Jameis Winston benched after 4 interceptions; Dirk Koetter mum on QB starter at Carolina

CINCINNATI -- After throwing four interceptions -- including a pick-six -- in three quarters against the Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, forcing coach Dirk Koetter into a tough predicament with his quarterbacks.

"We don't need to talk about that," Koetter said Sunday when asked if he'd be making a change ahead of next week's game at Carolina. "Today is not the day I have to decide that. I don't have any problems making decisions, and I'll make it when the time is right."

Fitzpatrick added after the 37-34 loss: "That's not my decision. Not my decision."

Fitzpatrick entered the game with Tampa Bay trailing 34-16. The Buccaneers tied it 34-34 as Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes -- a 76-yard score to Mike Evans and an 18-yard touchdown pass to O.J. Howard with 1:10 left (plus the two-point conversion). The Bengals then won it on a field goal with no time left.

"I'm proud of the way we fought, but obviously we weren't good enough today," said Fitzpatrick, who was sympathetic to Winston's situation.

"For me, both of us, we prepare as hard as we can and try to win," Fitzpatrick said. "During the Pittsburgh game, I [came] out and I had three picks in the first half. That's something that -- for me, I dig down deep and try not to let it bother me and just keep going ..."

Winston's first two picks came in the red zone with the Bucs in prime scoring position.

On the Bucs' first possession at the Cincinnati 18-yard line, Winston attempted to find Evans in the end zone but instead overthrew him, with Bengals safety Shawn Williams coming down with the ball. Williams nearly picked Winston off earlier on that drive but dropped the ball.

Then, with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Winston tried to run a bootleg and threw toward Evans over the middle, but Bengals linebacker Preston Brown instead jumped up to make the grab at the Cincinnati 24-yard line.

Winston's third pick of the day was on a short pass that sailed over Cameron Brate's head and into linebacker Jordan Evans' hands at the Cincinnati 32-yard line. His fourth interception came when he tried to hit Adam Humphries on a slant route at the Tampa Bay 21 but instead was picked off by safety Jessie Bates, who scored a touchdown to make it 34-16.

The one highlight of Winston's day came when he threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the second quarter. But one play couldn't undo all the damage.

"We can't turn it over seven times in two weeks -- that's not hard to see," said Koetter, who said Winston's biggest issue Sunday was overthrowing receivers.

Turnovers have plagued Winston since college and could be the difference-maker in his future with both the Bucs organization and in the league. He has 11 in three starts and four games this season.

He now has thrown multiple interceptions in a game 16 times in his career, breaking the tie he had with Blake Bortles for the most multi-interception games since he entered the league in 2015.

"Every time I go out there, I feel like I give this team the best chance to win," Winston said. "But I have to back that up. I know who I am, I know who I am as a player. I just have to execute."

The Bucs already have picked up the fifth-year option on his contract, worth $20.9 million, but that is guaranteed for injury only. They could cut him with zero financial implications prior to the beginning of the new league year on March 13, 2019, at 4 p.m ET.

Winston's focus remains on the immediate future, though, not a new contract. He said he doesn't fear for his job going into next week.

"I fear nothing but God. I just have to fix this problem and I will. I know I will," Winston said. "But it doesn't come with being scared. It comes with looking [at] yourself in the mirror -- taking a long, hard look at myself and bouncing back from this. I will persevere."