There are a lot of passes quarterback Jameis Winston wished he could have back, but he spoke about two in particular following Thursday night's 19-14 loss to the Patriots.
The first one came in the third quarter when he threw too long for receiver DeSean Jackson, who had badly beaten cornerback Malcolm Butler for what could have been a 58-yard touchdown.
Jackson finished with five catches for 106 yards on nine targets Thursday, including a 41-yarder.
"Yeah. I've got to continue to get better,'' Winston said. "I missed him on a shot that could have been a touchdown. Again, you've got to play perfect. You've got to execute. When the play is there, you have to execute the play. You can't miss opportunities and that's what happened tonight – missed opportunities, a ton of them, by me. Got to get better. Got to get better."
Credit the Patriots, who entered the game with the worst pass defense in the NFL and having allowed 32 points per game, for playing mostly zone coverage. The Bucs weren't able to take advantage early in the game. Winston, who entered the fourth quarter with only 109 yards passing. He finished 26-of-46 passing for 334 yards, one touchdown and no INTs.
"Well, they have been playing almost entirely man coverage,'' coach Dirk Koetter said. "We had a feeling they'd make some changes and they mixed their zone coverages a lot more tonight. They mixed man and zone, but they gave us a lot of different looks. They dropped eight. They played a lot more two-deep, they haven't been playing very much two-deep, so, that's a good job by them. But the very first drive of the third quarter, it was like a third-and-four, [wide receiver] DeSean ran that little double move up our sideline. That's a couple feet off, that's a 60-yard touchdown. DeSean got on top of his guy, we've got to hit him."
Winston didn't get much help. Tight end Cameron Brate dropped a pass in the end zone that was followed by one of Folk's three missed field goals.
Needing a touchdown to win and taking over at the Bucs' 25 with no timeouts and 1:10 remaining in the game, Winston completed three passes to drive his team to the New England 19-yard line before spiking the football to kill the clock with three seconds remaining.
"I think we really fought hard,'' Winston said. "Our defense played great. The game could've went either way, but at the end of the game, the quarterback has got to make a play. That's the bottom line. You've got to make a play at the end of the game. I can't really sum up (anything) else but that. The quarterback has to make a play."
Winston tried to make a play. He fired a pass into the end zone into tight coverage to tight end O.J. Howard, who had not even been targeted in the game prior to that play. But Winston never gave Howard a chance to get his head around and look for the football despite a three-man rush.
"Just a bad decision on my part,'' Winston said. "I didn't give anybody a chance. Like I said, there's two seconds on the game, the only thing that can hurt you is throwing the ball where nobody can get it and that's what I did there. But, we'll bounce back. It's a learning experience for me. I'm happy the way we fought, we battled, we never gave up. The defense played phenomenal. Offensive line protected great. The receivers caught the football. Running backs ran hard. The quarterback has to make plays to win in NFL football. Quarterback has to make plays.
"It was a bad ball. You've got to give him a chance. I had a tight end wide open – just got to give him a chance, got to give him a chance on the ball. Two seconds, got to give him a chance."