Pewter Nation has been on pins and needles throughout the offseason waiting to see how their home team will start off the 2016 NFL season. Needless to say, the Buccaneers made sure to give their fans a game that just might set the tone for weeks to come. Despite some major miscues early in the contest, Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense had memorable outing to lead Tampa Bay (1-0) to a 31-24 victory over NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons. The game was filled with highlight reel moments, especially for Tampa as they get a victory in their last regular game inside the Georgia Dome.
Let’s start with potential offensive player of the week Jameis Winston, who had quite the journeyman’s game. After throwing a pick which lead to Altanta’s first touchdown, Winston sparked a series of drives that lead to 21 unanswered points. The second year QB went 23 for 33, 281 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The ball was spread around all game long, with all four TD’s caught by a different receiver. Mike Evans was the main target for Winston, leading the receiving corp with 99 yards and one of the scores. Even TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins hauled in a huge scoring catch from 45 yards out. Doug Martin lead all rushers for both teams with 62 yards on 18 carries.
The Bucs defense had their share of ups and downs, especially in the secondary. Both Atlanta receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu each had a touchdown catch while recording 66 and 80 yards, respectively. However, as this writer predicted, the Tampa Bay front seven was physical all game long. Kwon Alexander lead all tacklers with 15 solos and one sack, while both Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy each had a sack on the day. McCoy was instrumental on breaking up Matt Ryan’s pass on Atlanta’s final play of the game. Matt Ryan finished with 27 of 39, 334 yards and 2 TD’s.
Up next for the Bucs is a road trip to the desert as they face off against the Arizona Cardinals, while Atlanta travels to the Black Hole to take on the Oakland Raiders. While I’m sure Arizona will be favored to win, don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay shakes up Carson Palmer and that high-powered offense. If the Bucs click on all cylinders like they did this afternoon, there might be some stiff competition for the NFC South crown.