By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Buccaneers (2-4) kicked away a 24-point lead to Washington on Sunday before losing 31-30, and they must reconcile the fact that they lost 56-14 on their last visit to Atlanta.
Smith has achieved some mixed results from his team and his rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The Bucs and Winston have shown flashes of solid play and some lapses.
In the Washington game, Winston posted a passer rating of 128.1, his highest over his first six NFL games. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. It was his third game without being intercepted.
His first pass in the NFL was returned for a touchdown in the season opener against Tennessee.
Winston, who led Florida State to a national championship as a redshirt freshman, is being developed by former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Winston has completed 107 of 181 passes for 1,471 yards (59.1 percent), nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He has been sacked 12 times and has a passer rating of 85.7. He’s rated 19th among NFL quarterbacks by profootballfocus.com. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is rated No. 7.
Against the Falcons, Winston will not have his receiving corps at full strength. The Bucs may play without wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who didn’t finished the Washington game because of a knee injury.
Also, wide receiver Louis Murphy suffered a season-ending knee injury against Washington and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
“It hurts, but you have to be able to adjust,” Smith told the Tampa Bay media Monday. “There was a time when we dressed five receivers, but with Russell Shepard down, we’ve been going with four lately. And that affected our game plan a lot.”
Mike Evans is the Bucs’ leading receiver, with 21 catches for 338 yards and one touchdown. Jackson also has 21 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns.
Murphy had 10 catches for 198 yards.
“Donteea Dye has really stepped up and given us some good reps,” Smith said. “With Louis down, of course, I’d say we’re going to move another guy up. Adam Humphries has been in that role before, but we’ll just kind of look at our options out there and then go from there.”
The Bucs are hope to get tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins back from a shoulder injury.
“That can also counter the third receiver and what he’s been doing, too,” Smith said.
The Bucs are also sloppy. They were penalized 16 times for 142 yards in the loss to Washington.
The Falcons, who squeaked by Tennessee 10-7, are not apologizing for being 6-1 by winning ugly.
“It’s all good,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “You don’t give nothing back. You get what you earn in this league. You get what you earn, baby. We’re just going to continue to try to get better.”
The Falcons know they must not turn the ball over against the Bucs, who are minus-2 in turnover ratio, which ranks 22nd in the league.
“We have to go in here and do what we do and that’s hold onto the ball,” White said. “We haven’t held onto the ball the last couple of weeks. We’ve been giving it away. We have to stop. We have to stop or we are going to get beat.”