Bucs beat Jets, end five-game slide
TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter was in no mood to criticize his team’s performance Sunday after a 15-10 victory over the New York Jets at Raymond James Stadium that snapped a five-game losing streak.
“That was not a work of art,” Koetter said. “But you don’t apologize for wins, either.
“It was not the most beautiful game I’ve ever been involved in. But I’ve been involved in some beautiful games where we came up short. It’s just good to get the winning feeling back in our locker room.”
The Buccaneers (3-6) got three field goals from Patrick Murray and a touchdown reception from running back Charles Sims while limiting the Jets (4-6) to 275 yards.
Tampa Bay, which came into the game with an NFL-low eight sacks, had six against the Jets.
The Buccaneers, who never trailed despite playing without injured quarterback Jameis Winston, rallied around 13-year NFL veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played the previous two seasons with the Jets. Fitzpatrick was 17 of 34 for 187 yards.
The Jets reached Buccaneers territory on only three of their 12 possessions. New York closed the margin on Josh McCown’s 38-yard pass to Robby Anderson with 28 seconds remaining, but the Buccaneers recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“When you lose, it’s an empty feeling,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. “You can put it on all of us, all phases, offense, defense, special teams and coaching. We lost the game in all phases.”
The offensive phase was particularly painful for both teams.
Tampa Bay managed 271 yards and averaged just 2.9 yards on 31 rushing attempts. But things came together on the clinching score with 6:05 left when Fitzpatrick hit Sims on a 6-yard pass on third-and-2. It capped a 15-play, 81-yard drive.
“Was it the best game we could play? No. But I thought it was awesome and it was the kind of win that can kick-start a season,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s good to get that feeling back in the locker room again.
“I played OK, but didn’t play great by any stretch of the imagination. It was a win. I’m getting too old to worry about the other stuff anyway.”
Winston sprained the AC joint on his right throwing shoulder on Oct. 15 against the Arizona Cardinals, but started the next three games. When the injury was reaggravated, the Buccaneers opted to shut down Winston for a minimum of two weeks.
The timetable for Winston’s return remains uncertain. On the team’s pregame radio show, general manager Jason Licht said it might “be an extended period of time.” Meanwhile, Koetter said he’s confident in Fitzpatrick.
“We have no control over injuries,” Koetter said. “I’m comfortable with Ryan Fitzpatrick, just like I’m comfortable with any of the 53 guys (on the roster).
“Ryan knows how to perform when things aren’t going perfectly. He has a lot of experience. He’s the same guy, whether it’s an interception, a three-and-out or a good drive.”
After a 3-3 tie at halftime, the Buccaneers opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 44-yard drive that resulted in Murray’s 49-yard field goal for a 6-3 advantage. The key play was Fitzpatrick’s 19-yard pass to receiver DeSean Jackson on third-and-10.
When Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David recovered a fumble by Jets running back Bilal Powell after a third-quarter pass reception, the Buccaneers drove to a 37-yard field goal by Murray, extending its lead to 9-3.
Sims twice came up big on Tampa Bay’s scoring drive, first rumbling for a 31-yard gain on a third-and-1 pass reception, then scoring the touchdown.
“I felt great about the call when it came in because it was the perfect call for that situation,” Fitzpatrick said. “Chuck (Sims) did a great job with it. It was great to finish off that drive.”
NOTES: Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston had started the first 40 games of his NFL career before being sidelined. ... It was an active day in the Tampa Bay secondary. CB Brent Grimes (shoulder), who missed the previous two games, returned to the lineup, but CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring) was ruled out after suffering a third-quarter injury. CB Robert McClain (hamstring) was inactive. ... The Buccaneers had the services of Ts Demar Dotson (hamstring) and Donovan Smith (knee), who didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday. ... The Buccaneers were also without DE Will Gholston (neck) and the team’s leading receiver, WR Mike Evans (one-game suspension). ... The Jets played without inactive RB Matt Forte (knee). ... The Buccaneers improved to 2-10 against the Jets in the all-time series. Tampa Bay’s only previous victory over the Jets occurred in 1984 in John McKay’s final game as head coach. When New York won the initial meeting in 1976, it was Joe Namath’s final victory as a Jets quarterback.