Winston’s woes leave Bucs on the brink of more misery
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston let a veteran safety get the best of him — twice — on Saturday and didn’t hide his disappointment about a performance that might have cost the Buccaneers a chance at their first playoff berth since 2007.
“I want to make the playoffs. My goal is to win the Super Bowl and try to get away from that standard of just being OK,” said Winston, who was intercepted twice by Jairus Byrd. “We want to be great, and I didn’t play great tonight.”
Mark Ingram rushed for two touchdowns and a game-sealing first down in the final minutes as the Saints pushed Tampa Bay closer to elimination from postseason contention with a 31-24 win.
The Buccaneers (8-7) needed a victory to keep pace with Green Bay (9-6) for the final NFC wild-card spot but couldn’t keep up with the Saints’ explosive offense.
Tampa Bay’s loss locked up the NFC South for the Atlanta (10-5) and ensured a wild card for the New York Giants.
The Buccaneers must win their season finale against Carolina and hope for losses by Washington and Green Bay.
If that happens, a complicated tiebreaker based on strength of victories will decide the final playoff spot between the Bucs and the Packers.
“However that works out, it works out,” Bucs coach Drik Koetter said.
“We knew all week our job was to win today, and we didn’t. Whatever happens after that is for the math professors to figure out.”
Drew Brees was 23 of 34 for 299 yards and a touchdown for New Orleans (7-8), which gained 417 total yards and did not have a turnover against a team with 26 takeaways — including three interceptions of Brees in their previous meeting two weeks ago.
“The big emphasis for us the last two weeks has been back to our standard, back to our level of execution,” said Brees, who passed for 389 yards in a victory at Arizona in Week 15. “We’ve shown when we can get things rolling with tempo and rhythm, we can sustain drives and score points.”
Brandin Cooks caught five passes for 98 yards, including a 42-yard reception. New Orleans rookie Michael Thomas had six receptions for 98 yards, including a 46-yarder that set up Trava- ris Cadet’s down catch. 11-yard touch-
Byrd’s first interception, which he caught along the sideline at the Tampa Bay 38 and returned to the 14, set up Ingram’s second TD.
“That was just a crazy play by my part. No one was open. I tried to give my guy a chance,” Winston said. “I was just very indecisive. It was uncharacteristic. That shouldn’t have happened.”
Byrd made his second interception on the New Orleans 17 with the Bucs trailing by 10 and about eight minutes left.
“There was a look that they had given and I kind of knew what route was going to come off that look, so I just went (to the spot of the throw),” Byrd said.
Winston was 23 of 35 for 277 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 27 TDs this season, tying a franchise single-season record. His touchdown passes went to tight end Cameron Brate and Mike Evans.
“Their quarterback had a better day than I had,” said Winston. “I turned it over twice and he turned it over zero.”
Ingram capped his 18-carry, 90-yard performance by putting the game away with three straight runs — the last for a first down — after Cooks had recovered an onside kick with less than two minutes remaining. That allowed New Orleans to run out the clock.
Sean Payton passed Jim Mora for most victories as Saints coach. The victory was Payton’s 94 th with New Orleans.
“It’s exciting,” Payton said. “A lot of work, a lot of coaches and players over the years that have been part of that.”
Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders receives medical attention after breaking his leg on Saturday.
and do it ... I think he’s going to be down a little while.”
The Raiders (12-3), who clinched a playoff spot last week for the first time since 2002, moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) in the AFC West.
The first-place Raiders can win the West and secure a first-round playoff bye on Sunday if the Chiefs lose to the Denver Broncos or that game ends in a tie.
The Colts (7-8) were eliminated from playoff contention and will miss the postseason for the second straight season.
“You work hard all year for opportunities like this, to be able to get to the dance and see what happens after that,” Colts running back Robert Turbin said. “But to not be in it this year is definitely disappointing, and it hurts. But that’s the league. That’s life. It’s hard.”
Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Vernon Hargreaves of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday in New Orleans.