More Picks, Irony, Losses for Bucs, Winston

Ken Cross

December 29, 2019 at 12:47 pm.

TAMPA, Fla. – Irony is a theme across the sports world and many times the most ironic circumstances are never even considered.

The ending of Tampa Bay’s 28-22 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons was perhaps the most ironic ending I have seen in roughly 25 years of covering the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB college basketball and football.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and his hoarding of interceptions has been a study that would baffle even the most analytical sports psychiatrist. It was Exhibit A of this excerpt.

The last thing Winston needed was to throw an interception on the first play from scrimmage in an overtime, let alone a pick-six.

So, after Atlanta kicker Younghoe Koo hit his fifth field goal of the afternoon to tie the game at 22-22 at the end of the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay won the toss and elected to receive.

On the first play of the overtime period, Winston dropped back and tried to wedge the ball into the hands of tight end Cameron Brate. Falcons’ linebacker Deion Jones stepped in front of Brate and returned the ball 28 yards for the game-winning score.

Game. Set. Match. There it is. The unimaginable and the most devastating loss that Tampa Bay could absorb manifested itself as Winston threw his seventh picks-six of the season.

Winston produced some incredible statistics in 2019. He became the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in one season. His 5,109 yards passing was a franchise record as were his 33 touchdown passes.

“There’s so much good and there’s so much outright terrible,” said Bucs coach Bruce Arians.

Winston had five games this season where he threw an interception on the first drive of the game. He also had back-to-back 450-plus yards performances in wins over Indianapolis and Detroit.

Then there were five games where Winston threw three or more interceptions as the Buccaneers were 1-4 in those. Flip the script, then to the five games where he threw three or more touchdown passes and Tampa Bay was 4-1 in those.

It’s the roller coaster, the schizophrenia, the give-and-take that you get with Winston.

He just ended a 5-year contract and will become a free agent in the offseason.

Up until the season-ending faux pas, I thought that Arians would bring him back and continue to tutor him as clearly the lack of a consistent running game, a below average offensive line which had tons of trouble with pass blocking, and injuries at wide receiver plagued him throughout the season.

Now, as the promise of at least finishing with five wins in the last six games and an 8-8 ledger went up in smoke, Winston may not be at One Buc Place when OTAs commence in preparation for the 2020 campaign.

“We’ll just go back and look at the entire season like we do with everybody and see how many interceptions were him (Winston) and how many were somebody else,” said Arians. “There’s a lot more that goes into it than interceptions. It will be a full evaluation like we do everyone.”

To add to the irony, if kicker Matt Gay had made one of his three missed field goals on Sunday, the Bucs would have won in regulation; I am not writing this column; we are not lamenting the end to a losing season, nor are we once again doubting Winston.