NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tampa Bay rookie Jameis Winston began to show more of the promise expected from a top overall draft choice.
New Orleans' 15-year veteran quarterback, Drew Brees, could only predict that the pain caused in his throwing shoulder by an awkward first-half hit would not be a lingering concern.
With 14 games remaining, it's too early for the Saints to panic. But at 0-2, they are alone in last place in the NFC South, behind even a Buccaneers squad that won only two games last season and had not won in New Orleans their last four visits.
That is, until Sunday, when Winston passed for a touchdown and ran for another, and the Buccaneers held on for a 26-19 victory — Tampa Bay's first in the Superdome since 2010.
For this week, at least, the Buccaneers (1-1) can return to practice buoyed by evidence that they could be headed in the right direction under second-year coach Lovie Smith.
"It was a great effort by the group to get back on track," Smith said. "To get a division road win is big for us. I feel good about where we are."
Sean Payton, who has coached New Orleans to the playoffs in four of his last five seasons on the sideline, will have to address a myriad of mistakes if he doesn't want his club to miss the postseason for a second straight year.
"When you have a game like today you get frustrated as a head coach, you are frustrated as a play-caller, you are frustrated in a lot of areas," Payton said. "Obviously, we have a lot to do."
Here are some key story lines coming out of Tampa Bay's triumph in New Orleans:
WINNING WINSTON: Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback acknowledged he still has room for improvement. He was sacked three times, fumbled once and missed some throws. But in the week since flopping in his NFL debut against Tennessee, he showed progress in terms of executing more plays and cutting down costly mistakes. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and was not intercepted. His touchdown pass was a 15-yarder floated down the middle with precision to Vincent Jackson in the back of the end zone.
"I just want to go out there and do my job and be a game manager right now," Winston said. "Who knows what my future holds, but I just want to put our team in the best possible situation I can for us to win."
BEAT-UP BREES: Not only was Brees sacked four times, but he was often hit as he threw. A shot he took from defensive end Jacquies Smith in the first half left the 36-year-old QB moving his right arm as if to loosen his shoulder. Brees tersely downplayed the severity of the injury when pressed on whether he harbors any concerns about long-term effects.
"No, I don't," Brees said. "That's the season. Everybody's dealing with something."
KICKING GAME: Tampa Bay rookie kicker Kyle Brindza hit four field goals ranging from 22 to 55 yards. He had one miss from 52 yards that didn't prove costly. Saints kicker Zach Hocker, playing in only his second NFL game, missed a pressure 42-yarder when the Saints trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter and had an extra point blocked. But Payton didn't sound too eager to send Hocker packing just yet, saying, "I'm confident he's our kicker right now."
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Payton generally complimented his defense for keeping New Orleans in the game in the fourth quarter by forcing and recovering two fumbles and by getting timely third-down stops. Rookie linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha recorded his second forced fumble in two games. Veteran Kevin Williams forced the other, stripping running back Doug Martin.
QUIET COMEBACKS: Bucs receiver Mike Evans and Saints running back C.J. Spiller both returned from injuries that sidelined them in Week 1, but neither did much. Evans, returning from a hamstring injury, was targeted three times by Winston but did not have a catch. Spiller, coming back from a knee injury, had a 19-yard reception and rushed three times for just 7 yards.
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Posted on Mon, September 21, 2015
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer