TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston is making strides as an NFL quarterback. Now he has a home victory to build on.
Monday night’s 25-11 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals may not count in the standings, but it was welcomed by a team trying to change the culture of a franchise that hadn’t posted a win – exhibition or regular season – at Raymond James Stadium since 2013.
“Obviously people are going to look at this as a preseason game but in that locker room, our team morale, we are going to look at it as we get a win,” said Winston, the first overall pick in this year’s draft. “That’s definitely important. We get a win. It does matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s a football game in a Wal-Mart parking lot, we want to win.”
Winston was nearly flawless on Tampa Bay’s first possession, going 3-for-3 passing and scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to finish an 80-yard drive that set the tone for a tough night for the Bengals (1-1), who yielded 52 yards rushing to Doug Martin along the way.
Winston limped off the field, done for the night, two plays after appearing to tweak his right ankle when he was sacked by Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry early in the second quarter.
The rookie remained on the sideline, cheering when Mike Glennon threw a 22-yard TD pass to Russell Shepard for a 20-0 lead. In four series, he was 8 of 13 for 90 yards and no interceptions.
The young quarterback stumbled as he backed away from center before being wrapped up in the arms of Atkins and Gilberry and taken to the ground. He threw an incompletion on the next play, and then was penalized for intentional grounding on third down, forcing a punt.
“It was a tough fall, but it was just a coach’s decision. I thought we saw enough from him,” said coach Lovie Smith, who had been 0-10 at home with the Buccaneers (1-1). “He did some good things. I felt like it was the perfect time to take him out. If we had needed him to play, he would have gone back in the game on the next series.”
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner overcame a slow start in his preseason debut to lead a long scoring drive that he also capped with a TD run against Minnesota. One of his goals Monday night was to start faster, and he accomplished that objective with completions of 9 yards to Martin, 7 yards to Jorvorskie Lane and 11 yards to Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the opening drive.
Alterraun Verner returned one of Tampa Bay’s two interceptions of Andy Dalton 24 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Bradley McDougald picked off an overthrown pass on Cincinnati’s next possession, returning it 38 yards to set up Glennon’s TD pass.
Dalton, who only played one series in the Bengals’ preseason opener against the New York Giants, finished 6 of 13 for 46 yards and was sacked three times. AJ McCarron replaced him at the start of the third quarter.
“There wasn’t any consistency. We turned the ball over. You can’t do that. And we never got any momentum going,” Dalton said. “Obviously, we want to come out and play well every time we’re on the field, but it is preseason.”
COUNTING ON MARTIN
Martin has said he feels as healthy as he’s been since an outstanding rookie year in 2012. He was selected to the Pro Bowl that season, when he rushed for 1,451 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He wasn’t nearly as productive over the last two seasons, when injuries limited him to 17 games and a porous offensive line contributed to him rushing for a combined 950 yards and three TDs. If he can regain his form of three years ago, it figures to take some of the burden off Winston to carry the offense in his first season.
Dalton sparkled in the Bengals’ preseason-opening win over the Giants, completing all three of his passes and finding Mohamed Sanu for a touchdown on the only drive for Cincinnati’s starting offense.
But Dalton’s first three possessions Monday night ended with punts. He threw interceptions on the next two, and Jeremy Hill fumbled the next time the Bengals got the ball.
Dalton’s first interception skipped through the hands of A.J. Green. He overthrew tight end Tyler Eifert on the second. The offense amassed 49 net yards on 26 plays while Dalton was in the game.
Tampa Bay rookies Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet started at left tackle and right guard. Both are second-round picks, with Marpet making the leap from Division III Hobart College to the NFL. Veteran right tackle Gosder Cherilus made his debut for Tampa Bay. He was signed after starter Demar Dotson sprained his left knee in the preseason opener.
McCarron made his preseason debut after sitting out Cincinnati’s opener because of pulled muscles in his side. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 97 yards and led an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. James Wilder Jr., son of Bucs career leading rusher James Wilder, finished it with a 5-yard TD run.
Glennon, who started five games for Tampa Bay last season, was 10 of 15 for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Bengals: LB Emmanuel Lamur left in the opening quarter with a hamstring injury. S George Iloka departed with a knee injury.
Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans left during Tampa Bay’s opening drive with a sore hamstring.