Was Jameis Winston trying to be Superman?
Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times, published 14 October 2019

Jameis Winston has played some terrible games. He has thrown a lot of interceptions. He has lost fumbles. But the Bucs quarterback has never played the way he did in Tampa Bay’s 37-26 loss to the Panthers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. Winston threw five interceptions and committed six turnovers, one coming on a fumble.

This is not the type of football that Bruce Arians had seen from Winston until Sunday, when under constant pressure — he was sacked seven times — he set the tone for a Bucs performance the Brits might say was bloody rubbish. “He has a habit of trying to be Superman,’’ Arians said. “That’s been a problem in the past, and fumbles haven’t occurred this year until (Sunday). But again, trying to make something out of nothing … it’s just a matter of knowing when to quit on a play.’’

More games like this one and the Bucs may have to consider quitting on Winston. The game was a big one for the Bucs (2-4), especially because they had won at Carolina in Week 2. Though it was a Tampa Bay home game, with the stadium covered in red Bucs bunting, their cheerleaders and control of the video board, the crowd of 60,087 was decidedly with the Panthers.

After Sunday, the Bucs should exercise their own Brexit, refusing to play in the United Kingdom, where they are now 0-3. On the first play of the game, Winston tried to hit receiver Mike Evans on a curl route and was intercepted by Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. The Bucs defense held the Panthers to a field goal, and somehow Tampa Bay trailed only 17-7 at halftime.

It was notable that the game began — and ended — with Winston being intercepted trying to connect with Evans. After going without a catch last week against the Saints for only the second time in his career, Evans was targeted 17 times and caught nine passes for 96 yards. He also lost track of a deep ball he dropped in the second half.

Evans took responsibility for the first interception for failing to come back for the ball. The last pass, he said, he lost in the lights. Asked about Winston’s interceptions, Evans said: “I don’t think that’s who he is. We’ve got to do a better job around him, (offensive) line and receivers, especially me,” Evans said. “He trusts me to make a couple plays for him, and if I make them, that changes the game. It’s tough. I felt like we were better than that team. We had the turnovers. We didn’t execute as well as we should have, and I played (terribly).’’

Winston knew he would be under duress. The Bucs were missing right tackle Demar Dotson and right guard Alex Cappa with injuries. But he didn’t make excuses. “No, it’s not on Mike,’’ Winston said of Evans. “At the end of the day, I throw the football, I get the interceptions. We’ve got to win games. If I do that (throwing five interceptions), it’s tough for us to win. Mike is one of the best receivers in this league.

“It’s okay for some people to have a bad day. I don’t think he had a bad day. But as a quarterback, you can’t have a bad day. That’s just the business. If the quarterback has a bad day, things are escalated and we lose the game.’’

While Winston was imploding, Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen was exploding. Allen completed 20 of 32 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, in running his record to 4-0 since taking over for injured starter Cam Newton. He had a 13-yard touchdown strike to Curtis Samuel and hit Christian McCaffrey on the left flat for a 25-yard score.

Now the Panthers are debating whether Allen should remain the starter when Newton returns. Two plays must have had Arians questioning Winston’s future. With the Bucs trailing 17-7 and at the Carolina 17-yard line late in the first half, Winston double clutched a pass and was stripped by defensive end Vernon Butler. But Bucs center Ryan Jensen recovered the fumble.

On the next play, Winston held the ball too long, was sacked by Butler and fumbled. This time Panthers linebacker Bruce Irvin recovered. “Throw the damn ball away,’’ Arians said. “You avoided one (fumble), and you might have avoided two. You’re not throwing it anywhere to our receiver.”

In his four previous games, Winston had thrown 10 touchdown passes and two interceptions. After Sunday’s game, Arians was asked if this was the first time he had witnessed “the Jameis Winston experience,” presumably referring to a stretch of excellent performances followed something awful.

“Yes and no,’’ Arians said. “I see the preparation. I see what he’s trying to do. The fumbles, we have to get rid of those. We have to start throwing balls away. And we don’t need to take those sacks. You don’t need to take those hits, either. The interceptions, I have to go back and look at the film and how the ball got there. I knew the one, his arm was hit. The last one was just a prayer that Mike didn’t see in time.’’

Winston had help losing the game. The defense allowed Carolina to drive 99 yards for a touchdown. Rookie linebacker Devin White blew coverage on McCaffrey’s 25-yard touchdown reception. Bobo Wilson muffed two punts, losing one of them. But all anyone will remember is that Winston threw five interceptions and lost a fumble. A whole continent had one chance to see him, and this is the impression he left.

“I’m happy. We had a lot of fans come out,’’ Winston said. “It was an amazing atmosphere. But home game, away game, London game, you have to protect the football. (Sunday) was not a good day. But there will be better days.’’