Winston rallies Buccaneers over Saints
Roy Cummings, Florida Football Insiders, published 1 January 2018

Jameis Winston saved his best for last on Sunday. After throwing three interceptions, two of which resulted in scores for the Saints, Winston hit rookie Chris Godwin with a 39-yard yard touchdown pass with :09 remaining and then, Mike Evans with a 2-point conversion to rally the Bucs to a 31-24 victory over the Saints.

The rally, which culminated with Winston hitting Godwin with nine seconds left on the clock, started with Winston hitting Cameron Brate with a 12-yard pass on fourth-and-10 from his own 5-yard line. It continued with Winston hitting on passes of 9, 9 and 16 yards to Evans.

Those passes allowed Evans to finish the season with 1,001 receiving yards, making him only the third player in NFL history (Randy Moss and A.J. Green are the others) to catch more than 1,000 yards worth of passes in his first four seasons in the NFL. The victory was only the fifth of the season for the Bucs, who broke a five-game losing streak.

Given that they gave up a 106-yard kick return for a touchdown, turned the ball over twice and missed a PAT, the Bucs probably considered themselves lucky to be down only 14-13 at the half of this one. On the other hand, they had every reason to believe they should have been ahead at the half.

While the Bucs defense was limiting the Saints to 125 total yards and allowing just one on four third-down conversions, their offense racked up 233 total yards while converting 10-of-11 third downs. The issue was the two turnovers, both of which came on poorly thrown or ill-advised passes by Winston, who was relatively strong otherwise, producing 171 total yards of offense.

Winston finished with his third straight 300 yard passing game finishing 28-51 for 363 yards and the game winning TD. He also ran for 32 yards and a touchdown, that coming on a 1-yard extra effort stretch across the goal line with 5:50 left in the second quarter. That gave the Bucs a chance to tie the game but that opportunity sailed wide of the right goal post when kicker Patrick Murray sliced his PAT attempt.

It was the second special teams miscue of the game, the first coming when Alvin Kamara erased the 7-0 lead the Bucs built on Peyton Barberís 1-yard TD run by returning the ensuing kick 106 yards for his own score.

The kick return for a TD was the second the Bucs have allowed in the past two weeks. A week ago, during their 22-19 loss at Carolina, the Bucs allowed Damiere Byrd to return a kick 103 yards for a score.

The first of Winstonís three interceptions helped set up the Saints next score, which came on a 7-yard Kamara run on their first offensive series of the game. The Bucs responded with Winstonís touchdown run, but a 48-yard Wil Lutz field goal allowed the Saints to extend their lead to 17-13 before the Bucs regained the lead on a 7-yard Isaiah Johnson fumble return for a TD.

Johnsonís score came after Josh Robinson forced Tommy Lee Lewis to fumble his punt return, but the lead was short-lived as the Saints regained the lead on 3-yard Drew Brees touchdown pass to fullback Zach Line. Even, with the loss, the Saints still clinched the NFC South, when Atlanta defeated Carolina 22-10 Sunday. The win got the Falcons the final NFC Wildcard and means that the Saints will host Carolina in the playoff game next Sunday.