Bucs hold off Jaguars for first home win in nearly 2 years
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — It had been a while since they celebrated an NFL win in Tampa Bay.
Jameis Winston played the role of game manager, and Doug Martin took pressure off the rookie quarterback by gashing one of the NFL’s top run defenses for 123 yards rushing as the Buccaneers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-31 on Sunday for their first regular season victory at home in nearly two years.
“It felt awesome,” said Martin, who ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for a third. “We haven’t won a home game in so long, so it was good to get this win for the fans. They deserved it, and I know we will continue to get these home wins.”
Winston rebounded from his worst game as a pro to throw for 209 yards and one touchdown with an interception. The Bucs rushed for 183 yards, the defense sacked Blake Bortles six times and scored when George Johnson forced a fumble that Jacquies Smith recovered for a third-quarter TD that put Tampa Bay ahead for good.
A week after throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in a 14-point loss to Carolina, Winston completed 13 of 19 passes, including several nice throws that kept hope alive.
“We realized this past week that you can’t win football games unless you protect the ball,” Smith said. “It’s about ball security on the offensive side. Jameis and the rest of our crew did that.”
The Bucs won for the first time at home since beating Buffalo 27-6 on Dec. 8, 2013, one week after Jacksonville last won on the road, 32-28 at Cleveland.
Bortles passed for 303 yards and four TDs, but also threw an interception that led to a Bucs touchdown. The Jaguars gave up a 58-yard punt return that led to Martin’s 10-yard TD reception, and rookie Corey Grant lost the fumble that cost Jacksonville the lead it took on T.J. Yeldon’s 4-yard scoring reception.
“Obviously not good enough,” said Bortles, who also threw TD passes of 13 and 5 yards to Allen Robinson and 12 yards to Allen Hurns.
“This one is painful,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “It’s on all of us, players, coaches, and we’ve got to take full responsibility for what went on out there. That wasn’t our best, and it’s not acceptable.
“I’m hoping this setback shocks us to get things right,” Bradley added. “I believe in these guys. They’re capable of better.”
Some things to know about the intrastate rivals, who’ve only met six times during the regular season.
TURNOVER BATTLE: The Bucs didn’t have any turnovers, ending a streak of 25 consecutive games with at least one. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are 0-30 when losing the turnover battle since 2011. “It’s my job to take care of the ball. ... When I’m making the right decision and not turning the ball over, you see how productive our offense can be,” Winston said.
WHERE’S THE ’D?: Jacksonville entered the game with the NFL’s fourth-ranked run defense, allowing 83 yards per game. Tampa Bay gashed the unit early and often, with Martin averaging 5.1 yards a carry and Charles Sims 4.3 on his way to 51 yards on 12 attempts. Defensive tackle Roy Miller said it’s on the players to “figure this out” and make corrections. “Everybody’s tired of putting in all the work and not seeing the benefits of it,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
REVERTING TO FORM: After being slowed by injuries the past two seasons, Martin is looking more and more like the versatile runner who ranked third in the league in total yards from scrimmage as a rookie in 2012. He had his second 100-yard game of the season. Jacksonville had only allowed one 100-yard performance in its previous 16 road games.
STAT SHEET: Hurns had five receptions for 116 yards and Robinson finished with seven catches for 72 yards for Jacksonville. Julius Thomas made his debut for the Jaguars, playing for the first time since breaking his right hand in the team’s preseason opener. The tight end caught the only two passes thrown his way for 20 yards.
RARE VICTORY: Jacksonville leads the series 4-2. The Bucs hadn’t beaten them since 1995 — the Jaguars’ inaugural season — when Tampa Bay prevailed 17-16 after Jacksonville attempted a two-point conversion in the final minute, instead of kicking the extra point to send the game into overtime.
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