With Winston out, Buccaneers turn to Fitzpatrick for lift
By FRED GOODALL
Nov. 13, 2017
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — If Jameis Winston winds up being sidelined for an extended period, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers feel fortunate to have Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Winston's string of 40 consecutive starts ended Sunday because of an injured throwing shoulder, and Fitzpatrick was steady — if not overly impressive — in helping the team beat the New York Jets 15-10 to end a five-game losing streak .
The Bucs have shut Winston down for a minimum of two weeks in hopes the condition of his sprained AC joint will improve.
Sunday's start against one of his six former teams was the 117th of Fitzpatrick's career . The Bucs (3-6) had no complaints about the outcome.
"That was not a work of art, but you don't apologize for wins, either," coach Dirk Koetter said.
"I thought it was awesome," Fitzpatrick added. "That's the type of win that can kick-start a season."
The last-place Bucs still face a difficult path toward relevance in the tough NFC South, especially with Winston's status uncertain.
Fitzpatrick, facing the team for which he played the past two seasons, completed 17 of 34 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Patrick Murray kicked three field goals, and Charles Sims scored on a 6-yard reception to put the game out of reach for the sputtering Jets (4-6).
Defensively, the Bucs sacked Josh McCown six times, forced two turnovers and limited the Jets to 56 yards rushing.
Although New York wound up with 275 yards of offense, about half of it came on its final possessions with McCown trying to cut into a 12-point deficit.
"Six sacks and stop the run game. That's going to work most weeks," Koetter said.
McCown, also facing one of his former teams, was 23 of 39 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Robby Anderson caught a 38-yard TD pass in the final minute for the Jets, scoring for the fourth straight game to give New York one last chance.
Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin recovered the ensuing onside kick, ending any hope of New York completing a comeback.
"We understand this is the National Football League," McCown said. "You've got to bring your A-game every week. We just didn't come out and play at the level we're capable of."
The Jets, who were coming off a 13-point victory over Buffalo, have a bye next week.
"We all gave up plays and we are all responsible and accountable," New York coach Todd Bowles said. "We have to look ourselves in the mirror. We have two weeks, and we have to get back to work."
Fitzpatrick will make his second start for the Bucs next Sunday at Miami.
"Gritty, that's what Ryan is. He's a get-it-done kind of guy. He's going to make some plays that you don't expect him to and he might miss a couple plays you'd like him to make," Koetter said.
"He's a tough guy," the coach added. "He's a competitor, and you can't have enough of those kind of guys on your team."
Some things to know about Jets-Bucs:
The Bucs were also without leading receiver Mike Evans , suspended one game by the NFL for his role in a sideline scuffle the previous week at New Orleans. His absence meant more playing time for rookie Chris Godwin, who was targeted 10 times and finished with six receptions for 68 yards.
The Bucs entered the game with eight sacks, last in the league. Six players — Robert Ayers Jr., Gerald McCoy, Kendell Beckwith, Darryl Tapp, Clinton McDonald and Will Clarke — got to McCown.
The Jets have won 10 of 12 meetings between the teams. Tampa Bay had not beaten them since 1984.
Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a team-high six receptions for 67 yards in his first game against his former team. The fourth-year pro was a second-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2014, but failed to play up to expectations . After being arrested on a DUI charge in September 2016, the Bucs released him. The Jets claimed him off waivers. Seferian-Jenkins went to alcohol rehab and spent this past offseason getting into shape. He returned from serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy in Week 3 and is playing the best football of his career.