Tampa won their first season opener since 2012 defeating the Falcons 31-24 on Sunday. The Bucs built a 31-13 lead and then were able to hold off Matt Ryan and the offense, stopping them on downs and being able to run out the clock afterward. The defense held Atlanta to just three points in the fourth quarter making stops that they could not do under former coach Lovie Smith. The defense put pressure on Ryan all game long getting three sacks and Gerald McCoy deflected two passes that helped Tampa stop the Falcons.
A star for Tampa was Kwon Alexander who was superb on defense running to the ball and recording 17 tackles on the day. He also had a sack of Ryan on a third down play that forced a punt at midfield, an example of the middle linebacker taking control of the Bucs defense. The rush defense was exemplary as they only gave up 52 rushing yards on the day, including holding Devonta Freeman to just 20 yards on 11 carries. Ryan threw for 334 yards on the day, however, that is expected as the Falcons had to throw the ball to get back into the game.
The game ball would have to go to Jameis Winston who completed 23 of 33 for 281 yards with four touchdowns and one pick. Winston had a sluggish start as he overthrew both Adam Humphries and Mike Evans on consecutive plays that forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal early on. There was also a miscommunication with Vincent Jackson that leads to his interception. As the first quarter came to end Winston shook off the bad start and was superb the rest of the game.
While Winston will get credit for the passing touchdowns his receivers made great plays to get into the end zone. Charles Sims was able to break tackles and maneuver his way through the Falcons defense to give the Bucs a 17-13 lead at the half. Both Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Mike Evans had long touchdown catches that required great hands and concentration. This game illustrates what this team is capable of as they had three drives of 75 yards and a 92-yard drive to build their large lead.
Tampa also benefits from the gutsy call of the Oakland Raiders who went for a two-point conversion to get the win instead of going for the tie with a PAT. The Bucs are 1-0 and other three teams in the NFC South are 0-1, an unfamiliar role as the Bucs are looking down at the rest of the division.