Observations from the Buccaneers’ 35-22 win over the Falcons on Sunday:
1. You might look at Chris Godwin’s stat line and wonder whether the Falcons bothered to cover him. Oh, they did. They just couldn’t stop him. He absorbed hits on both of his touchdown catches — a 71-yard catch-and-run over the middle in the first quarter and then a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it grab on third and goal in the second quarter. On the second touchdown catch, he had to hit the brakes, change direction and reach back for the ball — all while a defensive back smothered him.
2. In all, Godwin caught seven passes for 184 yards, pushing him past the 1,000-yard barrier (1,071). Mike Evans caught four passes for 50 yards, which also pushed him past 1,000 yards (1,043). This is the second time in Bucs history that the team has featured two 1,000-yard receivers. Evans and Vincent Jackson did it in 2014.
3. Evans has gained 1,000 yards in six straight seasons. Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss is the only other receiver to accomplish the feat in his first six seasons.
4. The Bucs did the improbable! They won a game in which Jameis Winston threw multiple interceptions. They had lost 17 of the previous 21 games in which Winston threw two or more. After the first interception, Fox analyst Mark Schlereth argued that Evans didn’t run his route properly and left an opening for Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant to drive toward the ball.
5. The second interception was more costly. Late in the first quarter, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell picked off Winston at the Tampa Bay 19-yard line, and Atlanta was in the end zone six plays later. It marked the 10th time this season an opponent started inside the 40-yard line after an interception and the seventh time it scored on its subsequent possession (five touchdowns and two field goals).
6. Winston’s 20 interceptions this season are the most by a quarterback since DeShone Kizer threw 22 for the 0-16 Browns in 2017. They’re the most by a Bucs quarterback since Josh Freeman threw 22 in 2011.
7. Winston also threw three touchdown passes for the 13th time in his career. Tampa Bay is now 6-7 in those games.
8. The 22 points the Bucs allowed Sunday were the second fewest they’ve allowed this season (they allowed 14 points in their Week 2 win over the Panthers). They didn’t allow the Falcons to sustain a drive longer than 68 yards until late in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach.
9. When NFL analysts talk about offensive balance, they almost always are talking about run/pass balance. Here’s another interpretation, one advocated by Washington State coach Mike Leach: Offensive balance is spreading the ball around to your playmakers. Speaking of playmakers, the Bucs discovered a new one Sunday: 350-pound defensive tackle Vita Vea. On a second and goal late in the second quarter, Vea snuck into the right flat and Winston hit the nimble lineman for the touchdown. Vea also recorded a sack.
10. It’s a lot easier for a team to achieve run/pass balance when it has the lead, as the Bucs did from the middle of the second quarter through the end of the game. Entering Sunday, Tampa Bay’s offense had an average deficit of 2.2 points at the beginning of drives, which ranked 19th. The average deficit was 3.6 points in 2018, 4.1 points in 2017, 2.3 points in 2016 and 4.5 points in 2015. In other words, leads are rare, and when offenses are trying to catch up, they have to pass the ball. Teams run when they’re winning. They don’t win when they run.
11. The Bucs rushed for 133 yards, their most in a win this season (they had 100, 88 and 118 in their other wins). Ronald Jones led the way with 51, but Winston rushed for 20 yards for the fourth time in five games. In that span, he has a total of 162.
12. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh scooped up a Matt Ryan fumble (forced by Jason Pierre-Paul) and returned it 6 yards for a touchdown, his second of the season. He has scored as many touchdowns this season as Breshad Perriman and O.J. Howard combined.
13. And just when you thought the Bucs had solved their kicker problem … Matt Gay missed three extra points. He has missed five this season and has converted 84.4 percent of his tries. The NFL average is 93.7 percent.
14. How bad are the Falcons? Tampa Bay turned the ball over twice and missed three extra points and still won. What?
15. As bad as the Bucs’ kicking game is, nothing is as bad as their uniforms.