NFL News & Analysis

TB-ATL grades: Jameis Winston, Mike Evans earn game's top offensive grades

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 11: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers calls out to the offense against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Atlanta Falcons 24

Here are the top-graded players and biggest storylines from the Buccaneers' 31-24 win over the Falcons.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterback grade: Jameis Winston, 85.6

Jameis Winston earns game's top offensive grade

The Bucs' second-year signal caller lit up the box score on Sunday, as QB Jameis Winston was firing on all cylinders at every level of the field. Winston was solid under pressure, as he completed six-of-11 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in such circumstances. He also made Atlanta pay when the Falcons failed to create pressure, completing 17-of-22 attempts for 193 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception when left clean. Winston showed spectacular touch on two of his touchdown throws and avoided any costly mistakes—an issue that plagued him in his rookie campaign.

Jameis Winston under pressure

Top offensive grades:

QB Jameis Winston, 85.6

WR Mike Evans, 82.6

G Ali Marpet, 77.3

LT Donovan Smith, 76.1

RB Doug Martin, 73.8

WR Mike Evans and HB Doug Martin make a formidable duo

Highlighted by his nice touchdown grab, WR Mike Evans' stats are backed up by an impressive game grade to start the year. HB Doug Martin had a mediocre day when just looking at the box score, but he wasn’t given much room to work with, as he averaged just 0.61 yards per carry before contact. Martin forced eight missed tackles and also caught all five of his targets for 34 yards. The Winston-Evans connection was on fire, and with Martin back to his usual form, the Buccaneers grabbed an early NFC South win.

Better start to the season for LT Donovan Smith

As a rookie, LT Donovan Smith graded as the fifth-worst offensive tackle out of 76 eligible players. It was a season to forget for the second-round draft pick out of Penn State, as he allowed four sacks, 12 hits, and 38 hurries. 2016 started much better for Smith, as he graded well against the Falcons and gave up just two hurries in the game. It marks just the second time in his career to grade positively, and if he can build on this game, Winston will have a secure blind side.

Top defensive grades:

DI Gerald McCoy, 87.4

LB Lavonte David, 85.7

CB Brent Grimes, 82.4

LB Kwon Alexander, 80.8

ED Robert Ayers, 80.5

Gerald McCoy posts his best game grade since 2014

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy showed why the Buccaneers paid the former third-overall pick a lot of money two seasons ago, as he disrupted the pocket, was a force in run defense, and tacked on a couple of batted passes. Since signing the massive long-term contract that netted him close to $100 million, McCoy’s production has significantly dropped off, so his play against the Falcons could be a good sign that he’s back to his pre-contract levels.

Bucs’ linebackers piled up the stops

The linebacking duo of Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David combined to miss 48 tackles in 2015, which led to poor and below-average grades for the two. Against the Falcons, they combined to miss just one tackle (Alexander) and 14 defensive stops, with nine of them coming from Alexander. David was solid in coverage, allowing five-of-six catches for an average of just 4.8 yards per catch. Alexander allowed a passer rating of 133.3 when passes were targeted into his coverage. If the two limit the number of missed tackles in 2016, it’ll go a long ways towards turning around a Bucs’ defense that graded as the worst in the NFL in 2015.

Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback grade: Matt Ryan, 77.1

Conservative attack from Matt Ryan leads to average grade

Matt Ryan graded well in Sunday's outing, as he never put the ball in harm’s way, but never really tested the defense, either. Of his 39 attempts, just three traveled more than 20 yards downfield, with just one such completion. Ryan struggled a bit under pressure, completing just 50 percent of his passes and taking three sacks. With a clean pocket, he completed 23-of-31 attempts for 294 yards and one touchdown. When it mattered most, however, Ryan wasn’t able to connect with his receivers, throwing slightly behind Julio Jones on a crossing route, with Mohamed Sanu stumbling out of his break on what would have been a converted third down on the penultimate drive.

Top offensive grades:

C Alex Mack, 80.0

QB Matt Ryan, 77.1

G Andy Levitre, 76.7

TE Jacob Tamme, 76.3

OT Ryan Schraeder, 74.8

Skill players unimpressive in season opener

This felt like a game where Julio Jones would shine, as he was facing Brent Grimes (an aging CB), Vernon Hargreaves (a rookie CB), and Alterraun Verner (a CB coming off a career-worst season). It never materialized, however, as the trio held the Falcons’ superstar in check for most of the game. Mohamed Sanu had a nice touchdown reception and a wide-open 59-yard catch, but also had two drops, something that plagued the WR in Cincinnati. HB Tevin Coleman shined receiving passes out of the backfield, but didn’t generate more than what was given to him by his blockers, as he forced just one missed tackle. HB Devonta Freeman was also shut down, forcing just one missed tackle; he didn't receive much room to work with, however, as all but one of his yards came after contact.

Top defensive grades:

DI Grady Jarrett, 80.1

ED Brooks Reed, 78.5

ED Adrian Clayborn, 78.1

LB Deion Jones, 76.9

S Kemal Ishmael, 76.1

Falcons’ linebackers exposed in coverage

Outside of MLB Deion Jones, the Falcons’ linebackers struggled in pass coverage; they were often out of position, allowing a combined 12-of-12 for 130 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie linebacker from LSU allowed a passer rating of 131.3, but limited his receivers to just 6 yards per catch. De'Vondre Campbell and Sean Weatherspoon both allowed a perfect passer rating when targeted, and an average of 13 and 16 yards per reception, respectively. Campbell missed two tackles, and Weatherspoon was beat by Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a touchdown.

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was a bright spot in the front-seven, as C Joe Hawley struggled to block the second-year pro, especially early in the game. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn showed well in run defense and pass-rushing, with two QB hits and two hurries, but his overall grade suffered from two penalties.

PFF Game Ball Winner: Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston

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