INDIANAPOLIS -- Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was supposed to be the first game after a grueling five-game stretch where the Indianapolis Colts faced quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.
The Colts would go from those veteran quarterbacks to rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
But Winston is playing with a lot of confidence. He’ll enter Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday having led the Buccaneers to two straight victories and three in the last four games.
“There’s a reason he was the No. 1 overall pick,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We know the skill set. He’s got all the intangibles. That team believes in him. He can make all the throws. He can extend plays. He’s doing a lot of things really well. He’s executing. He’s spreading the ball around. Guys are making plays for him.
“He’s big and strong and courageous and tough as damn nails. He’ll stand in there and keep his eyes down field. He’ll take hits. If he’s got to lay it on the line to get the ball across the goal line to win a game, he’ll do whatever he has to do. He’s playing really good.”
The Buccaneers were blown out by Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans 42-14 at home in Week 1. But they’ve responded by beating teams like New Orleans and Atlanta along the way to even their record at 5-5.
Winston is 183-of-314 for 2,405 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He’s coming off a five-touchdown, no-interception performance against Philadelphia last weekend. The five touchdowns tied a rookie record with Matthew Stafford (2009) and Ray Buivid (1937) for most thrown in a game. All five touchdown passes were thrown to different players.
“I think we’ve seen his development in all the areas and that does go a little bit with experience and each game you see something different,” Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. “They are learning experiences that you can’t just talk about, they have to go through. We started off the season with a tough loss, he’s had to really fight through adversity early on. We had a few games where we turned the ball over a lot. You have to go through all those situations to get where you eventually want to go. Jameis has made great decisions. He’s a football junkie as far as his preparation. I’ve seen him really grow into a leadership role. So everything you want a good quarterback to do, a franchise quarterback to do, we’ve seen improvements from the time he got here.”