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  1. Bucs

Bucs-Jets: The beauty of Ryan Fitzpatrick's first Bucs start

TAMPA — Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first to tell you there are no ugly wins. Not when your team has lost five straight games. Not when you are 34 and wearing your seventh NFL uniform while keeping the seat warm for the injured franchise quarterback.

Certainly not when you can beat your former New York Jets club 15-10 and walk off the field and into a victorious locker room, hand-in-hand with your two boys, who aren't too young to appreciate what the old man did at work Sunday.

But there's not enough cosmetics at the MAC counter at Macy's to make what the Bucs and Jets put on the field at Raymond James Stadium easier on the eyes. In fact, these two quarterbacks might want to check their vision.

Fitzpatrick completed only half of his 34 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Jets' 38-year-old Josh McCown passed for 262 yards with one TD and an INT but was sacked six times. Neither team could average even three yards per rushing attempt. They combined for 13 punts.

And yet, maybe in his younger days Fitzpatrick would've given a darn that it wasn't an aesthetic triumph.

"I mean I played okay," Fitzpatrick said. "I didn't play great by any stretch of the imagination. But we won the game and I'm getting too old to worry about that other stuff. I'm so happy we won. My job filling in right now is to do the best I can and try to grind out wins and that's what we did today.

"That wasn't my best effort. I can play better than I did today and I don't think it has anything to do with getting comfortable or feeling guys out. I just think it's about me going in there and doing a better job."

And now some sobering news for Bucs fans. It appears Fitzpatrick could be the quarterback not just for next Sunday's game at Miami, but maybe until the fat man and his reindeer come to town.

Prior to the Bucs' win Sunday, which improved the team to 3-6 and gave it a faint hope that maybe not all is lost this season, general manager Jason Licht dropped a bit of a bombshell. Speaking on his pre-game radio segment, Licht said the Bucs are likely to be overly cautious with quarterback Jameis Winston, who is nursing a shoulder injury.

"We're going to give it two weeks here to see how things settle down but there is no time line on this," Licht said. "This may be an extended period. There's no new information. It's still the same injury that we've diagnosed and had all of our doctors that do a great job with it. But this could be an extended situation. What is best for our future, because he is our future and we're going to make the best decisions we can medically to ensure that he is our future."

After the game, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter looked relieved to say the least. Since Winston suffered an AC joint sprain in his right throwing shoulder in the first half of a 38-33 loss at Arizona in Week 5, the Bucs had gone 0-4 and scored only nine points combined in the first half of those games.

Despite an outstanding second half at Buffalo, maybe Winston's shoulder affected him more than the Bucs realized. You can understand the reluctance to turn to Fitzpatrick any sooner.

"It's hard to win a game in the NFL with your No. 2 quarterback," Koetter said.

The Bucs needed three field goals from Patrick Murray and a terrific defensive effort Sunday, especially from Lavonte David, who had eight tackles, two for losses and a fumble recovery.

The Bucs put the game away on two plays by Charles Sims. On third-and-15 from their own 39-yard line, Sims took a simple toss to his left and ran 22 yards for a first down. Seven plays later, Fitzpatrick found Sims in the right flat for a 6-yard touchdown pass.

"Gritty. I mean, that's what Ryan is," Koetter said. "He's a get-it-done kind of guy. He's going to make some plays maybe you don't expect him to and he's going to miss some plays you would like him to make. But he's a tough guy and he's a competitor and you can't have enough of those kind of guys on your team."

Fitzpatrick said Sunday's win was emotional for him because of all the close relationships he still has with the Jets players and coaches.

"This was an important win for me," Fitzpatrick said. "It's always fun to beat your old teams. But in the here and now, just to get the winning feeling back with this team and try to go on a little bit of a run."

After the game, Fitzpatrick and his sons, 10-year old Brady and 8-year old Tate, walked from the locker room back onto the field. The kids caught passes from their quarterback dad. They played football with other family members as Raymond James Stadium sat virtually empty.

For some reason, maybe it was leftover gunpowder from all the points the Bucs didn't score Sunday, the cannons started firing from the pirate ship. Boom.

A win doesn't get any more beautiful than that.

Contact Rick Stroud at stroudbucs@aol.com. Follow @NFLStroud

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