Well, that is not how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to end the game. Or the season.
Tampa Bay lost in heartbreaking if fitting fashion to the Atlanta Falcons, following a pick-six in overtime by Jameis Winston, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in one season.
Despite throwing two picks on Sunday, the loss is not entirely on Winston. Kicker Matt Gay missed all three field goals he attempted, any of which would have prevented the game from going to overtime had they passed between the uprights.
The defense ended the season about as well as they could have, allowing just one touchdown by the Atlanta offense and scoring their own off a 91-yard fumble return by Devin White after a Jason Pierre-Paul strip sack:
The game was a microcosm of the Bucs' 2019 season. Overall, they were the better team, but catastrophic miscues, typically by one or two players, undo the whole show.
Here are the key takeaways from the Bucs' season-ending loss to the Falcons:
The Bucs cannot trust Jameis Winston with a long-term deal
No one could say it better than Bruce Arians: "There's so much good, and there's so much outright terrible."
Is there a more befuddling quarterback in the NFL than Jameis Winston? On one hand, he threw 33 touchdowns this season, including two on Sunday, and is second only to Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. He also led the NFL in passing yards (5109).
On other hand, Winston threw 30 interceptions, which has only been done five times in NFL history. He also managed set a record for pick-sixes on Sunday, bringing his season total to seven.
Though Winston is not entirely to blame for the Bucs' loss to Atlanta, his predictably erratic play sealed the win for the Falcons. He cannot blame the run game or the defense either, as he may have been able to in the past.
Winston's rookie contract expires in just a few months, but what can the Bucs do with such an explosive and unreliable player? Even with a good defense, Winston could lift his team to a winning record, and history indicates he is not likely to be much different down the line.
Fortunately for Tampa, they can punt on a long term decision by applying the franchise tag to Winston. Though he certainly will not like it, he did little this season to earn much more than one last chance in 2020.
The Bucs defense is now on par, if not better, than the offense
The long suffering Bucs defense suffers no more. On Sunday, they brought the pain to Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense, capping off a resurgent season for a unit that has not been good in over a decade.
The defense was on point at every level. The defensive line harassed Ryan all day, sacking him six times and hitting him another 14. Linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David were all over the field making key tackles. Aside from a remarkable touchdown pass to offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo, the secondary kept Atlanta's receivers out of the endzone and limited WR Julio Jones to just 73 yards.
The defense forced the Falcons to settle for field goals most of the day, even following turnovers by running back Ronald Jones and Winston in the first and second quarters respectively. If not for the offense's lack of production in the second half and Matt Gay's awful day kicking, the defense set the Bucs up for win to close out the season.
Their progress down the stretch helped fuel their late season surge. At season's end, the Bucs defense forced the fifth-most turnovers (28), allowed the sixth-fewest yards per play (5.1), and were first for the fewest yards per rush allowed per game (73.8).
The Bucs defense is loaded with young talent, and if the Bucs can bring back some key defensive linemen, there is no reason they can't continue down the track to becoming one of the NFL's top defenses in 2020.
Ronald Jones must be the Bucs' starting running back in 2020
It took all season, but it finally happened: the Bucs had a 100-yard rusher, and it was Ronald Jones' first in his NFL career. It will not likely be his last.
Jones simply thrashed the Falcons on his way 106 rush yards on just 11 carries, averaging 9.6 yards per carry, a career best. He had three runs over 10 yards, bulldozing over Atlanta defenders along the way.
While Jones did have the costly fumble, it was just the second he has lost in his career. Had he gotten a few more carries, he likely would have ensured the game never rested on Matt Gay's foot or Jameis Winston's arm.
Jones finished the 2019 season with a 4.2 yard per rush attempt average, the best average of any Bucs running back with at least 150 carries since Doug Martin in 2015 (4.9). The volume and efficiency of Jones' 2019 performance warrants making him Tampa's primary ball carrier next season.