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Tom Jones: Bucs were good and ready to win opener against Falcons

Receiver Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Jameis Winston leap in celebration after Winston hit Evans with a 45-yard touchdown pass. A 31-24 season-opening victory in Atlanta has the Bucs alone in first place in the NFC South.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Receiver Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Jameis Winston leap in celebration after Winston hit Evans with a 45-yard touchdown pass. A 31-24 season-opening victory in Atlanta has the Bucs alone in first place in the NFC South.

ATLANTA — "Hey, the good guys win!"

That's what Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said moments after his team opened the 2016 NFL season Sunday with a 31-24 victory against the Falcons.

Check it out: The Bucs are in first place. Only 15 more games to go.

In the meantime, Tampa Bay will savor this one, starting the season 1-0 for the first time since 2012.

It wasn't perfect, but victories in the league seldom are. The Bucs fell behind early, grabbed a big lead midway through, then nearly squandered it at the Georgia Dome.

Who cares? When the games are over, there's only one thing that matters: Who won?

"The good guys win," Koetter repeated. "Don't ever apologize for winning games in this league."

Koetter's back was still wet from the Gatorade shower his players gave him as the game was ending. His eyes were still damp, too, from the game ball his players gave him to celebrate his first victory in his first game as an NFL head coach.

"We knew it was a big deal for him," tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. "We had to get this one for him."

Koetter, a former assistant with the Falcons, returned to Atlanta and called plays for an offense that erupted for four Jameis Winston touchdowns passes, each one more spectacular than the other. Brandon Myers, Charles Sims, Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans all made catches that will end up on a highlight reel.

The defense bent but didn't break, holding off the Falcons late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.

Now it's off to Arizona for a bigger test this Sunday against the Cardinals.

"It's good to be 1-0, but 2-0 is better, and we have a big one next week," defensive end Robert Ayers said. "We got to get on the plane and go out to Arizona and get a win there."

Or as Koetter would say, "Win one for the good guys."

Tom Jones: Bucs were good and ready to win opener against Falcons 09/11/16 [Last modified: Sunday, September 11, 2016 10:49pm]
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