Win­ston’s woes leave Bucs on the brink of more mis­ery

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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-

Piv­otal picks

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.”

Ground gains

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.

Pay­ton’s pride

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.”

AFP

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.

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