The Falcons opened the season against the Bucs, and they came away with the first loss of the season, with a final score of 31-24.
The first quarter of the 2016 season kicked off with a three-and-out from the Falcons offense. Fun! A defensive pass interference call against rookie DeVondre Campbell gave the Bucs 25 yards and a first down and put Tampa Bay in field goal position. Roberto Aguayo unfortunately didn’t miss, and the Bucs were on the board first with 3.
The Falcons got our hopes up a bit with the first play of the next possession, a 59-yard bomb to Mohamed Sanu. The play put them in the red zone, and we all know how that goes. The drive fizzled out, Ryan took a sack with a loss of four yards, and the Falcons settled for tying it up 3-3.
The rest of the first quarter was basically a battle to see who could have the most penalties. Jake Matthews struggled, as did the Bucs in general, with discipline and dumb penalties, but the Falcons finally overcame it enough to score a touchdown on a 5-yard Ryan pass to Sanu at the end of the first quarter. The Falcons led 10-3.
Unfortunately, the Bucs answered with a touchdown early in the second quarter, helped along by an Adrian Clayborn offsides penalty. Speaking of penalties, they really didn’t stop in the second quarter. Bucs center Joe Hawley got hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty that reminded us why we fondly referred to him as Joe Brawley during his time in Atlanta.
Jake Matthews wasn’t done with the penalties either, with a dumb false start on a drive that fell apart in the red zone, anyway. The Falcons took a lead, though, 13-10.
It wouldn’t hold, because for some reason this Falcons team decided they were fundamentally incapable of tackling Charles Sims and he scored a touchdown on a ridiculous 23-yard catch. It was disgusting. The Falcons went into the half trailing 17-13.
Atlanta surely did not get the third quarter off to a good start. The Bucs were able to drive down the field easily in big chunks, with a 15-yard Mike Evans catch, a 27-yard Evans catch and a 30-yard Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown. Tampa Bay extended its lead to 24-13.
Finally, though, Matt Ryan started dealing. Ryan quietly had a decent game, but his performance was overshadowed by sloppy play from others, penalties and a complete absence of an effective ground game. The Falcons converted a fourth down on a pass to Jacob Tamme, and then Ryan scrambled for a first down on second and three to keep the drive going. He hit Julio Jones with a 25-yard touchdown pass, and the ensuing PAT from Matt Bryant cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 10.
The Falcons continued to roll. The problem is that a stellar defensive effort and a really solid offensive drive culminated in just three points. If you still get nervous when the Falcons offense gets into the red zone, there’s a good reason.
One positive thing to take away from this game in general, is Tevin Coleman’s overall improvement. Coleman’s hands are much more reliable and he was a big contributor in this game.
Anyway, the defense bent but didn’t break, and the Falcons had some time to try to even up the score, and they went four and out. It was very disappointing.
We’ll have more analysis in the days ahead, but for now, let’s just all agree that this was a very disappointing way to start the season.