As Falcons learned Sunday, stopping Winston this season (and beyond) won't be easy

Published Dec. 6, 2015 5:18 p.m. EST

Doug Williams became the eighth player inducted into Tampa Bay's Ring of Honor during halftime of Sunday's game against Atlanta.

If the way Jameis Winston has started his NFL career is a harbinger of things to come, the Buccaneers will someday have another quarterback's name to post alongside other Buccaneers greats at Raymond James Stadium.

Winston's outstanding rookie campaign continued with his heroics in leading a 23-19 comeback victory over the Falcons.

Superior athleticism isn't what enticed the Bucs to select Winston over Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Yet in one of those you've-gotta-be-there-to-believe-it moments, Winston produced a highlight that could very well help propel him to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.


Facing third-and-19 with his team trailing by a field goal and 2:45 remaining, Winston began to scramble from midfield after being pressured in the pocket. He was hit by Falcons linebackers Paul Worrilow and Brooks Reed short of the first down.

Winston, though, kept moving his legs and the referees didn't whistle the play dead on forward progress. He popped up, spun outside and chugged forward once again to complete a 20-yard run that gave Tampa Bay a first down.

Winston then finished the drive with the type of play that showed how far he has come since a disastrous NFL debut in Week 1 against Tennessee. On third-and-4 from the Falcons' 6, Winston didn't panic by trying to force a throw into the end zone. He displayed great composure while rolling to his right and waiting for a receiver to pop open. That happened when Mike Evans broke free from the coverage of the slower Worrilow.

Winston delivered a pass that only Evans could catch, which the wideout did while sliding out of bounds with his left knee and hip on the ground to complete the touchdown catch.

The Falcons (6-6) still had ample time for a comeback, but quarterback Matt Ryan made the same kind of mistake that has greatly contributed to Atlanta losing six of its past seven games after a 5-0 start. A Ryan overthrow was intercepted by Lavonte David, allowing Tampa Bay (6-6) to run out the clock and win for the third time in four games.

This game had playoff implications on two fronts. The Bucs now have a tiebreaker edge over the Falcons by having swept Atlanta during the regular season. Tampa Bay's victory also allowed Carolina to clinch the NFC South title before Sunday's game against New Orleans.

With the way Winston and his Bucs teammates are rapidly improving, the Panthers will have a much tougher task defending that division crown in 2016.