Gaining just 290 yards isn’t normally the recipe for success in the NFL but on Sunday it was just enough for the Buccaneers to pick up win number three against the Falcons 23-20 in overtime. Below are the game grades for each individual unit following Sunday’s hard-fought win over Atlanta.
QUARTERBACK Statistically speaking, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston didn’t have his best game of the season, but at the end of the day the former FSU star helped Tampa Bay notch their third win of the season, already one more than they had all of last year. Winston was without his starting tight end – again – but found a legitimate receiving threat in Cameron Brate who caught two passes , including Tampa Bay’s first touchdown, a 20-yard strike from Winston in the first half. Winston wasn’t perfect, but was clutch in overtime, helping Tampa Bay convert three first downs in the extra period. He did miss Adam Humphries on what would have been the game winner in overtime when he short armed his last pass of the afternoon into the turf. But overall, Winston used his arm (16-of-29, 177 yards and a passing TD) and legs (three carries for 24 yards and a rushing TD) on Sunday, to get the Bucs in the win column and rebound from a devastating loss to the Redskins the week before. GRADE= B
RUNNING BACKS The Falcons came into Sunday’s game with a plan to stop Doug Martin who was coming off two 100-yard games, and their plan was largely effective. Martin was held to 71 yards on the ground and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. That doesn’t tell the whole story however, as the feisty Martin turned a number of runs that looked like they would be stopped for a loss, into positive yards. Martin added one reception for seven yards. Charles Sims didn’t fair any better, gaining 22 yards on six carries. Sims also added three receptions for 24 yards as well. Overall the Falcons, knowing the Bucs would be limited with the injuries to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Louis Murphy and Vincent Jackson, went all-out to stop the Bucs running game, and to his credit offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t abandon the run at any point, calling a balanced game (32 rushes, 29 passes). GRADE= C+
WIDE RECEIVERS After an outstanding performance against the Redskins the week before, many were hoping that receiver Mike Evans had returned to his rookie form. Unfortunately Evans looked more like the receiver from earlier this year against the Texans as opposed to the one from the Washington game. Evans has a handful of drops again, and despite playing part of the game against a backup cornerback, only managed three catches for 48 yards, although being targeted nine times. The good thing from Sunday, was Evans was able to draw three defensive pass interference calls which were huge, particularly the one in overtime. Adam Humphries had three catches for 14 yards and Donteea Dye added once catch for four yards. GRADE= C-
OFFENSIVE LINE The offensive line didn’t have their best game of the season but did enough to help the Bucs defeat the Falcons. Rookies Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith were solid once again and at times it is easy to forget they are rookies. Not being noticed as an offensive lineman is strangely a good thing in the NFL. Logan Mankins did have one false start but was solid on the afternoon as was Gosder Cherilus, although he did have a holding penalty that negated a 20-yard run for running back Doug Martin. The Falcons brought pressure much of the game but the Bucs line held up for the most part, giving up just two sacks on the afternoon. GRADE= C+
TIGHT ENDS The Tampa Bay offense and Jameis Winston need Austin Seferian-Jenkins back as soon as possible, but his absence was absorbed a little easier with the play of Cameron Brate. The Harvard grad caught two Winston passes on Sunday, including the Bucs first touchdown on a 20-yard strike from his QB. Brandon Myers notched three catches as well, adding 32 yards to his season total. Luke Stocker dropped his only target but was used primarily has an additional blocker for the running game. GRADE=B+
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com