NEW ORLEANS (AP) Jameis Winston had news for anyone who thought his difficult NFL debut was going to get him down.
”I will never lose confidence. Confidence is who I am,” Winston said after passing for a touchdown and running for another to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the mistake-prone New Orleans Saints 26-19 on Sunday.
”I’m just pleased with how we played, but my confidence will always remain the same and even get higher if we hopefully get on a streak,” he said.
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Winston, the NFL’s top overall draft choice, was intercepted twice and sacked four times in a loss at home a week earlier. He remained largely composed in the hostile Superdome, completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and was not intercepted. He lost one fumble, but the Saints couldn’t cash in, missing a 42-yard field goal.
”I just want to go out there and do my job and be a game manager right now,” Winston said. ”Who knows what my future holds, but I just want to put our team in the best possible situation I can for us to win. I feel like we as a whole team did that today.”
Winston’s touchdown pass was a 15-yard finesse throw floated down the middle to Vincent Jackson in the back of the end zone.
”It wasn’t some fluke throw. That’s something he works on quite a bit. It was a great ball by him,” Jackson said. ”He’s a talented guy. Last week some mistakes happened early and some things got out of our hands. … He’s going to be just fine.”
Now it looks like the Saints, with an overhauled roster loaded with young players, are in need of a confidence boost following an 0-2 start has dropped them into last place in the NFC South.
The Saints turned the ball over twice on fumbles – one each by running back Mark Ingram and receiver Willie Snead – and once on Chris Conte’s interception of Drew Brees. Still, New Orleans had two plays to tie it from the Bucs 27 in the final 8 seconds, but both passes fell incomplete.
”This is a marathon. You’ve got to reiterate that to the young guys and make sure that nobody is overreacting,” Brees said. ”Certainly there is a sense of urgency. The only way you can right the ship is by winning one game.”
Brees, who could be seen trying to loosen his right shoulder after a first-half hit as he tried to throw, said he was in pain but tersely downplayed the severity.
”That’s the season. Everybody’s dealing with something,” Brees said. Asked if he considered leaving the game, he said, ”No, absolutely not.”
Brees has had major surgery on his throwing shoulder before, but that was about a decade ago, in the 2006 offseason.
Buccaneers kicker Kyle Brindza hit four field goals ranging from 22 to 55 yards. Three of those kicks helped Tampa Bay (1-1) build a 23-7 lead. But the Bucs made their own mistakes in the form or late turnovers and penalties that forced them to sweat it out until the final play.
Doug Martin’s fumble led to Snead’s first-career touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Brees. But first-year kicker Zach Hocher’s point-after kick was blocked, leaving the Saints down 23-19.
Because lineman Joe Hawley’s tripping penalty negated a first-down on a screen, Tampa Bay was forced to punt to New Orleans with about three minutes left.
Ingram’s fumble, recovered by Henry Melton, put the Bucs in position to close it out, but they managed only a field goal, giving New Orleans just more than a minute to try to a tying TD.
Again, Tampa Bay seemed to have sealed the victory when Brees was sacked and fumbled, but a Bucs offside penalty extended the final drive until time ran out.
New Orleans’ only lead came when Ingram’s 11-yard run made it 7-3. Fullback Austin Johnson’s 1-yard TD made it 23-13 with about 7 minutes left, but the Saints’ 2-point try failed.
NOTES: Brees moved past former Miami Dolphins Hall-of-Fame QB Dan Marino for third in all-time completions with his 4,968th career connection early in the game. That left Brees, now with 4,991 completions, behind only Brett Favre (6,300) and Peyton Manning (5,977). But the 36-year-old Saints QB did not perform to his usual standard, finishing 24 of 38 for 255 yards and one TD.
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