Top Takeaways from Bucs' 38-35 Win Over Colts
If anyone claims they knew that the Bucs would beat the Colts 38-35 with Jameis Winston throwing three picks and breaking his thumb, they're lying.
Suffice it to say, Tampa Bay won in dramatic fashion Sunday. Jameis Winston had his most "Jameis Winston" game ever, getting his team down early by throwing an interception with his very first pass attempt and later throwing a pick-six on the way to pass for 456 yards and scoring five total touchdowns.
The defense was in bad spots all day thanks to Winston and gave up some big plays to Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Despite giving up 251 pass yards, Indianapolis was mostly dependent on Bucs mistakes to move the ball, failing to gain more than 30 yards on eight of 12 drives.
It was not an ideal win, but the Bucs did enough on both sides of the ball to overcome their numerous miscues. Here are the key takeaways from Tampa Bay's Week 14 win over Indianapolis:
Jameis Winston's volatility will keep his future in doubt
Somehow, Sunday could have been much worse for Jameis Winston. Before this week's game, the Bucs were 1-8 in games in which Winston threw three or more interceptions. The key difference this time is Winston scored five touchdowns to compensate.
Winston's Jekyll-and-Hyde routine has never been so stark. The three picks were all the result of Winston's poor decision-making or inaccuracy. He also had several other risky or bad throws that could have been picked. Otherwise, he was picking apart the Colts secondary like dandelion and asking "win, don't win":
This year in particular, Winston's performance is completely unpredictable not just from one game to the next but from play to play. NFL head coaches are not known for their appreciation of volatility so despite his Herculean performance to get the victory, Winston's stock may take a net loss from the game.
The secondary is about as streaky as Winston
For a long time, the Bucs secondary was not just inconsistent, it was downright bad. That appears to no longer be the case with the rising play of cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, but they continue to allow big plays due to miscommunication and bad coverage:
Davis looked lost on numerous plays, and Jamel Dean was called on the season's most obvious defensive pass interference call that put the Colts at the Tampa 25-yard line. The secondary allowed three plays over 35 yards, of which two led to points for Indianapolis.
However, the Bucs allowed just six total plays over 10 yards and otherwise held Brissett to completing just 52.7 percent of his passes and averaging 6.3 yards per attempt. A big reason why two-thirds of the Colts' drives went nowhere, including two turnovers that yielded just three points, was the solid coverage by the secondary.
Devin White is already a difference-maker
The Bucs' first-round pick may have started the season quietly, but he looks determined to end it with a series of bangs. Though White was not the omnipresence this week as had been against Jacksonville, his forced fumble of Nyheim Hines prevented a driving Colt offense from sealing the game and likely preserved the game for Tampa.
Back to back weeks of big time plays should make it clear that White is exactly who the Bucs thought they were taking with the fifth-overall pick. He is singlehandedly altering the course of games and should soon be the tone-setter for the entire defense.
Tampa is loaded with talented offensive skill players
Hearts across Tampa Bay dropped when Mike Evans pulled up lame on his big 61-yard touchdown and left the game. A player like Evans does not simply get replaced, but that did not stop the Bucs offense from trying.
Tampa's offense has leaned heavily on Evans and Chris Godwin this season, and targets for other players have been inconsistent. Without Evans, the entirety of the offense stepped up, from Justin Watson, who had just two targets this season entering Sunday, to O.J. Howard who has struggled with drops all year.
Watson ended up catching five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Howard caught four passes for 73 yards, a season-high for the former first-round pick. Eight Bucs players had multiple catches from Winston, including every active running back and wide receiver. While Evans will be missed, the Bucs will not be without options if he misses significant time down the stretch.