Tampa, Fla. — Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston is making strides as an NFL quarterback. Now he has a home victory to build on.
Monday night's 25-11 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals may not count in the standings, but it was welcomed by a team trying to change the culture of a franchise that hadn't posted a win — exhibition or regular season — at Raymond James Stadium since 2013.
"Obviously people are going to look at this as a preseason game but in that locker room, our team morale, we are going to look at it as we get a win," said Winston, the first overall pick in this year's draft. "That's definitely important. We get a win. It does matter. It doesn't matter if it's a football game in a Wal-Mart parking lot, we want to win."
Winston was nearly flawless on Tampa Bay's first possession, going 3-for-3 passing and scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run to finish an 80-yard drive that set the tone for a tough night for the Bengals (1-1), who yielded 52 yards rushing to Doug Martin along the way.
Winston limped off the field, done for the night, two plays after appearing to tweak his right ankle when he was sacked by Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry early in the second quarter.
The rookie remained on the sideline, cheering when Mike Glennon threw a 22-yard TD pass to Russell Shepard for a 20-0 lead. In four series, he was 8 of 13 for 90 yards and no interceptions.
The young quarterback stumbled as he backed away from center before being wrapped up in the arms of Atkins and Gilberry and taken to the ground. He threw an incompletion on the next play, and then was penalized for intentional grounding on third down, forcing a punt.
"It was a tough fall, but it was just a coach's decision. I thought we saw enough from him," said coach Lovie Smith, who had been 0-10 at home with the Buccaneers (1-1). "He did some good things. I felt like it was the perfect time to take him out. If we had needed him to play, he would have gone back in the game on the next series."
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner overcame a slow start in his preseason debut to lead a long scoring drive that he also capped with a TD run against Minnesota. One of his goals Monday night was to start faster, and he accomplished that objective with completions of 9 yards to Martin, 7 yards to Jorvorskie Lane and 11 yards to Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the opening drive.
Alterraun Verner returned one of Tampa Bay's two interceptions of Andy Dalton 24 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. Bradley McDougald picked off an overthrown pass on Cincinnati's next possession, returning it 38 yards to set up Glennon's TD pass.
Dalton, who only played one series in the Bengals' preseason opener against the New York Giants, finished 6 of 13 for 46 yards and was sacked three times. AJ McCarron replaced him at the start of the third quarter.
"There wasn't any consistency. We turned the ball over. You can't do that. And we never got any momentum going," Dalton said. "Obviously, we want to come out and play well every time we're on the field, but it is preseason."
NFL: Suggs' hit legal
The NFL says Terrell Suggs' hit on Sam Bradford's knees on Saturday night wasn't illegal and shouldn't have been a penalty.
Chip Kelly disagrees.
Suggs was called for roughing the passer after a low hit on Bradford in the first quarter of Philadelphia's 40-17 win over Baltimore. He argued the quarterback is fair game on zone-read plays. Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating, agreed.
"Because the quarterback has an option, he's considered a runner until he either clearly doesn't have the football or he re-establishes himself as a passer," Blandino said Monday.
"So it's not a foul by rule. The referee felt it was late so we'll clarify that and make sure everyone is on the same page."
But Kelly said the play was a simple handoff out of a shotgun formation. Replays show Bradford didn't attempt to carry out a fake.
"That's not a zone-read play. On a zone-read play, a quarterback can get hit," Kelly said. "Not every shotgun run is a zone-read play. Are they going to hit every quarterback in the league when they hand off in a shotgun?
Kelly said he hasn't spoken to Blandino yet.
Brian Hoyer has been named the Texans' starting quarterback. Hoyer (Michigan State) had been competing with Ryan Mallett for the job.
... The Packers confirmed wide receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
... Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is not throwing during practice because of a sore right elbow that has bothered him for two weeks.
... The Patriots agreed to terms with former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, according to media reports.
... NFL Network reported Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is "progressing very well" in his rehab from the fireworks mishap on July 4 that led to the amputation of his index finger.