If you need to get back on track, the Buccaneers are the team you want to play.
Despite drops, shaky play and what came suspiciously close to being terrible clock management, the Falcons walked out of Raymond James Stadium with their third win of the season. We're all looking for something to feel good about it, and despite the competition and the still lackluster record, a win against the Buccaneers represents that. As a football fan amidst a likely lost season, we need that.
While the Falcons made a lot of familiar mistakes in this game, they were better late in the game, which has been as rare as a living dodo the last two seasons. Those 11 points brought the Falcons back from a one point deficit and gave them a lead they never relinquished.
What this means in the big picture is hard to suss out. The Falcons are closer to the division lead right now, yes, but they didn't look like a drastically improved football team. The odds of a true turnaround are still truly slim, still, but the Falcons kept some hope alive and managed a winning effort against an NFC South rival.
The Falcons will have more difficult games coming as soon as next week, so let's enjoy this win while we can. The full breakdown follows.
- It was a caretaker kind of game for Matt Ryan, but it would have been more if not for a couple of dropped passes and a little bit too much hang time on his bomb to the end zone early in the game. In this case, at least, it was good enough.
- Steven Jackson looked much sharper with some rest. It's anyone's guess whether that will continue going forward, but it was good to see him churning for extra yardage. Many will knock his lack of a second gear, which I completely understand given how shifty Devonta Freeman looked, but he was a valuable player today.
- Roddy White certainly seemed to have put in work over the bye. He made more than one tough catch over the middle on third down, and his five yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter wound up making the difference.
- Julio Jones had one drop, but otherwise he looked as though he was returning to form against the Buccaneers. All told, he piled up eight catches for 119 yards.
- The Falcons finally scored in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 5 yard strike from Matt Ryan to Roddy White. Then they added a Matt Bryant field goal. Getting that bugaboo out of the way should be helpful going forward.
- Osi Umenyiora hasn't had the most productive season, but he's still out there working. His third down sack of Josh McCown in the fourth quarter was a try-hard kind of play, and it absolutely killed the Bucs' best chance at a comeback. He added a half-sack later on, splitting it with the much-maligned Kroy Biermann.
- Oh, yeah, Biermann. He had easily his best game of the season, putting up a sack and a half against a middling Buccaneers line and looking pretty darn refreshed after the bye.
- Paul Worrilow put up a ton of tackles, which is not unusual. He also blew into the backfield successfully on more than one occasion, and I'm still hopeful for a day when he's allowed to rush the passer more frequently and have limited coverage duties.
- Loved the Dwight Lowery "for good measure" interception in the end zone with less than two minutes in regulation. That felt good. So did Kemal Ishmael's interception on the next drive, which definitively ended the game for the Falcons.
- Matt Bryant went 4 for 4 on field goals. I think I'm going to stop wondering whether he'll be kicking next season.
- Two straight drops on the Falcons' second offensive drive doomed them to settle for a field goal. Despite all the positive words coming from the locker room, Julio Jones was the author of one, Devin Hester the other. The receivers have got to do a better job on that front.
- Jonathan Massaquoi didn't wind up getting many snaps, which is going to lead to torches and pitchforks from the fanbase. That's understandable, but I do have to wonder if his foot injury was limiting more than we'd be inclined to think, considering he was listed as questionable. We'll have to see if the team has anything to say about the injury this week.
- Robert Alford got picked on all day. I'm a big Alford fan, and I firmly believe he has the talent to be a quality starter over the long haul. There's no point in denying that he has had multiple weeks this season where he's been a non-factor at best and an active liability at worst. That has to improve or the Falcons may elect to move him out of the starting lineup under the new regime.
- Have to admit the refs were terrible in this one, and the results generally didn't favor the Buccaneers. Not going to cry about that for obvious reasons, but the NFL continues to have real issues with the quality of the officiating in their games. I'd suggest fixes, but I'm just a humble blogger and I've never owned a striped shirt.
Game MVP: Going to split it between Roddy White and Julio Jones, who were critical to the team's success today. Obviously, Osi Umenyiora and Steven Jackson would be in the running, as well.
Theme Song: Yup.
One Takeaway: The Falcons aren't dead yet, no matter how faintly that ol' heart is beating. Keep your expectations low the rest of the way and we might just enjoy what's left.
Final Word: Awin!
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