Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack
Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack

Winston tries to erase old Bucs' ways

"We're not the same old Bucs ..." the coach said.

You really have to wonder if Smith was present and accounted for Sunday -- or merely concussed.

Tampa Bay's 10-6 victory against the Dallas Cowboys should be filed among the team's Greatest Bloopers.

Fast-forward the tape to near the end -- please.

A penalty call against the Cowboys spared the Bucs after a goal-line fumble by Jameis Winston, allowing Winston to get a go-ahead 1-yard TD mulligan run.

Then a penalty call that never came against the Bucs perhaps saved the game. Dez Bryant had a legitimate complaint after a two-handed nudge in his back by Bucs safety Bradley McDougald, who intercepted the ball and also turned 25 on Sunday.

Yes, happy birthday, Bradley McDougald!

From one end zone to the other, the Bucs got away with playing the same old Bucs football that historians frequently have witnessed for decades. No win is too ugly now to embrace.

"I'm being asked a lot of questions about the fumble," Smith said. "What fumble?"

That was Smith having his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. On a day when more than two wrongs made a right, the Bucs finally got a break this season. Make that a series of them.

The Cowboys -- or what's left of them -- are definitely not the same old Cowboys since losing quarterback Tony Romo and seven straight games. Romo has been out since breaking his collarbone in Week 3, fracturing the Dallas offense.

The Cowboys are anything but America's Team. Losing is one thing, but Roger Staubach has to be embarrassed at their classlessness.

Defensive end Greg Hardy keeps reminding everyone why owner Jerry Jones should have booted him even before photos of Hardy's battered girlfriend surfaced.

Hardy showed no remorse for the domestic violence until posting some lame tweets and then declaring his innocence. But Hardy -- like his enabler, Jones -- just doesn't get it.

A Cowboys Radio sideline reporter stated that Hardy and DeMarcus Lawrence had to be separated during the first half. Then late in the game, Hardy took his helmet off during a timeout and raised his hands, catching the attention of fans in the end zone.

He received a chorus of boos from Bucs faithful -- one of the few times he got what he deserved. Showing not a trace of humility, Hardy then disgustedly danced to a snippet of a country song being piped into the stadium.

This is not what the NFL is about.

Everyone knows the baggage that Winston carried from Tallahassee to Tampa, a sexual-assault allegation at the forefront. He'll have to live with whatever happened. He is conducting himself as a pro at the league's highest-profile position.

Winston acts like a young man who finally realizes he's out of chances. He brings a boundless joy to his job, which is to lead the Bucs and lighten Sundays for work-weary fans.

Asked about his fumble, Winston cracked, "I forgot about that already. I'm cherishing this win, cherishing it."

With Tampa Bay trailing 6-3, Winston lifted a page out of his Florida State comeback scrapbook.

Dealing with his second interception of the day on the previous possession, he marched the Bucs from their 44-yard line to the 4.

Winston then catapulted himself in the air, losing the ball before reaching the goal line. The Cowboys recovered, but safety Jeff Heath was called for holding to negate the turnover, and Heath admitted as much afterward.

Winston then scooted in for the score on the next play to lift the Bucs to 4-5. The mechanics of the drive showed his progress after a error-prone start to his rookie season that, he said, "hurt the team real bad."

Said Winston, "I'm always confident. You know, never let them see you sweat."

He overcame a bunch of blunders typical of Tampa Bay's laughable past. Their future -- and Winston's -- will be tied together long enough to perhaps create the new Bucs.

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