Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Winston's scramble is Bucs' play of the season

TAMPA — This is why Jameis Winston's teammates love him so much. Plays like this.

Call it the Bucs' play of the season, a season that has been temporarily saved in part by a play that looked like it was drawn up with a stick in the dirt. It was part luck, part skill, all Jameis.

First, let's take a step back and set it up.

The Bucs dominated the first half against the Bears on Sunday. Had four takeaways, including an interception for a touchdown. Yet they led only 17-10 early in the third because the Bears scored on a Hail Mary to end the half.

"We talked at halftime, 'Let's not let one lucky play ruin an excellent half of football,' " Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "We played good in that first half. I think it's just human nature to be a little bit down when you get hit by one of those right before the half."

That meant the Bucs needed to do something to start the second half. What couldn't they do?

"You can't start the second half with a three-and-out," Winston said. "So I tried to do whatever I could to make a play for them, and it worked out."

Worked out? That's like saying the invention of the wheel worked out. Winston created magic. He gave the Bucs their own Hail Mary.

Facing third and 10 from the Tampa Bay 23, Winston dropped back to pass. He was immediately pressured by Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd. After a little head bob and juke, Winston escaped.

"When you pull the ball down and the protection breaks down," he said, "the first thing you do is (think), 'How can you extend the play? How can I get out of here?' The linemen kept blocking. They didn't give up."

Winston ran right. He turned left. He kept running. Before he knew it, he was in his end zone.

"I thought I ran out of the end zone," Winston said.

Winston then dodged linebacker Willie Young with the help of a block from guard Caleb Benenoch.

"Heck of a play," Young said.

Winston kept scrambling, kept moving.

"I looked back, and Jameis is in the end zone fighting around," Bucs tackle Demar Dotson said.

And what was Koetter thinking on the sideline?

"Throw it away!" Koetter said. "Throw it away! Get down! Do anything. Don't take a safety."

But did Winston ever think of giving up on the play?

"Not at all," he said.

Finally, Winston raced up to the 8-yard line, looked downfield and saw something beautiful.

"Mike (Evans) wide open," Winston said.

Winston heaved the ball 50 yards in the air. Evans jumped as high as he could over Bears cornerback Tracy Porter, caught the ball and landed on his back at the Chicago 38.

One play later, Winston hit Freddie Martino for a 43-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bucs a commanding 24-10 lead that the Bears never came close to challenging.

But it was Winston's David Blaine street magic that did more than keep a pivotal drive alive. It provided another example of Winston's leadership, desire and tenacity.

"That guy, No. 3, got heart," Dotson said. "He's a warrior. … He's a never-quit guy. He's always walking around saying, 'Man, I got your back, no matter what.' … It just shows the character that guy has got. He's a guy that competes all the way to the end."

That's not always a good thing.

"Jameis is going to do some things that we don't plan for," Koetter said. "And he's going to do some things sometimes that I don't like. But Jameis is going to make some plays. That's who he is."

A special player who makes special plays. He made one Sunday in a game the Bucs could not afford to lose. And they didn't.

Hail Jameis.

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