Winston, Bucs at their best on third downs, in red zone
PHILADELPHIA -- The Bucs offense dominated in all phases in Sunday's 45-17 win at the Eagles -- running the ball, passing the ball and playing turnover-free football. But two areas where the Bucs showed impressive improvement were in high-pressure situations, excelling on third downs and in the red zone.
Rookie QB Jameis Winston, who tied an NFL rookie record with five touchdown passes, was especially strong on third downs -- in the first three quarters, the Bucs were 10-for-13 on third downs, with Winston going 8-for-9 for 79 yards and three touchdowns on those plays. A strong running game meant the Bucs had reasonable third-down situations -- their first five conversions were all on third and 6 yards or less.
The Bucs defense, at the same time, was at its best on third downs early, not allowing the Eagles to convert their first four third downs as the team built a 21-7 lead by the middle of the second quarter. In the first three quarters, the Eagles were 3-for-9 on third downs.
The Bucs had lost games this year due to red-zone inefficiency, settling for field goals when touchdowns were close at hand. Not so on Sunday, as their first five trips inside the Eagles' 20-yard line all resulted in Winston touchdown passes, to five different receivers.
Winston opened the game 5-for-8 in the red zone for 43 yards and the five touchdowns, while the Bucs defense never allowed the Eagles into the red zone, their two touchdowns coming from 35 and 39 yards out.
The Bucs were able to ease off in the final 12 minutes of the game, with Philadelphia outgaining Tampa Bay 132 to minus-6 after the Bucs scored with 12:03 left. At the end of that drive, the Bucs had outgained the Eagles by a 527-249 margin.