HEADLINE

Winston, Bucs want win — and to avoid infamy — vs. Falcons

Field Level Media

December 26, 2019 at 8:07 am.

Jameis Winston is on the verge of a season for the ages, just not in the preferred way.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback is two interceptions away from becoming the first signal-caller in 31 years to throw 30 interceptions in a season as his club closes the campaign against the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Winston has done some stellar things this season, too.

For example, he has thrown a career-best 31 touchdown passes and his NFL-high 4,908 yards is also a career high. He is just the fifth player in NFL history with at least 11 300-yard passing games.

But that enormous interception count overshadows the good marks. And becoming the first quarterback since Tampa Bay’s Vinny Testaverde (35 in 1988) to hit the 30-pick mark will only further his reputation as being turnover-prone.

Winston tossed four interceptions in a 23-20 loss to the Houston Texans last Saturday and Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians termed it as a matter of “him being him,” when asked if the issues are fixable.

“I think it’s about 50-50,” Arians told reporters after the game. “The corrections have been made, but the results aren’t happening.”

This is Winston’s first season in Arians’ system and the coach said it isn’t abnormal for a quarterback to throw more interceptions as he is getting accustomed to the offense.

But whether Winston will have another opportunity to run the Arians offense hasn’t been officially determined. His contract expires and Tampa Bay will have a decision to make this offseason.

Winston, though, agrees with his coach that being more familiar with the offense would be a plus.

“The more that you can understand the concepts in and out, the better you can execute the play,” Winston told the Tampa Bay Times. “Having one year of experience with these concepts, I know further learning the concepts (and growing) the relationships with the coaches … will definitely increase performance.”

The loss to Houston halted a four-game winning streak for the Buccaneers (7-8), who are looking to complete a season sweep of the Falcons. Tampa Bay recorded a 35-22 win over Atlanta on Nov. 24 when Winston threw three touchdown passes and was intercepted twice.

The Falcons (6-9) have won three straight games and five of seven after a disastrous 1-7 start. There is heavy speculation that coach Dan Quinn will be dismissed despite a strong finish that includes a 29-22 road upset of the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 15.

Quarterback Matt Ryan allows that his team took too long to find its stride.

“It’s been a tale of two halves,” Ryan told reporters. “The first half is not what we wanted. But in this league, the margin of error is small. The difference between being in the mix with a handful games going different in the first half is not much. But you have to be on right side of it.”

Ryan has passed for 4,153 yards to top 4,000 for the ninth straight season. He also has 25 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions.

Receiver Julio Jones reached a milestone in last Sunday’s 24-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones became the fastest player (125 games) to reach 12,000 career receiving yards, surpassing Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (142 games).

“It’s a great achievement but it’s for my teammates,” Jones said, crediting offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and his offensive teammates. “Dirk has been doing a great job this year putting me in the right positions and exploiting the defenses.”

Jones is battling a knee injury and his status for Sunday will be updated later this week.

Atlanta, which is averaging 31 points during its three-game winning streak, had defeated the Buccaneers five straight times prior to last month’s loss.

Arians wants to get that second win over the Falcons for one primary reason: to avoid a losing season.

“8-8 tastes a whole lot better all offseason,” Arians said. “So yeah, we talked about it in the locker room right after the (Houston win). There are no losers in this locker room — let’s make sure of it.”