Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota, Week 1: Role reversal

One year ago, in a matchup featuring the top two draft selections, Jameis Winston threw a pick-six and Marcus Mariota threw four touchdown passes as the Titans walloped the Bucs 42-14.

On Sunday, the quarterbacks reversed roles.

Winston threw four touchdown passes in a 31-24 road win over the Falcons, and Mariota threw a pick-six in the Titans' 25-16 loss at home to the Vikings.

Aside from a shaky first quarter in which Winston overshot receivers and threw an interception, he was almost flawless, completing 20 of his final 26 passes for 266 yards.

Throughout the second quarter, Winston chipped away at the Falcons defense. Content to check down, he went 14-of-17 for 136 yards. His completions traveled an average of just 2.8 yards.

In the third quarter, the Bucs opened up the offense. Including a 30-yard touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a 45-yard touchdown to Mike Evans, Winston's completions traveled an average of 23.8 yards.

One of Winston's weaknesses last season was his play under pressure. His 50.7 completion percentage against the blitz was the second-lowest in the league, ahead of only Sam Bradford. But against the Falcons, Winston wasn't fazed. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, according to Pro Football Focus.

As for Mariota, he didn't look nearly as comfortable as he did last season, when he was 10-of-12 for 175 yards and four touchdowns in the first half.

The Vikings, though, have one of the league's stingiest pass defenses and a rush that can force mistakes, as it did late in the third quarter Sunday when defensive end Everson Griffen got in Mariota's face. With Griffen bearing down, Mariota lobbed a pass to Harry Douglas just beyond the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Eric Kendricks jumped in front and took the ball 77 yards for the touchdown.

The deep ball continues to be a problem for Mariota. Against the Vikings, he failed to complete any of his seven passes beyond 15 yards.

While Winston turned in the stronger performance Sunday, if we learned anything from Week 1 last season, it's that there are many more chapters to be written about this rivalry.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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