Every so often, the stars align and the universe scripts the perfect ending. It doesn't always happen -- just ask most fans of "Game of Thrones" and "Star Wars" -- but it happened on Sunday when Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston delivered the most fitting, perfect, and storybook ending to a seesaw season in a 28-22 season-ending loss to the Falcons.
On Sunday, Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and at least 30 interceptions in a single season and the first quarterback in NFL history to throw seven pick-sixes in a single season. But merely stating what happened doesn't do what actually happened any justice, because how it happened was downright incredible. It really was a storybook ending.
Winston entered the game with 31 touchdown passes -- so he was all good already in that department -- but he needed two interceptions to create the 30-30 club and one pick-six to break a tie with Rudy Bukich and Peyton Manning, both of whom once threw six pick-sixes in a season.
Winston's first interception came early. With roughly five minutes to play in the first half, Winston forced a ball up the seam. He and his receiver weren't on the same page. Ricardo Allen stepped in front of the intended target and caught the pass. And Winston was only one interception away from making history.
It took far longer for the second interception -- a pick-six -- to arrive. It required the Falcons to overcome a six-point deficit in the final minutes, which they did with two field goals. To begin overtime, the Buccaneers won the toss and took the ball. From there, it didn't take long for the moment to come.
On the first snap of overtime, Winston made all of our hopes and dreams come true. He tried to fit in a five-yard pass late over the middle, but Deion Jones stepped in front of the would-be pass catcher and took the interception back to the house to give the Falcons a win and the Buccaneers a loss. Much more importantly, he provided us with a moment of history.
With that, Winston became the first-ever member of the 30 touchdown, 30 interception club and the first-ever quarterback to get pick-sixed seven times in a season.
Winston finished the 2019 season -- his first under coach Bruce Arians -- with 5,109 yards (the eighth-most in NFL history), 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions (the most since 1980), including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes in what has to be the craziest boom-or-bust season for a quarterback in NFL history. So often, Winston was either responsible for a deep bomb downfield or a complete implosion. Rarely was there any middle ground.
After the game, Winston said: "When you look at my numbers, I'm balling. I just gotta stop giving it to the other team. ... I gotta get better."
Which is true. He did ball out at times, evidenced by the number of yards and touchdowns he threw for. He does need to stop giving the ball to the other team. The only problem being, this has been a problem throughout his entire career, ever since the Buccaneers drafted him first overall in 2015. He leads the league in interceptions in that span by a wide margin.
Now, the Buccaneers have a decision to make with Winston scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Bring him back for a second season under Arians, whose offense requires a quarterback to bomb the ball downfield? Or cut him loose because the turnovers are probably an uncoachable issue and the Buccaneers can't afford to turn the ball over at this rate next season?
It doesn't sound like even Arians knows what he wants to do. But, obviously, what happened on Sunday did not help Winston's case.
Bruce Arians says “there’s so much good and so much outright terrible” in terms of evaluating Jameis Winston and the future.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) December 29, 2019
When asked how Jameis Winston’s pick-six impacts his evaluation, Bruce Arians said, “It doesn’t help.”— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) December 29, 2019
If we have reached the end of the Winston era in Tampa Bay, what a fitting ending Sunday was. Winston's first-ever pass and what might've been his last-ever pass with the Buccaneers both resulted in pick-sixes -- the first was 26 yards and the second was 27 yards.
You just can't script an ending like that.