After studying Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan as a model quarterback in the months before his rookie season, rookie Jameis Winston came to the Georgia Dome and bested him.
Winston led the Buccaneers to a 23-20 victory at the Georgia Dome in his first first matchup against Ryan and the Falcons. He did it with the help of a pair of ex-Falcons, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and center Joe Hawley.
Koetter was the Falcons coordinator for three seasons before joining the Bucs this season after the Falcons fired head coach Mike Smith. After the Bucs drafted Winston No. 1 overall, Koetter had Winston study Ryan’s game.
“It’s just an honor playing against Mr. Ryan,” Winston said. “I kind of had a chip on my shoulder like, ‘OK, this is coach Koetter’s quarterback so we’ve got to get this win for coach Koetter and Joe Hawley.’ It was big for them.
“But I love Matt Ryan. He’s still one of my favorite quarterbacks.”
Winston passed for just 177 yards and completed only 16 of 29 attempts. But he had a 20-yard touchdown pass and also ran for a four-yard score while committing to no turnovers.
Winston several heady plays, especially during the 15-play drive in overtime that resulted in the go-ahead field goal. Winston completed three passes to convert third downs during the drive.
“He is playing better every week,” Hawley said. “He’s been improving. He’s taking care of the ball. He’s getting more comfortable in the offense and what Dirk is asking him to do. He’s a great leader. Today he really stepped up and led that team out there.”
Winston is from Bessemer, Ala., which is near Birmingham and about 160 miles from Atlanta. He never played in the Georgia Dome in high school or while at Florida State.
Winston kept his composure in spite of the crowd noise and a pass rush that was heavy at times.
“I was happy with this noise,” Winston said, smiling. “I took it as the majority of the noise is on my side because I had plenty of family here.”