Jameis Winston's four-touchdown, one-interception performance in Tampa Bay's season-opening win inspired hope that a new era in Bucs history had arrived.
But Sunday's 40-7 loss provided a dose of the complete opposite: a sobering four-interception, one-touchdown performance, with a lost fumble thrown in for good measure.
In the end, Winston's nightmarish afternoon in the desert amounted to a 39.2 quarterback rating, the worst of his career. If he had thrown all 52 of his passes to the beer man, his rating actually would have been 0.4 points higher.
But the turnovers. So. Many. Turnovers.
The turnovers were the products of an aggressive Arizona defense. While the Falcons' blitz failed to derail Winston last week, the Cardinals' blitz succeeded. It wasn't all bad for Winston — he found Mike Evans for a touchdown in the third quarter — but he never settled into a rhythm and was inconsistent throughout the game. Credit the defense for keeping him off-balance.
Winston vs. Cardinals pass defense in first half
|Number of rushers||Winston's performance|
|Four||4 of 7, 6 yards, interception, sack, 22.6 rating|
|Five||6 of 8, 50 yards, four first downs, 90.6 rating|
|Six||1 of 5, 11 yards, interception, fumble, sack, first down, 0.0 rating|
So Winston handled the five-man rush well, but when the Cardinals rushed a sixth defender, his play declined significantly. Even when Arizona didn't blitz, he wasn't sharp.
Let's run through each first-half drive.
First possession (13:10 left in first quarter, score is 0-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 29.0 percent, after: 28.0 percent
The Bucs counter the Cardinals' rush by trying to move Winston out of the pocket on his first two pass attempts. He completes both, including a 7-yarder to Adam Humphries that results in a first down.
On the next play, Winston tests the Cardinals deep. Arizona rushes only four, giving Winston plenty of time to target Mike Evans downfield. Cornerback Patrick Peterson runs stride for stride with Evans and comes up with the pick in the end zone.
Winston's pass statistics: 2 of 3, 15 yards, first down, interception
• • •
Second possession (8:49 left in first quarter, score is 0-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 28.8 percent, after: 27.3 percent
Winston's first attempt of the drive comes against a six-man rush. The offensive line, fullback and tight end thwart the pressure, and Winston finds Evans for an 11-yard gain. His next pass, however, sails over an open Vincent Jackson.
The Cardinals rush six defenders again on a third and 12. The offensive line's pass protection is good, but a blitzing safety is in pursuit. Winston targets Jackson on an out route on the left side of the field. The pass lands behind him, and the Bucs punt.
Winston's pass statistics: 2 for 5, 26 yards, two first downs
• • •
Third possession (14:54 left in the second quarter, Cardinals lead 7-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 15.1 percent, after: 7.3 percent
This series defines the game.
On the first play of the drive, Doug Martin rushes for a yard and leaves the game because of a hamstring injury. He does not return.
On second and 9, the Cardinals blitz with six defenders. The line keeps the pocket clean, but Winston throws behind Jackson again. This time, cornerback Marcus Cooper picks it off and returns the interception 23 yards to the Tampa Bay 19-yard line.
"That was a bad throw," Koetter said. "That ball missed him behind. … We call it a bench route. (Winston's) got to get the ball outside there."
Winston said it's his responsibility to give his receivers a chance to catch the ball.
"I'm the young guy," he said of the chemistry between him and Jackson. "I have to be able to get him the ball. His job is to get open and catch passes. My job is to get him the ball."
The Cardinals capitalize on the short field and kick a field goal to extend their lead to 10 points. It's all they need.
Winston's pass statistics: 0 of 1, interception
• • •
Fourth possession (11:44 left in the second quarter, Cardinals lead 10-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 9.7 percent, after: 9.0 percent
The Bucs cross into Cardinals territory, but this drive ends like the previous two. Arizona uses a six-man rush on third and 6, and Winston's throw to Humphries is off the mark.
Winston's pass statistics: 4 of 5, 15 yards, first down
• • •
Fifth possession (5:23 left in the second quarter, Cardinals lead 10-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 11.9 percent, after: 6.4 percent
This is where the game ends.
Winston completes three straight passes, and the Bucs are inside the Arizona 30-yard line for the first time. On second and 9, however, running back Charles Sims bumps into Winston as he is throwing. The ball squirts lose, and the Cardinals recover.
Carson Palmer goes on to throw the second of three touchdown passes, and you start thinking, "They'll beat Case Keenum and the Rams … right?"
Winston's pass statistics: 3 of 3, 21 yards, first down, sack, fumble
• • •
Sixth possession (1:30 left in the second quarter, Cardinals lead 17-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 1.9 percent, after: 1.3 percent
Three passes, three incompletions, none of which are particularly accurate. On second and 10, the Bucs' pass protection doesn't hold up against the Cardinals' rush. Lineman Calais Campbell hits Winston as he throws, and safety D.J. Swearinger nearly intercepts the pass over the middle.
Against the Falcons, the Bucs drove 75 yards in 91 seconds to take a 17-13 lead before the half. This week, they go nowhere in 17 seconds.
"That was the turning point last week," Koetter said, "and it was a big negative this week."
Winston's pass statistics: 0 of 3, 0 yards
• • •
Seventh possession (0:16 left in the second quarter, Cardinals lead 24-0)
Bucs' win probability before: 0.2 percent, after: What else is on TV?
You're not paying attention to the score in the upper left corner of the screen anymore. Maybe you're looking at Bruce Arians and churlishly mocking the "Call the right play, Brucie" line from the "All or Nothing" series.
Or maybe you tell yourself this debacle isn't as bad as the Titans game. Or the Ravens game. Or that Thursday night game against the Falcons. Or the … wait, just how many bad games have there been over the years?
And as you're realizing that the Bucs have allowed a team to put up at least 40 points in a game in every season since 2011, the Cardinals aren't blitzing anymore but still sack Winston.
Winston's pass statistics: sack for a 9-yard loss
Win probability statistics are from Pro Football Reference. Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.