If nothing else, the Tampa Bay Bucs bought themselves a second look Sunday afternoon.
The embarrassment of their opening defeat still lingers, but the Bucs at least evened their record with a 26-19 upset of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Tampa Bay played much better on defense, and got superior results from rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, who ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the team broke a seven-game losing steak to the New Orleans Saints.
The Bucs built a 23-7 lead, then held on despite several mistakes in the final eight minutes. The team fumbled twice, suffered two sacks and had countless penalties – including a tripping call that negated a first-down screen pass and an offsides on the clinching fumble recovery. Still, the Bucs evened their record at 1-1, erasing much of the scorn that had been aimed at them following a 42-14 loss to Tennessee on opening weekend.
Winston hit 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards, but most of his numbers came through three quarters. Once the team got into the final period, it seemed intent on running the ball – 17 of 19 plays in one stretch – and using the clock.
“We didn’t play our best football,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We have a lot of improvements to make.”
Jacquies Smith had three sacks for the day – and four this season – to lead Tampa Bay. The Saints lost two fumbles and had an interception.
“Jac was a factor,” Smith said.
Tampa Bay plays in Houston against the Texans next week.