Winston throws 4 TD passes, Bucs beat Falcons 31-24

ATLANTA -- Jameis Winston is no longer a rookie.

He wasn't about to get flustered when an early mix-up led to an interception.

Bouncing back from that mistake, Winston threw four touchdown passes for the second time in his young career as Tampa Bay claimed a winning record for the first time since 2012 by opening the season with a 31-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Winston began his second year as a pro by going 23 of 33 for 281 yards, using just about every weapon at his disposal in the matchup between NFC South rivals. He hooked up with receiver Mike Evans, running back Charles Sims III and tight ends Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers on scoring plays.

"I'm just growing as a man every day," Winston said.

The Falcons grabbed a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter after Winston's pass for Vincent Jackson was picked off by Desmond Trufant, who returned it 13 yards to the Tampa Bay 9. There was a breakdown between the quarterback and receiver, as Jackson broke outside while Winston's threw to the inside.

But Winston shook off that miscue with a 4-yard TD pass to Myers and went to work again with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half.

Winston converted on third-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to Jackson. Then came a short throw to Sims, who did the rest. He faked out two defenders - cutting right while they both tumbled the turf, taking each other out - and broke two more tackles on the way to a 23-yard touchdown that put Tampa Bay ahead for good with 14 seconds left in the half.

The Buccaneers scored on their first two possessions of the second half, pushing the lead to 31-13. Winston connected with Sefarion-Jenkins on a 30-yard touchdown, followed by a perfectly thrown 45-yard scoring pass to Evans over two defenders.

To their credit, the Falcons didn't quit in their final season opener at the Georgia Dome before moving next door to $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Matt Ryan , looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2015 season in which the Falcons missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, hooked up with Julio Jones on a 25-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion closed the gap to 31-21.

Another long drive resulted in Matt Bryant's third field goal, and the Falcons got the ball back one more time with 1:52 remaining and no timeouts. They managed only first down before the Bucs closed it out.

"We had four trips into the red zone and came away with one touchdown," Ryan said. "We've got to be much better."

Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press

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