Three Falcons defenders converged on Jameis Winston and delivered hits from all angles but Winston stumbled, spun away and ran for a first down.
If the Falcons had stopped Winston, the Bucs would have had to try a 50-yard field goal to tie the game. Instead, Winston ran 20 yards to convert the third-and-19 and go on to score the game-winning touchdown in the 23-19 victory on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
How did that happen?
“I don’t know,” said Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed, one of the three players who failed to get Winston down. “I’m going to have to see it on tape.”
“I don’t’ really know what happened on that play,” said Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow, who also was in on the play.
Here’s what the Falcons will see when they view the replay:
Reed came running from behind Winston and tried to punch the ball out of his grasp. Instead, Reed ended up on the ground beneath Winston as Worrilow hit him from the front.
“I just know that I was chasing over the top, came over the top trying to go for the ball,” Reed said. “I don’t know what happened after that.”
Worrilow’s hit caused Winston to stumble forward, but the quarterback steadied himself with his left hand as Worrilow rolled under and behind him.
“I felt like I got a good shot on him on his lower body and took his legs out,” Worrilow said. “I can’t even tell you what happened after that because I was on the bottom of it.”
Justin Durant joined the pile and hit Winston, but Winston shrugged him off and spun away to his right. Cornerback Robert Alford had a chance to tackle Winston but overran the play. Winston made defensive end Vic Beasley miss, too, as defensive tackles Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux slowed when it looked as if Winston was down.
Finally, Winston lunged forward and dived to the 12-yard line for the first down.
“We’ve just got to make sure he’s down,” Durant said. “We can’t listen for a whistle. We can’t think that a ref is going to call him down. He’s a runner at that point and you have to make a tackle.”
Three plays later Winston completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 1:39 left. That pretty much sealed the victory for Tampa Bay, just moments after it appeared the Falcons had stopped Winston and the Bucs would have to try a long field goal to tie the game.
Winston is a big and strong quarterback but three Falcons defenders should have been able to get him down.
“That’s what he is,” Worrilow said. “Everybody knows that. He’s a big body, strong guy, kind of like a Ben Roethlisberger. And he’s good at keeping plays alive and staying alive with his feet and his strength.
“But that play is kind of sickening. I’ve got to look at the tape and see what happened.”