The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a 24-21 decision to the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, but the game was in doubt until the final second as Patrick Murray's 54-yard field goal attempt sailed just a bit right of the goalpost.
The Buccaneers set Murray up for that difficult attempt with a six-play, 35-yard drive in the game's last minute. After the game, quarterback Jameis Winston said the target for the offense, in order to give Murray a chance, was the Falcons' 35-yard line or better. As it turned out, Winston's last pass was an 11-yard completion to tight end Cameron Brate that put the ball at the Atlanta 36. Without a timeout, Winston hurriedly spiked the ball on the next play to stop the clock for Murray's kick.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' Week 15 matchup with the Falcons.
There's no way to know if one more yard would have made a difference for Murray, but it would have given Winston his fifth 300-yard passing game of the season and the 10th of his career. Instead, he finished at 299, just the second time a Buccaneer passer has thrown for that exact total in a game. Josh Freeman also missed a 300-yard outing by one against Washington on Sept. 30, 2012.
That's obviously just a statistical oddity, not a specific accomplishment for Winston. However, his 299-yard day also included three touchdown passes, and Winston has now done that as many times as any other quarterback in Bucs history. Like Brad Johnson, who was in attendance on Monday night to celebrate Jon Gruden's induction into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, Winston now has eight games in which he's thrown three or more touchdown passes. Winston reached that mark in six fewer games with the Buccaneers than Johnson had.
Most Games with 3+ Touchdown Passes, Buccaneers History
|**Quarterback**||**Seasons**||**3+ TD Games**||**Total Games**|
|1t. Jameis Winston||2015-17||8||43|
|1t. Brad Johnson||2001-03||8||49|
|3t. Trent Dilfer||1994-99||6||79|
|3t. Josh Freeman||2009-13||6||60|
|5t. Steve DeBerg||1984-87; 92-93||5||64|
|5t. Vinny Testaverde||1987-92||5||76|
Not surprisingly, Winston is also rapidly climbing up the Buccaneers' all-time chart for touchdowns, with Monday's trio pushing his career mark to 67. That moved him out of a tie with Johnson into sole possession of fifth place, and he needs just four more to take over fourth.
Most Touchdown Passes, Buccaneers History
|1. Josh Freeman||2009-13||80|
|2. Vinny Testaverde||1987-92||77|
|3. Doug Williams||2001-03||73|
|4. Trent Dilfer||1994-99||70|
|5 Jameis Winston||2015-17||67|
Winston's three touchdown passes against the Falcons also helped him move up one more spot on the list of all NFL quarterbacks for their first three seasons. Having passed his Monday night opponent, Matt Ryan, Winston now stands eighth on that list, two behind Jacksonville's Blake Bortles for seventh.
Most Touchdown Passes, Player's First Three Seasons, NFL History
Winston hit on 27 of his 35 passes against the Falcons for a completion rate of 77.1%, the best single-game mark of his young career. It was also the best completion percentage in a game by a Bucs quarterback in four years, following an outing by Mike Glennon on Nov. 17, 2013, also against Atlanta, in which he was good on 87.0% of his tries.
That high completion rate combined with his three touchdowns and no interceptions gave Winston a 130.5 passer rating for the night, the second-best single-game mark of his career. The only superior performance was his five-touchdown explosion at Philadelphia in his 2015 rookie year.
Winston's three touchdown passes went to wide receivers Mike Evans and Adam Humphries and tight end O.J. Howard. While Humphries scored for the first time this season, the touchdowns for Evans and Howard were their fifth and sixth of the campaign, respectively. Those two combine with tight end Cameron Brate (six touchdowns) to give the Buccaneers three players with five or more TD catches. That marks the first time in franchise history that three Buccaneers have each recorded five or more touchdown catches in the same season.
Tampa Bay is one of four teams in the NFL to feature three players with five-plus touchdown catches this year.
|**Team**||**Players with 5+ TD Receptions**|
|Tampa Bay||Cameron Brate (6), O.J. Howard (6), Mike Evans (5)|
|New England||Rob Gronkowski (7), Brandin Cooks (6), Chris Hogan (5)|
|Philadelphia||Alshon Jeffery (9), Nelson Agholor (8), Zach Ertz (8)|
|Seattle||Jimmy Graham (9), Paul Richardson (6), Doug Baldwin (5)|
The touchdown for Evans was the 32nd of his career, inching him closer to the Buccaneers' all-time record in that category. He is now just two behind Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for the top spot, and he has now surpassed Kevin House for the lead among wide receivers.
Most Career Touchdown Receptions, Buccaneers
|1. Jimmie Giles||TE||1978-86||34|
|2. Mike Evans||WR||2014-17||32|
|3. Kevin House||WR||1980-86||31|
|4. Joey Galloway||WR||2004-08||28|
|5. Mark Carrier||WR||1987-92||27|
Evans scored his 32nd touchdown on a leaping, 42-yard catch in the end zone in the third quarter. That was part of a five-catch, 79-yard performance for the fourth-year wideout, and that moved him up one more spot on the list of most receiving yards in an NFL player's first four seasons.
Most Receiving Yards, First Four Seasons, NFL History
Howard scored the Buccaneers' first points in the first quarter when he turned a short outlet pass into a 30-yard run up the sideline. However, he suffered an ankle injury while completing the score – a result that was reviewed and upheld – and thus was unable to add to his game stats for the rest of the night. Still, in his brief bit of action Howard tied New York Giants tight end Evan Engram for the top spot among rookies in TD catches this year.
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL Rookies, 2017
Howard's sixth score gave him the Buccaneers' rookie record for touchdowns by a tight end, surpassing the five that Tim Wright had in 2013. It's the fourth-highest total by any Tampa Bay rookie, regardless of position, only one behind former wide receiver Michael Clayton (2004) for the third spot. Howard also bumped his yards-per-reception average up to 16.6 with that 30-yard play, which leads all NFL tight ends with at least 25 catches this season. He ranks eighth among all NFL players with at least 25 receptions in yards per catch.
Most Yards Per Reception, NFL, 2017 (minimum 25 receptions)
Howard's touchdown catch was one of 22 first downs the Buccaneers recorded on Monday night, including 15 in the passing game. Tampa Bay now has 212 passing first downs in 2017, the most in the NFL. With two games to play, the Buccaneers have already recorded their second-highest season total for passing first downs. Jameis Winston's Bucs set the team record at 220 last year.
Most Passing First Downs, NFL, 2017
- Tampa Bay: 212
- New England: 207
- Pittsburgh: 196
- L.A. Chargers: 191
- Detroit: 189
Most Passing First Downs, Single Season, Buccaneers History
- 2016: 220
- 2017: 212
- 1984: 209
- 2015: 201
- 2003: 190