Last season, on Bucs Blog:
If Tampa Bay’s 2015 season had to be summed up in two words, I guess the best way to term for boiling it all down is “unrealized potential.” They finished 6-10, which was actually in defiance of expectations. That was with a rookie quarterback who was really starting to get into his groove during the second half of the year, not just with his performance but also his attitude. It was clear at the end of the season that Jameis Winston was not satisfied with how things ended, and he had every intention of being all up in whatever solutions were put forth to move the team forward. I was as impressed by that as anything I saw him do on the field. At the time, I remember thinking, “Get this guy some decent help, and we might have something, here.”
I guess somebody was listening.
Bucs 31 – Falcons 24
After a shaky start in the first quarter that included an interception, Winston dialed in and we were off to the races. Guided by first-year head coach Dirk Koetter, Winston and a retooled Bucs offense shook off an early 10-3 deficit and started playing like they meant it. Winston was able to spread the love all afternoon, throwing touchdown passes to four different receivers and racking up 280 passing yards.
Ever-dependable running back Doug Martin may not have been one of those receivers, but he still clocked 60 rushing yards and helped keep Atlanta’s defense honest, giving Winston room to work the passing game. Fellow RB Charles Sims along with stalwart receiver Mike Evans helped out by nabbing TD passes, and even tight ends Brandon Myers and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins were in on the action, recalling Bucs offensive madness from the days of old. Sims’ scoring play in particular was something to say, as he managed to shake off tackles from half of Atlanta’s defense along with a ball boy and that one guy selling beer in the stands on his way to the end zone.
Defensively, Tampa showed up to play against a formidable Falcons offense, including sacking Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan three times. A few miscues here and there allowed Falcon scoring drives to linger too long and keep them in it longer than they deserved, so there will be some things to fine tune in the weeks ahead. That said? A solid if not spectacular performance that got the job done and allowed the Bucs offense all the opportunities it needed to secure the win.
And it’s a win against a rival within a fiercely competitive division that sets Tampa off on the right foot going into a new season with a new coach. At 1-0, the Bucs own first place in the NFC South, with Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina all notching losses to kick off their year. It’s a long season, though, and every one of these teams can beat each other on game day. For now, though, I’ll take it.
Next up? The Bucs travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, who are coming after a heartbreaking loss to New England last night after a blown last-second field goal. They’ll be looking for their first win in front of a home crowd, so this should be a slugfest.
Welcome back, football!