TAMPA -- Jameis Winston made his share of mistakes and he didn't play a perfect game. But the rookie quarterback isn't the reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Houston Texans 19-9 Sunday. It was the players around him.
While Winston made a few poor throws to help account for converting only 1 of 12 third downs, it was dropped passes, missed field goals, penalties and a defense that couldn't stop the run that led to the Bucs' second defeat of the season.
"Jameis Winston is a good football player, simple as that," head coach Lovie Smith said. "He will have some bad plays like all quarterbacks do. But his arrow is pointed up. He'll continue to get that. He learns something new each week, which rookies do. Again, there are a lot of us that need to play a lot better. Of course, he included, but we're going to win a lot of games with him."
Winston completed 17 of 36 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and an interception Sunday. He targeted receiver Mike Evans 17 times, but only connected on seven of those passes for 101 yards. Evans, who missed the final two preseason games and the season opener with a hamstring injury, was on a play count in Week 2. He looked rusty against the Texans.
Smith admitted Sunday the Bucs and Winston probably focused too much on Evans. "We probably need to spread the ball around more," Smith said.
Meanwhile, the defense could not stop Texans running back Alfred Blue, who rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown. The Texans had 186 yards on the ground Sunday and controlled the ball. They had 29 more plays than the Bucs.
"These are the things that losing teams do," Smith said.
The Bucs' defense still is looking for an identity. In nine opponent's trips to the red zone, the Bucs defense has allowed eight touchdowns.
But a lot of the focus will be on Winston, the Bucs' No. 1 overall pick.
"It's a thin line between winning and losing," Winston said. "I have to meet the quota. I have to produce on third downs."
--Back healthy after being limited by a hamstring injury, wide receiver Mike Evans was the focus of the Bucs' offense Sunday, targeted for 17 passes. But his day was marked by drops, a costly penalty and missed opportunities, especially on third down.
"I put this on me," said Evans, who finished with seven catches for 101 yards in the 19-9 loss to the Texans. "There were a lot of plays I should have made on third downs that I didn't come up with. The offense played great. It was up to me to make a couple of plays that could have put us over the hump."
REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus. QB Jameis Winston looked more relaxed in the pocket and the offensive line did a great job of protecting him, not allowing a sack to the Texans or J.J. Watt. But Winston needs to be better on third down and was victimized by too many dropped balls.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D. The Bucs never got anything going against the Texans front seven in the run game. Doug Martin and Charles Sims combined to rush for 57 yards on 20 carries. The Bucs have struggled against 3-4 teams this season.
--PASS DEFENSE: C-minus. The Bucs could not get any pressure on Texans QB Ryan Mallett, who was sacked only once. The lone interception came off a tipped pass. Mallett was 7-for-7 on play-action passes and the Bucs struggled to cover DeAndre Hopkins.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D. Alfred Blue is not a household name in the NFL. But he could not be stopped by the Bucs and rushed 31 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs were pushed backward by a makeshift Texans line.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: F. Rookie K Kyle Brindza started his day by making a 58-yard field goal, the second longest in team history. But he missed an extra point and three field-goal attempts after that.
--COACHING: D. The Bucs' rookies are all getting better week to week, starting with Winston. Rookie OL Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith played their best game and LB Kwon Alexander had his first interception. But it was a winnable game against a bad Texans football team.