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3 things we learned about the Buccaneers

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NEW ORLEANS — If it were up to No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback might have burned the videotape of his first NFL start, a two-interception, slap-in-the-face, blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans last week.

However, Winston exhibited an admirable dose of professional amnesia Sunday by calmly throwing for one touchdown and scrambling for another while leading the Buccaneers to a 26-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Last year we only had two wins, so with this one we are halfway there already,” Winston said. “To get a victory on the road, in the division, it’s huge for us.”

Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said of Winston’s rocky debut, “Early on, you struggle sometimes. Normally, the biggest improvement that I’ve seen is from Week 1 to Week 2. We saw a lot of improvement from Jameis and everybody.”

Winston exhibited his mental toughness by completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards, including a 15-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Vincent Jackson just before halftime that put Tampa Bay (1-1) on top for good, 10-7.

3 things we learned about the Bucs:

1. Defensive end Jacquies Smith is a pass rushing demon. Smith sacked Drew Brees three times and forced two fumbles. He may have changed the course of the game with his second sack, because Brees got up shaking his throwing arm and never looked the same. Brees appeared to be coming up short and wobbly on his deep balls. “We put a lot of pressure on (Brees) today because our coverage defense was so good,” Smith said. “The coverage we had made him hold the ball a lot more than he wanted to.”

2. Quarterback Jameis Winston is here for the long haul. One week after a woeful, two-interception performance in his first NFL start, the league’s overall No. 1 pick showed a lot of poise and made some big-time throws. He even used his legs to scramble for a critical first down in the fourth quarter. “He is learning each and every week,” said wide receiver Vincent Jackson. “That is what happens in this league. But his attitude is great and he doesn’t get down on himself.”

3. Safety Chris Conte made two very important defensive stops. First, he picked off a wobbly Brees pass thrown into double coverage early in the third quarter, which led to a field goal. Then he stripped running back Mark Ingram after a screen pass late in the fourth quarter, leading to another field goal that gave the Bucs a seven-point lead. “All I tried to do was make a play and make a solid tackle,” Conte said. “I hit him low and noticed the ball pop out.”

Etc.

—RB Doug Martin started strong with 44 yards on seven carries in the first half, including a 20-yard run on the first series. But he finished with only 78 yards on 21 carries and had a critical fumble late in the game that gave the Saints a chance to get back in the game. “The bottom line is we won — that’s all that matters,” Martin said.

—The Bucs suffered several injuries, including C Evan Smith (ankle), TE Austin Siberian-Jenkins (shoulder) and DT Gerald McCoy (shoulder). “Hopefully they’ll all be able to come back and it’s nothing serious,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said.

—Smith said he was happy the game had to come down to defensive stops by S Chris Conte and other members of the secondary. The Saints had two shots to tie the game in the final eight seconds from the Tampa Bay 27. “When you play a game like this, it’s only fitting that you have to make another stop at the end,” Smith said. “I think that can carry over. The guys came up and made the plays when we needed them to.”


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