Tampa Bay blows lead, recovers to beat Falcons 23-20 in OT
ATLANTA (AP) Normally, playing his first game in the NFL city closest to his hometown would have been enough motivation for Jameis Winston.
Seeing teammate Kwon Alexander play through the pain of his younger brother's death provided even more inspiration for Winston.
Tampa Bay recovered after losing a 17-point lead as Winston led the Buccaneers to a field-goal drive in overtime to beat the Atlanta Falcons 23-20 on Sunday.
One week after blowing a 24-point lead in a 31-30 loss to Washington, the Bucs (3-4) couldn't hold a 20-3 advantage against Atlanta (6-2).
The Falcons tied the game on Julio Jones' 8-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan with 17 seconds remaining in regulation.
The drive was set up by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith's decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 40. Winston was stopped on the fourth-down run with 2 minutes remaining in regulation.
Smith said if he called for a punt, ''we're going to have to stop them. ... We had an opportunity to finish the game right then and I'd make that call 10 out of 10 times.''
Added Smith, referring to Winston: ''I wasn't the only one who wanted to go for it on fourth down.''
Winston led a 15-play drive, converting three third downs, to open overtime. The drive ended with Connor Barth's 31-yard field goal. Tampa Bay's defense stopped the Falcons at the Atlanta 42 to end the game.
Alexander, a rookie linebacker from Louisiana State, had 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He had another interception called back by a penalty.
''It was all for him,'' an emotional Alexander said, referring to his late 17-year-old brother, Broderick Taylor. The Aniston (Alabama) Star reported Jerald Bailey, 24, has been charged with shooting Taylor during a fight on Friday night.
Smith said he gave Alexander the option to play or remain with his family.
''We saw in his eyes that he was here for a purpose,'' said Winston of Alexander.
''When something happens to your family and you're a true man and you go out and represent for your family like that, that just says a lot. Everybody in that locker room has tremendous respect for the man that he is.''
Winston, from ''right down the road'' in Bessemer, Alabama, said it was ''a home game'' for him. ''I had a lot of family here,'' he said.
Alexander said he knew his brother ''would want me to be strong for him.''
Here are some things to know about the Buccaneers' win over the Falcons:
TURNOVERS THE DIFFERENCE: All of Tampa Bay's 20 points in regulation followed Atlanta turnovers. The Falcons lost three fumbles and threw an interception, running their turnover total to 12 in the past four games.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD: Ryan completed 37 of 45 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns but lost a fumble and threw an interception. The Falcons lost another fumble on a poor shotgun snap by Mike Person from the Buccaneers 4. ''That's directly taking points off the board,'' said Ryan, noting three turnovers came on the Bucs' side of the field.
STATISTICAL ROUT: The Bucs were held to 290 total yards. The Falcons had 496 yards - with no punts.
Winston didn't produce big numbers but he avoided mistakes. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 177 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate. Winston also had a 4-yard scoring run.
Doug Martin had 23 carries for 71 yards to lead Tampa Bay's running game.
BIG GAME FOR JULIO: Jones had 12 catches for 162 yards with a touchdown. He was stripped by Alexander for the first fumble after catching a pass over the middle. Alexander's 20-yard return to the Falcons 21 set up Barth's first field goal from 38 yards.
EVANS CONTAINED: The Falcons lost starting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (lower back) and Robert Alford (groin). The Falcons also were without starting safety William Moore, who was held out with a groin injury.
Even so, the Bucs failed to capitalize on Mike Evans' matchups with backups. Evans was targeted nine times but caught only three passes for 48 yards, including a 21-yarder. Last week against Washington, Evans had a career-best eight receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown.
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