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Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo perfect in NFL debut

 
Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) makes a field goal in the first quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) makes a field goal in the first quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sept. 12, 2016

ATLANTA — After an up-and-down preseason, Bucs rookie K Roberto Aguayo had a perfect NFL debut Sunday, connecting on a 43-yard field goal and going 4-for-4 on extra points in the Bucs' 31-24 win against the Falcons.

"It was exciting," Aguayo said. "I was definitely ready for the regular season to start, but it felt like another game. Honestly, it felt like it was the fifth game of my career. A very, very exciting win."

The 22-year-old from Florida State was excited before the game to have a chance to talk with Falcons K Matt Bryant, 41, who was the Bucs' kicker from 2005-08. Aguayo was born in Mascotte, about an hour northeast of Tampa, and got Bryant's autograph when he was 11 at Bucs training camp.

"We talked out there," Aguayo said. "He's been a great kicker, has been in the league a long time."

LOSS IN WIN: The Bucs did suffer a potentially serious injury early in the game when DE Jacquies Smith, who has 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons, injured his right knee in punt coverage. Smith had a full brace on the knee after the game and was walking with crutches in the locker room. His absence would mean a larger opportunity for rookie Noah Spence, second-year pro Howard Jones and undrafted rookie Channing Ward.

FIRST STEPS: Rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves started and made two tackles, but he needed some adjustment to the NFL game on a day the Falcons threw for 334 yards. He was burned for a 59-yard gain by WR Mohamed Sanu on Atlanta's second drive.

"You've got to bounce back," Hargreaves said of his first game. "Everything's not going to go your way. You're going to get beat. You're going to give up plays, but at the end of the day, you've got to stay solid, stay together and come out with the win like we did (Sunday). There's no substitute for game play and getting on the field, and for me, there was a lot of messing up. But I learned from it. I needed this game to get my feet wet and get started."

THANKS MUCH: The Bucs scored 17 points on three drives that were extended by Falcons penalties on plays that would have been third-down misses.

Their opening field goal was aided by a 25-yard pass interference call. The first touchdown came after former Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn jumped offside on a third-and-2 play. The opening touchdown of the third quarter came after an unnecessary roughness penalty on a third-down incompletion.

"We're not equipped for us to not do well in that area," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "We've spent a good bit of time on that. That was disappointing for us to have those fouls."

WORTH WAITING FOR: TE Brandon Myers is in his third season with the Bucs but didn't get a touchdown catch until Sunday, when he caught a 5-yard pass from Jameis Winston in the second quarter, also the Bucs' first touchdown of the season.

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"It was big; it was a great call by Dirk (Koetter)," Myers said. "(Tight ends) coach (Jon) Embree, for the last year, he's been preaching the down flat being always open. It was pretty open."

GETTING THE NOD: Winston's 45-yard touchdown throw to Mike Evans in the third quarter happened after a flag before the snap changed the call. When the call came back, the two connected for what ended up being the winning touchdown.

"He looked at me and nodded his head, and that told me to go deep," Evans said. "He threw a great ball, fell right into my pocket, and I made a good catch. He put it right there, so I had to catch it."

To get a touchdown in Week 1 bodes well for Evans, who has been a slow starter. He got his first score as a rookie in Week 4 and last year in Week 6.

"My first two years here, we didn't have a good start at all," he said. "1-0 is great for us, and we plan to keep winning, taking it one at a time."

THIS AND THAT: Bryan Anger averaged 49.4 yards on punts in his Bucs debut, with a 45.0-yard net average and two punts inside the 20. … WR Cecil Shorts made his Bucs debut and was deep on early kickoff returns, but all resulted in touchbacks. He was not targeted for a pass on offense. … Six rookies were inactive, but RB Peyton Barber made his debut, along with Hargreaves, Aguayo and DE Noah Spence. … It was a quiet day for WR Vincent Jackson, who was targeted for seven passes but caught just two for 18 yards.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690.