I have seen so many football games in my life it seems. The storyline of this one was a young quarterback going into what was once a pretty hostile environment and coming away with his first career victory, a week after being the subject of embarrassment in the media.
It was obvious from the opening gun that the Tampa Bay defense came to play today. They were getting stops, standing up the run, and tackling well. There were some costly flags for sure, but they were forcing punts and held a nice 3-0 lead for most of the first half.
I often think back to Robert Griffin lighting these guys up in the Superdome and how special I thought that was. This was at one point, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. A win here meant something. You could hear how loud and hostile the crowd was early when the Buccaneers took their first possession of the game deep in their own end. A few Doug Martin runs later, and they wouldn’t be that loud again all day.
The Buccaneers looked like a team that kind of wanted to safe-guard Winston. They tried to run the ball, play defense, get good field position. Winston was I believe 4 of 7 when New Orleans took the lead before the half 7-3.
Winston made the best throw of his career to give the Buccaneers a 10-7 lead before halftime. He hit Vincent Jackson on a throw with such perfect arc and touch on it, the kind of throw scouts raved about him leading up to the draft. It was a throw I’ve seen him make many times at Florida State. It sailed perfectly over the two defenders in front of Jackson for a touchdown.
From there, they began to play add on. I didn’t see the throw live, but the 54-yard bomb to Lewis Murphy showed some pretty good arm strength by Winston. That then probably became the best throw of his career – and if any throws are to grab headlines this week in the local or national media – those will be the two.
They would build the lead all the way to 23-7, including a rushing touchdown by Winston. And the Saints just never really got anything going. They would get within five points, but then Tampa Bay got the turnover to virtually ice the game.
I overall didn’t like how the Bucs didn’t take more shots, but apparently this was because their defense needed a rest.