Jameis Winston, Bucs prepare for big stage in Dallas
The stage is the largest the Bucs have played on this season -– a Sunday night game against the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team, with the best record in football before a national television audience and the playoffs at stake. But Jameis Winston is not going to try to make the moment even bigger.
"You hear big-time players make big-time plays at big-time moments. That’s what it’s all about," Winston said. "Our big-time players, they want to make some big-time plays (Sunday) just to show, ‘Hey, I’m the guy.’ But at the end of the day, it’s about the team. I can’t play out of my comfort level just to try to make a play. I have done that in the past where I try to over-play. But we’ve just got to stay simple and get a win."
The Bucs have won five in a row and at 8-5 are tied for the NFC South lead with the Falcons. If the playoffs began today, they would be the final NFC wildcard.
But it’s been the Bucs defense -– not Winston and the offense -– which has sparked the turnaround. Since Week 10, the Bucs are the best in the NFL in points allowed per game (12.8), total takeaways (14, including a league-best 10 INTs), touchdowns allowed (6) and opposing passer rating (62.5).
Against the Saints, the Bucs held quarterback Drew Brees to without a touchdown for the first time in 22 games against them.
Meanwhile, the Bucs offense has sputtered a bit, scoring nine offensive touchdowns over the past five games. They haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since Week 7 at San Francisco and receiver Mike Evans has been held to seven catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns over the past two games.
But isn’t this why Winston is here, ready for his close up, to win games like this one against the Dallas Cowboys?
"Sure. Beat good teams," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. "And we have already. We went and beat the Chiefs. And that was a big game. It wasn’t on national TV. He played well there.
"I don’t know if I’ve been a huge believer in ‘gamers.’ I’m not sure there’s a ‘gamer.’ But I do think there’s players that the moment doesn’t get too big for them. I do believe in that. I don’t believe guys say, 'Oh boy, I raised my level of play.’ I don’t buy that. I just buy that the moment doesn’t phase them one way or the other. And we can help that by playing well around him."
Winston is no stranger to the big stage, having won the Heisman Trophy and national championship as a redshirt freshman at Florida State. Performing in games like Sunday’s in Dallas is why the Bucs made him the No. 1 overall pick two years ago.
"Not to make the moment any bigger than it is, but when you play good opponents on a national stage, there’s a lot of eyes watching," Monken said. "We know what we have. We have a really good football player that’s only going to continue to get better. So we know that no matter how Sunday night turns out."