Winston throws 4 TD passes, Bucs beat Falcons 31-24

Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-12 05:47:51-04
Jameis Winston bounced back from an early interception to throw four touchdown passes, and Tampa Bay claimed a winning record for the first since 2012 by opening the season with a 31-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Winston began his second year as a pro by going 23 of 33 for 281 yards, using just about every weapon at his disposal in the matchup between NFC South rivals. He hooked up with receiver Mike Evans, running back Charles Sims III and tight ends Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers on scoring plays.
The Falcons grabbed a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter after Winston's pass for Vincent Jackson was picked off by Desmond Trufant, who returned it 13 yards to the Tampa Bay 9. There was a mix-up between the quarterback and receiver, as Jackson broke outside while Winston's threw to the inside.
But Winston shook off that miscue, leading the Buccaneers on a nine-play, 75-drive that culminated with a 4-yard TD pass to Myers.
After Matt Bryant's second field goal pushed the Falcons ahead 13-10, Winston went to work again with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half.
He converted on third-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to Jackson. Then came a short throw to Sims, who did the rest. He faked out two defenders -- cutting right while they both tumbled the turf, taking each other out -- and broke two more tackles on the way to a 23-yard touchdown that put Tampa Bay ahead for good with 14 seconds left in the half.
The Buccaneers scored on their first two possessions of the second half, pushing the lead to 31-13. Winston went to Sefarion-Jenkins on a 30-yard touchdown, followed by a perfectly thrown 45-yard scoring pass to Evans over two defenders.
To their credit, the Falcons didn't quit in their final season opener at the Georgia Dome before moving next door to $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Matt Ryan , looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2015 season in which the Falcons missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, hooked up with Julio Jones on a 25-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion closed the gap to 31-21.
Another long drive resulted in Bryant's third field goal, and the Falcons got the ball back one more time with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. They managed only first down before the Bucs closed it out.
It's the first winning record for the Bucs since they started the 2012 season with a 6-4 mark.
They lost five of their last six that year, and haven't been above .500 until now.
Tampa Bay's last winning season was 2010.
Tampa Bay backup linebacker Jacquies Smith was carted to the locker room with a right knee injury and didn't return. The third-year player was injured while covering a punt in the first quarter.
Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed sustained a shoulder injury in the first half, but he was able to return.
Some big penalties cost the home team in the third quarter. Offensive guard Chris Chester was called for unnecessary roughness, knocking the Falcons out of field-goal range.
On Tampa Bay's ensuing possession, cornerback Robert Alford was also flagged for a personal foul after the Falcons had forced an incomplete pass on third down. The Bucs went on to score a touchdown.