Thursday night games are often frustrating, filled with sloppy play and inexplicable outcomes. The first half against the Buccaneers appeared to be going that direction, until Atlanta came alive in the second half. Matt Ryan turned in a masterful second half, utterly destroying the Bucs defense.
This was an impressive victory, as the defense also managed to shut down the Bucs in the second half. The Falcons are now 6-3, with a good lead in the race for the NFC South. This was a key victory in the division, and gives the Falcons some breathing room.
After winning the coin toss, the Falcons deferred, putting their defense on the field first. The Bucs immediately drove down the field with relative ease, eventually finding Mike Evans in the back of the end zone, for the early 7 point lead.
Thankfully, the Falcons offense responded in kind. After some initial sputters, Devonta Freeman took a check-down for 27 yards, while Taylor Gabriel took a jet sweep for an easy first down. Ryan would eventually find Levine Toilolo for the easy score to tie up the game.
After a forced fumble on the Bucs next drive, deep in their own territory, the Falcons offense came back on the field. The offense stalled out on three straight plays, but managed to add 3 points off the leg of Matt Bryant, who was incidentally not a second round pick.
The Bucs got the ball and began methodically marching down the field, overcoming several big penalties. However, on a 3rd and 1, Winston attempted to pick up the first down, but appeared to fumble the ball. The Falcons challenged the call, hoping to get another early turnover. The challenge was good, with Paul Worrilow clearly recovering the ball.
The Falcons offense came back onto the field and began stringing a drive together before the quarter came to a merciful end.
The Falcons offense picked up where they left off, with Freeman picking up a ton of yards on the first play of the quarter. However, a couple of key drops by Josh Perkins and Austin Hooper ended the drive, and the Falcons had to settle for a long Matt Bryant 41-yard field goal to tick the lead up to 13-7.
The Bucs offense came back on the field, finding Mike Evans for some easy completions. A holding call set them behind, and they quickly had to punt.
The Falcons offense came back on the field, but after an impressive throw to Julio, Ryan was sacked for a fumble, giving the Bucs the ball deep in Atlanta territory. The Buccaneers were able to capitalize, with Jameis finding Mike Evans in the end zone, to take a 14-13 lead.
Matt Ryan and company came back onto the field and began driving down the field again, highlighted by an impressive catch downfield by Taylor Gabriel. A key catch by Austin Hooper on a long third down extended the drive, which lead to a jet sweep score by speedy WR Taylor Gabriel for the go ahead touchdown.
Jameis Winston and the Bucs offense came back in with about 4 minutes left in the quarter. After some ridiculous plays, including a near sack that turned into a Winston left handed pass, the Falcons were able to sack Winston on two consecutive plays (both by Grady Jarrett) to end the drive with a thud.
With a little under two minutes left, Ryan stepped on the field and quickly found Julio on two straight throws, but the drive stalled out at mid-field.
The Falcons offense kicked off the second half of the game and immediately started driving down the field, with key catches by Sanu and Julio along the way. Julio dominated the drive in a way that only he can. A key pass interference in the end zone on Sanu gave the Falcons more chances in the red zone, which ended with a TD pass to Patrick DiMarco. The Falcons went for the 2-point conversion, but failed to convert on a short pass to Julio, taking the score to 26-14.
Jameis Winston and the running crab legs took the field with nearly half the quarter burned away. They quickly went three and out.
The Falcons got the ball back and began moving the ball yet again, with Ryan finding various players throughout the drive and easily taking advantage of an over-matched Buccaneers defense. The drive ended with a rare Julio Jones red zone touchdown and a 17 point lead.
Jameis and company took the field with 3 minutes left and a large gap to make up for. The Bucs started putting together a decent drive, with Mike Evans making a fantastic one-handed grab in which Keanu Neal nearly split him in half.
The Bucs started the fourth quarter facing a key fourth down that they needed to convert, but a holding call brought back what would have been a first down conversion. Down 17, the Bucs had to go for it on 4th and 11, and failed to convert.
Matt Ryan and the offense take over near the 50 and begin driving down the field yet again, this time on the legs of Devonta Freeman. Ryan and the Falcons had no issues driving the ball down the field on the exhausted Bucs defense, with the drive ending in a TD pass to rookie TE Austin Hooper.
The Bucs offense took the field again, with a large deficit facing them. They would drive down the field, convert on a large fourth down and ultimately put another 6 on the board, before Jameis was nearly murdered by Jalen Collins when trying to run in the failed two-point conversion.
With a little under 7 minutes left, the Falcons recovered the onside kick attempted by the Bucs. With a comfortable 20 point lead, the Falcons took to running the ball to burn down the clock. Not to be left out, Matt Bryant decided that he’d punch in a 50 yard field goal to drive the Falcons lead to 43-20.
The Bucs came back on the field, but mostly because they had to. Jameis was on the sidelines and much sadness hung over all of Tampa Bay. The Falcons played prevent the rest of the way, allowing the Bucs to move the ball in garbage time and score a meaningless touchdown.
The Bucs would attempt another onside kick, and Atlanta would recover and ultimately run out the clock for an impressive 43-28 victory.