – we’ll see who’s left for Houston on a short week,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said.
PREDICTION 2: Winston Will Throw For 5,000 Yards This Year
In last week’s win over Indianapolis, not only did Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston set a new personal best with 456 yards passing, but he also surpassed his franchise record of 4,090 passing yards, which he set in 2016. Winston, who has three 4,000-yard passing seasons in his five years in Tampa Bay, passed for a career-high 458 yards on Sunday in Detroit to increase his season total to 4,573 yards. And he did that with a slightly fractured right thumb on his throwing hand.
If Winston averages 214 yards per game over the last two weeks of the season he will eclipse the 5,000-yard mark, which of course, will be the first time that has been done in franchise history. In fact, that has only been accomplished 11 other times in NFL history with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (5,129) and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes (5,097) reaching the 5,000-yard mark last year.
Only seven other quarterbacks have surpassed 5,000 yards – Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford, Roethlisberger and Mahomes. Brees is the only quarterback with multiple 5,000-yard seasons, reaching that mark five times. Manning set the all-time record of 5,477 yards in 2013, while Marino was the first NFL QB to hit 5,000 yards with 5,084 yards in 1984.
Winston is 427 passing yards away from being in some very select company.