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Bucs, Doug Martin take pressure off Jameis Winston in beating Jaguars (w/ video)

TAMPA — After watching Jameis Winston turn the ball over five times last week in a laugh-track loss to the Panthers, the Bucs decided to take the pressure off their beleaguered rookie quarterback and put the hero's cape on somebody else Sunday.

Doug Martin wore it well.

The fourth-year running back rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 10-yard pass from Winston in the Bucs' 38-31 win over the Jaguars before an announced crowd of 58,490 at Raymond James Stadium.

Martin knows what it's like to go from being the tornado to being the trailer in the NFL. He went from being the league's offensive rookie of the year in 2012 with 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns to not rushing for even 500 yards in either of the past two injury-filled seasons, prompting the Bucs not to pick up his fifth-year option for 2016.

But against the Jaguars' fourth-ranked rush defense, picking holes behind a makeshift offensive line, Martin and running back Charles Sims combined for 174 yards on the ground and another 120 through the air.

Even more impressive was the Bucs were playing without guard Logan Mankins and, in his place, started tackle Kevin Pamphile, who had never taken a meaningful snap at that position until Wednesday.

"I think the game plan was really good the way (offensive coordinator) Dirk Koetter put it together," center Joe Hawley said. "Attack them on the ground and we didn't really rely on (Winston) right away. We kind of developed the run game, we got some play-action going, some screen games going, and we didn't put a lot of pressure on (Winston). We let him feel the game out, and I think that gave him some confidence."

The victory snapped an 11-game losing streak at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs (2-3) and was the first victory at home for second-year coach Lovie Smith, who, as coach of the Bears, had two wins in three games in Tampa.

"Yeah, it's like a monkey off your back," Hawley said.

Koetter's game plan was simple for Winston, who completed 13 of 19 for 209 yards and a touchdown for a season-best 122.5 passer rating.

Unlike Winston's other two home games — his first pass attempt in each game resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown — he began Sunday's game rolling to his right on a bootleg and firing a 17-yard pass in the flat to tight end Brandon Myers.

The former Florida State standout targeted his wide receivers only nine times. Throwing to his running backs and tight ends, he went 9-of-9 for 154 yards and a touchdown. Not coincidentally, it was Winston's first turnover-free game.

"I took the initiative … to not turn the ball over this game, and that worked out well," Winston said.

"This was just smash-mouth football."

But the Bucs still managed to blow a 20-7 lead and found themselves trailing 24-20 late in the third quarter after Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who passed for 303 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, hit rookie running back T. J. Yeldon on a 4-yard scoring pass.

Kicker Connor Barth, who was signed last week to replace rookie Kyle Brindza, made his third field goal of the day in as many attempts to cut the Bucs' deficit to 24-23. But it was the defense that gave the Bucs the lead for good when defensive end George Johnson stripped running back Corey Grant of the ball and defensive end Jacquies Smith returned the fumble 3 yards for a touchdown.

"Honestly, the energy really changed when our defense got that touchdown on that fumble," Hawley said. "Our mind-set was, 'Let's run it on the ground, let's run this clock out and take this thing home.' "

Martin was happy to oblige, capping his day by taking flight and leaping over a pile of bodies in a single bound for a 1-yard touchdown that put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Martin praised Winston for bouncing back.

"When the big play wasn't there, he did a good job of checking it down to his running backs," Martin said. "It's easy to see he's progressing, and he is learning."

And willing to let someone else be the hero.

Bucs, Doug Martin take pressure off Jameis Winston in beating Jaguars (w/ video) 10/11/15 [Last modified: Sunday, October 11, 2015 10:22pm]
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