If you’re counting, Jameis Winston has games with higher ratings.
As far as playing quarterback, however, as far as taking control of the game and spreading the ball around like a point guard on a fast break, Sunday’s 36-10 win over Chicago was one of Winston’s keeper games. It was the kind of game that will make you reassess the young quarterback again. It was the kind of game that makes you feel good about the future.
Winston and the Bucs.
The Bucs and Winston.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Can they get good together?
Winston had the kind of game against the Bears that gives you hope. Against the Bears, the No. 12 defense in the NFL, Winston was sensational. He hit 23-of-33 passes (69.7 percent, second-best of his career). He threw for 312 yards and two scores. He made one of the maddest scramble-passes to Mike Evans (39 yards) that you could imagine. He threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Martino.
For most of the afternoon, Winston played behind a center from whom he hadn’t taken a snap since training came of 2015 and a guy that was playing in his first NFL game. He played behind rookie guard Caleb Benenoch, who was seeing his first NFL action.
Behind him was a rusty Doug Martin, who was running in quicksand.
You know what else Winston did? He won at home for the fourth time, which made the ship look good and made the crowd feel good.
He stopped a two-game losing streak. He made Dirk Koetter smart again. He made himself a prospect again after the conversation had turned to how poorly he threw deep and how inaccurately he threw short.
In the middle of all of it, he was terrific. You could make an argument that it was the best game of Winston’s career: It was the first time he has had a quarterback rating of more than 100 and thrown for 300 yards. That’s not a bad day’s work.
Consider this: Of Winston’s 23 completions, 19 of them went to a guy not named Evans. Sure, most weeks, Winston hears criticism because he looks so desperately for Evans.
But not Sunday.
Sunday, Winston let the Bears give extra attention to Evans until the second half (he had four catches after halftime for 66 yards).
Bucs TE Cameron Brate – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Instead, Winston was a card dealer in Vegas. He was an orchestra leader. He was a choreographer.
What he was – was a quarterback.
“Chicago did a good job (covering Evans),” said Koetter. “Their game plan was obvious. We were nervous they were going to do a couple of things the way they did it and double Mike and they did that. It was huge for Jameis. Obviously, Cam (Brate) was the biggest recipient of that. We spread it around good. James did a heck of a job. I thought it was one of Jameis’ bigger games.”
Tight end Cameron Brate caught seven passes (out of seven targets) for 84 yards. Adam Humphries had five catches. Cecil Shorts had two. Martino, Martin, Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers and Mike James all had one each. There was nothing hurried, nothing that looked like guesswork, to Winston’s throws. For a day, he looked like a quarterback who had arrived.
“I don’t really discriminate,” Winston said. “I go through my reads. But when Mike has one of his big games, the news is ‘All he does is throw to Mike.’ But when Mike is having one of his big games, why not? We want Mike to have those big games. But when he’s not getting his balls, we have other weapons.”
Of course, the biggest challenge of the NFL is to reach the point where a quarterback can do this every week. But on a day such as Sunday, it is easy to ask yourself this: What can’t Winston do? What throw can’t he make?
Consider this play early in the third quarter. It was third-and-10 for the Bucs at their own 38, and Winston dropped back to pass. Nothing.
So Winston scrambled to the right. Nothing.
He retreated into his own end zone. He did a dipsy-doodle and scrambled. Still nothing. He scrambled some more, the way a quarterback does when he is running toward catastrophe.
You wondered if he was going to be tackled in the parking lot. Finally, he stopped and heaved the ball deep to Evans. The completion was for 39 yards. The pass covered 50 yards.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“Throw it away! Throw it away!” Koetter said he was thinking. “Get down! Do anything! Don’t take a safety! The thing about Jameis, Jameis is going to do some things that we don’t plan for. He’s going to do some things sometimes that I don’t like. But Jameis is going to make some plays because that’s who he is. You can’t coach that out of him. He’s a special player in that respect.”
“That guy, No. 3, has got a heart. He’s a warrior,” said right tackle Demar Dotson. “He’s always coming back with tenacity and he’s a never-quit guy.”
And that’s what Winston has. He has this big-play ability that will make your eyes pop. Sure, sometimes, his coaches have to tame him a bit. He’s a wild stallion. But at times, he’s just a marvelous beast. Since he arrived, the Bucs have won 10 times; in almost all of them, he’s earned the big headline.
One of the biggest lessons the Bucs must learn is that while Winston is the star of the show, they need some backup dancers. They need a defense to play the way it did Sunday (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, four sacks and a safety). They need a bruising offensive line. They need more speed.
But in the NFL, you start to build with the quarterback spot. Winston remains a fine prospect. No, he isn’t fully finished yet. But he’s closer than he was last week.
Next week, maybe he’ll get closer still.
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Legendary sports columnist Gary Shelton returns to PewterReport.com for his second season of providing post-game commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like no one else can. No one has won more sports writing awards than Shelton, who has covered Tampa Bay area sports for decades with his unique brand of humor and insight. Bucs fans can Shelton daily on GarySheltonSports.com and follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton
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