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Bucs math: Four interceptions, 3-7 record, but who’s counting?

Rick Stroud | Jameis Winston threw his 18th interception Sunday, the last while playing on a bad ankle. Are the Bucs on the last leg?
Though only 10 games into the season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has already matched his career high with 18 interceptions. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Though only 10 games into the season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has already matched his career high with 18 interceptions. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 18

TAMPA — Jameis Winston grimaced in pain and needed extra time to hobble to the Bucs sideline at Raymond James Stadium after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The play cemented a 34-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints with five minutes remaining Sunday.

But somehow despite a severely sprained left ankle, Winston talked coach Bruce Arians into letting him go back out onto the field a couple of minutes later, only to throw his fourth interception trying to connect with Mike Evans in the end zone.

And now 3-7 in the dark cellar of the NFC South, the Bucs season looks a lot like their bruised and beaten quarterback, limping along on one leg and trying to find a reason — any reason — to continue.

The 18 interceptions Winston has thrown this season already tied a career-high that he set in 2016, not exactly evidence of the improvement the Bucs hoped for when they hired Arians back in January.

At least, we think it’s 18.

Arians has his own unique way of calculating things.

“I would say he has 10, you know?’’ Arians said of Winston’s interceptions. “Guys dropping balls and giving them to the other team. How many have we seen? I don’t count those. Ten. He got hit low. The ankle, the last one flies out of his hand high. He probably should’ve come out of the game.’’

Certainly, one play that doomed the Bucs at the end of the first quarter would buttress Arians’ argument that what you get with Winston is not always what you see.

The Bucs had only four plays in the first quarter thanks to a hapless defense that was no match for Drew Brees, who passed for 228 yards and three touchdowns Sunday.

The Saints led 6-0 when Winston threw a pass to O.J. Howard. The Bucs tight end inexplicably lost control of the football, juggling it behind his back like a Harlem Globetrotter until he was hit by safety Marcus Williams and the ball popped into the hands of linebacker Demario Davis for an interception at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line.

On the next play, Brees connected with Michael Thomas for a touchdown. It was 20-0 a few minutes later.

Howard, who had a disastrous fumble in the season opener against San Francisco, has no explanation for losing the football.

“I was trying to get the ball and get protected, protect myself,’’ Howard said. “I lost the ball and it ended up behind me some kind of way.’’

Arians is less than enamored with Howard’s play.

“He’s a talented, talented guy,’’ Arians said. “But it’s not showing up on Sundays.’’

Here’s what else is not showing up on Sunday: a good game plan.

Defensively, the Bucs opted to go with their young defensive backs, having waived starter Vernon Hargreaves on Tuesday after he was benched for loafing on a play against the Cardinals.

You heard a lot during the week about rookie Jamel Dean, who made the game-changing interception in last week’s win over Arizona. But when the Bucs took the field Sunday, Dean was on the bench and the Bucs decided to move safety Mike Edwards into the slot instead.

“We played a lot more zone,'' Arians said. "(Dean) was more in the man-to-man group. We’ll fix that. He needs to be out there on the field.’’

Another thing the Bucs can fix is how to get Evans the football against the Saints.

In their first meeting, he had only three targets and no catches. Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who shut Evans down in the game at New Orleans, was out Sunday with a hamstring injury.

But Evans went without a catch and had only one target in the first half Sunday as the Saints deployed the same two-deep-safety zone they had used before. He finished with four catches for 69 yards.

“They did the exact same thing they did last time even with one of their best defenders out,’’ Evans said. “If I’m outside, it’s pretty much a double-team on me.’’

Winston’s favorite target Sunday was Cameron Brate, who tied a club record for tight ends with 10 catches that produced only 73 yards.

Meanwhile, Brees had no problem getting the football to Thomas, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards and a TD.

Arians didn’t just get beat by the Saints, he lost to the zebras again Sunday.

The Bucs trailed by 10 and were driving when Arians went for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield early in the fourth quarter. Evans caught a 6-yard pass from Winston for an apparent first down, but he was called for pass interference when he shoved cornerback P.J. Williams at the line of scrimmage.

Arians challenged the call and lost. Aware of an impending fine for being outspoken against officials, he declined to comment about the play Sunday.

“They already wrote up the letter for my fine,’’ Arians said. “You guys saw it. … You write what you saw. I’m not saying (expletive) about the officials.’’

Evans was dismayed by the penalty.

“The DB gets five yards to do whatever they want to do to us,'' he said. "We get one yard and I use that one yard. I’m a big, physical receiver and I thought I made a good play.’’

By the time Winston limped back on the field, the game was lost. No reason to put the potential franchise quarterback back in with a bad wheel.

Heck, it was backup Ryan Griffin’s 30th birthday, so why not let him get his first NFL regular-season snap?

Bad went to worse when Winston tossed his fourth interception. Evans stopped on the play because he thought he heard a whistle and the Bucs quarterback didn’t get enough on the ball, perhaps unable to step into the throw.

At least we think it was his fourth interception. Pretty sure it was the Bucs seventh loss against only three wins.

If you count those.

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud


  1. Peyton Manning threw 26 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions in 2001, his age-25 season. Jameis Winston has thrown 26 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions through 13 games this season, which is his age-25 season. What does it mean? Probably nothing. [KEVIN RIVOLI  |  Associated Press]
    Reality check: Manning’s 2001 was superior to Winston’s 2019, mainly because it’s easier to play quarterback in today’s NFL.
  2. Last season, Jameis Winston threw the ball away five times. This season, he has thrown it away 23 times. “One of the hardest things to do is to throw the ball away — trust me,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    The quarterback’s league-leading interception rate is overshadowing a potential step forward in his development.
  3. Winston is putting up statistics nearly identical to what Manning posted the season he turned 25. But a comparison requires more than numbers.
  4. Rookie linebacker Devin White is starting to have the kind of impact in Tampa Bay as he had at LSU. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Rick Stroud | Licht has virtually nothing left from his 2016 draft. But oh, those last two!
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston smiles while on stage before meeting with the media during the Famous Jameis Jamboree at Raymond James stadium on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 in Tampa. The event, which recommended a new toy or non-perishable food item as the cost of admission, included games, beverages and a visit from Santa Claus. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Winston tested his injured right thumb by throwing a football for the first time this week on Friday.
  6. Bucs career receptions leader Mike Evans (left) won't be available to help quarterback Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay for Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Detroit. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Bucs are without Mike Evans for the first time since 2017, but Ndamukong Suh is back in Motown.
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive linebacker Ndamukong Suh (93) on the bench during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on August 16, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times [MONICA HERNDON   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    He’s not the same player who dominated in Detroit, but Suh did plenty of damage the last time he faced the Lions.
  8. With Oklahoma State in 2018, Taylor Cornelius threw for 3,978 passing yards (fifth most in program history) and 32 touchdowns (fourth most). The Tampa Bay Vipers drafted him in October. [SUE OGROCKI  |  Associated Press]
    The Tampa Bay Vipers signal-caller talks camp competition, Marc Trestman’s coaching style and Mike Gundy’s hair.
  9. Quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and the Bucs face the Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday in Detroit. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Here are our picks for this week’s NFL games.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) makes a pass to a receiver during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The quarterback has been able to play with limited practice in the past, doing it before during the 2017 season.