TAMPA — The first quarter of the season seems to be when QB Jameis Winston's play is as up and down as a carnival ride, but he has smoothed out his performance over the past month. If it continues, the Bucs could get on a roll.
Winston has thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception in the past four games. He enters today's game against the Bears having thrown 94 consecutive passes without an interception.
That certainly is a huge improvement over the first four games, when Winston had eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Not surprisingly, the Bucs are 2-2 in their past four games as opposed to 1-3 to start the season.
"I think he's done a really nice job," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. "I think we've played better around him, I think he's going through his progressions better. I think he's learning that, 'I can't make every play and I did make a heck of a play the other night throwing it left-handed,' but it's okay. It's hard for a competitive young man to say, 'I lose this small battle, but I win the war,' and I think he's doing a great job of that. …
"I think there have been games we've run the ball better. The moments where we were struggling throwing, we weren't running it very well, we weren't very precise, in terms of our route running and we were down in the game and he's trying to make every play. I think all that fits together."
Winston had a similar hiccup to start his rookie season and virtually willed himself to stop turning the ball over. He had six touchdowns and seven interceptions the first four games of 2015, then went four games and five of his next six without throwing an interception. But Winston, who lose a fumble last week against the Falcons, says he can do better.
"Still not satisfied," Winston said. "Those fumbles, you just can't turn the ball over, period. But, it's progress and with progress, we can make something with that.
"But still, that's four weeks. This week is important, the next week is important, just being able to do it consistently will help this team be in better winning situations.
"It's just, I put my mind to not turning the ball over. Sometimes that's what you've got to do. You've got to get back to the basics. What's the most important thing to help this team win games? The quarterback can't turn the football over. I knew I was hurting our team and I had to persevere from that."
IN A HUFF: The Bucs' signing of WR Josh Huff, who was arrested on marijuana and gun charges in New Jersey and released by the Eagles, may seem hypocritical in the same season the team released TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins following a DUI charge. But the team insists that's not the case.
The two cases were "apples and oranges." What he means is this: ASJ's arrest was simply the last straw in a history of mistakes that may have not all made headlines.
Koetter also felt he had some inside knowledge of Huff's character, since he played for long-time coaching associate Mark Helfrich at Oregon. In addition, Huff was not signed from the practice squad for today's game.
BIG GAME: The Bucs have lost 17 of their past 20 games at home. Incredibly poor performance spanning three seasons. So how big is today's game against the Bears? Well, consider they may not be favored in any of their remaining seven games: at Kansas City, Seattle, at San Diego, the Saints, at Dallas, at New Orleans and Carolina …