TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston won't use the term "frustrating" when describing the Bucs' three-game skid in the month of October. It took them from the top of the NFC South to the cellar at 2-4.
"I don't like using the word 'frustration' because I believe we have an excellent team. I just think we have to execute," said Winston, who, despite a losing record, has led the Bucs to the NFL's No. 1 rated passing offense and the second-most productive offense in the league through seven weeks.
The Bucs are averaging 392.8 yards per game, behind only the New England Patriots. They're 13th in scoring, with red-zone production still lacking. But in the last two weeks, their offensive scoring has been fifth in the league, and their red-zone efficiency has climbed from 50 percent in Weeks 1-5 to to 71.4 percent.
That should translate into more wins, but it hasn't because the defense -- a backbone for the team in 2016 -- can't stop the run, can't get pressure on the quarterback and can't get off the field on third down. Injuries, like the one to edge rusher Noah Spence, have created even more issues with personnel, so the offense has had to try and pick up the slack. That means their margin for error is small.
"It's just little things in every aspect of the game," said Winston, whose four 300-yard games are tied with Tom Brady for most in the NFL. "It's the little things that are holding us back from getting over that hump."
The little things, rather than the glaringly obvious miscues against the Arizona Cardinals, cost them last week against the Buffalo Bills. There was the facemask on the opening drive. Winston then missed tight end Cameron Brate by a hair in the end zone on that drive, with Patrick Murray drilling a 50-yard field goal. There was also a holding call on Donovan Smith that negated a 53-yard catch by DeSean Jackson -- the type of deep ball everyone has been waiting for.
Turnovers -- like Winston's pick against the Bills, his fumble after a sack by Ryan Davis, and Adam Humphries coughing up the ball in the fourth quarter -- only make things worse. They can drastically alter the course of a game in a matter of seconds, which is what happened late in the fourth quarter.
Winston will always say protecting the football is his biggest priority and the Bucs are currently a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to protecting the football. So this isn't discounting that. Winston just believes that they're a lot closer to realizing their potential and winning some games than what their record indicates.
"I don't really believe it's a drastic change that we have to make," Winston said. "I just believe we have to finish, we have to execute effectively and consistently. I believe that if we do that, we'll turn things around. But it's our decision as a team. It's everyone's decision. Everybody has to make that decision together and we have to go out and play."