NEW ORLEANS — When Jameis Winston’s recklessness reared itself this time around, Bucs fans could cackle instead of cringe. For a half-decade, when Winston wore pewter, they had seen his propensity for throwing at the other team.
So, too, had Mike Edwards and Jamel Dean.
The fourth-year defensive backs had practiced against Winston in 2019, when both were rookies and Winston was playing what turned out to be his final season in Tampa. They knew his nuances, his footwork, his eyes. Especially his eyes.
As a result, they got a jump on some of his most critical, costly throws Sunday at the Superdome.
Dean had two interceptions, and Edwards nearly upstaged him with a 68-yard pick-six, in Tampa Bay’s 20-10 triumph. The common denominator: Both players seemed to know what was coming.
“I just kind of read the quarterback,” said Edwards, whose latest interception came almost a year to the day after he returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 48-25 romp against the Falcons on Sept. 19, 2021.
“It was trips (formation) to me, and I kind of saw Jameis set up and kind of just broke on the ball. I kind of baited him to try to throw the ball a little bit, and he threw it, and I just jumped in front of Jarvis (Landry).”
Dean’s account of his first pick, in the end zone on a deep Winston throw, was similar.
“The first one, I kind of recognized the formation, and then I was just anticipating it,” he said. “And then once I saw Jameis look where he was going, I just took off over there and hurried to get to where he was trying to go.”
The interceptions highlighted a historic afternoon of sorts for the Bucs defense, which recorded at least six sacks and five takeaways for only the fourth time in franchise history, and first since a 27-6 win against the Bills in 2013.
“It’s just on me,” said Winston, who sidestepped questions regarding pregame reports that he was playing with four fractures in his back.
“What’s really important is protecting the football. I have to do a better job of doing that to give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
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Back to the Bucs: If the first two contests are any sign, things may get more historic. Todd Bowles’ unit has surrendered one touchdown in its first eight quarters of 2022.
“We shouldn’t have given up that,” said Bowles, referring to Winston’s 7-yard scoring pass to Michael Thomas with 3:02 remaining. “So three and three-quarters’ worth of good work and we lapsed at the end. We’ve got to learn to finish up ballgames.”
That aside, Bowles lauded his unit’s communication over the first two games, as well as an increased commitment to film study. The results have been glaring on the front and back ends, though the defensive front — a strength of the unit — was periodically gashed by Saints tailback Mark Ingram (10 carries, 60 yards).
“They’re trying to be good,” Bowles said. “It’s Week Two; it’s early. I didn’t like some of the things we did, but for the most part, they tried to stay stingy in the red zone.”
With six sacks Sunday (including two by Shaquil Barrett), the Bucs have totaled 10 in their first two games, along with six takeaways. Barrett has 40 sacks as a Buc, passing David Logan for fifth most in franchise history.
“We’re just playing our brand of football,” Edwards said.
“We’re communicating out there. Everybody’s trying to make a play out there, and we’re trying to hold them to nothing. That’s our goal. Stopping the run first and not having anything go over our heads, and after that, just try to make some plays and come up with the ball.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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